Last week I got a chance to catch up with the creators of the film “Daimons”, a local film that was shot entirely in Saskatchewan, using local crew and talent, which I was fortunate to be a part of. The film is about, and asks the question of “What if the seven deadly sins were people? What would they do in the world and who are they?”
Here is what came of that meeting:
Damien: I am here with Erich Juergens and Gray Myrfield, the Director and Writer respectively of Daimons. Thank you guys for coming here to do the interview.
So my first question is: Daimons was inspired by a poetic suggestion based on a Wikipedia description of Asmodeus, one of the seven deadly sins, how closely did you follow the description of each of the characters?
Gray: That’s a thing that I can answer, I would say that i used them as suggestion, the actual descriptions of the characters are incredibly loose and difficult to follow, simply because they are based on loose things. There are different versions with every sect of every religion, so I cherry picked the stuff that I wanted to use.
Asmodeus is an excellent example, because Asmodeus had nine different versions of him, but they only one I paid attention to was the one of this old guy. I didn’t like the idea of a little lecherous gnome, that’s not an idea I found very interesting. But I did like the idea of this dirty minded old man that just always gets the girl, and it makes no sense! And he’s dirty and grimy and smelly, but, he still gets them. That’s a funny idea and it fit the idea of this character I wanted to make.
Some of them I completely ignored, some of them I would write down key words, and based off the key words, because I couldn’t get anywhere. Satan is one of those., because there were so many different versions that I couldn’t get anywhere, “What makes Satan unique? What makes Satan interesting?”. For a long time I wanted Satan to be a character in black armor, and silent, and I liked that idea a lot, but it didn’t make sense.
Erich: Some of those things did carry over.
Gray: That’s the thing, all of these ideas I would write them down and take little sections from them. Leviathon is the best example of that, Leviathon went though so many different iterations, in the end, it (the character) became a little bit of every single one.
Some of the character are the exact same as when they were first written, and some of them are different, so the answer is: “Sort of”.
Damien: When did you know that this was needed to be a screen play and not a stage play?
Erich: I don’t think there was ever a point where it was “Ah! This makes perfect sense for film!” It just made less and less sense for theatre, so I proposed harder and harder we do a film based off the same idea.
Gray: In the beginning we said “man this would look really great as a film, but we are still going to try and make it work as a stage show”. Then it became “A lot of our problems would just go away if this were just on film. Yeah, but, we can’t do it because of RASINS.” (Gray’s version of REASONS except with even less viable explanation or recourse) And eventually it became less reasonable to not (film)…There was a whole lot that would have been lost. The moment when you really decided to dedicate to it was when we had become disenchanted with F.L.O.Y.D. One of the original ideas behind Daimons, was where every single character got to go nuts, I just give them a thing: “Here’s my words, if you want to change it, change it”. I didn’t feel that F.L.O.Y.D would be able to embrace the idea, in this way.
Erich: There was a moment when we wanted to become masters of our own destiny, so we went to film.
Gray: There was another point where we pitched it to Xander Richards and he said: “You could totally do this as a film!”.
Erich: And then he (Xander) set us up with all the right people, Zac (Greenhorn), Gerry, and YOU!
Gray: Right before that we were willing to go: “We could probably do this as a you tube video, probably”.
Erich: We’ll shell out some money, have a white background!
Gray: We’ll spend, like, a hundred bucks and get a really nice green screen! (laughter). After the meeting with Xander, we decided “Alright, lets see how big we can go.”
Erich: And then after that the story followed, “Now we have a big production, we need a big story to back it up.”
Damien: What was the response from the community when they found out you were making a film?
Erich: As far as people wanting to help, holy cow did that snowball! We told it to one person (Xander) and he told it to several other people who worked in a recording studio, and you got told and brought on. The response was incredibly enthusiastic, there have been a lot of people following (from the start) to see the end result.
Gray: The locations were very supportive.
Erich: We walked in and said (meek voice) “Hey we’re doing a movie, could we use your business for it?” .”Yeah sure!”. “Where do we have to sign?” “What? No! Just use it when we are closed!”
Gray: That was unexpected, we were expecting to have to budget for it, out of pocket.
Erich: Even more than that we were prepared to have some really bad “B plans”, if we couldn’t get 302 we’ll have it be a house party on a farm somewhere. The suit shop we were ready go into a high school drama area and make it look like a suit shop as best as we could. We were straight ready to compromise and we never had to once.
Gray: There was a lot of things that could have gone wrong, and just didn’t.
Erich: CBC saw one of our posters, watched it online, and contacted us for an interview. There were several people there who had seen the first episode and were fans. I got more questions after the interview than during, asking: “What was the details of this thing in the (first) episode?”.
Damien: Stay tuned!
Gray: We’ve had a lot of people ask the right kind of questions, with the first episode (SPOILERS AHEAD!), there is a couple of things we don’t do too harshly, it was this delicate balance, the scars on Lucifer’s back.
Erich: Yeah! I’ve had the perfect response (to that)! There have been a handful of people who noticed it the first time, several people caught it the second time and some people haven’t noticed it at all.
Gray: And that’s perfect, where you have to dig a little bit, and if you catch it, you get a little bit more, there’s always stuff that you wish you could change, but I’ve been very happy with the reactions thus far. One of the earliest comments for episode two was “Oh I get it, it’s underworld Rick Mercer!”.
Damien: What are three things that surprised you during the process of making this film.
Erich: None of the steps took care of themselves so that caught us off guard. We shot it and went “Phew! The hard part is over“. And then editing was it’s own ordeal, then sound mixing, ratings, promotions…as far as good surprises, I was really pleased with how well casting went, casting and auditions.
Gray: Casting is a thing that even with a larger budget, probably wouldn’t change very much.
Erich: We got almost all of our first picks.
Gray: That is another place where the community really shone.
Erich: We had a lot of people come to auditions.
Gray: About seventy five people. (Author’s note: For Saskatoon, that is a lot)
Erich: A couple of the people were really professional Actors, and we told them: “You understand that this isn’t a paid role?” and they were like “Yeah totally! When do we show up?”.
Gray: More what surprised me was editing, and how draining a process it was. And I wasn’t even doing it!
Erich: (hearty laugh) Thanks!
Gray: My job was to go in and edit when Erich couldn’t see straight anymore, and try to find him more things to work on. To Erich and I, it was becoming all the exact same thing. You watch it again and again and again, and you nitpick it, trying to make little things better, and it just feels like nothing has gotten better, but it has!
The shooting process was a giant whirlwind and then it’s done, the editing is like a snail, a snail climbing a mountain and the mountain keeps getting bigger.
Erich: (Laughter) We are now aware and cognizant of those facts and we are including it into our work flow for next time.
Gray: Oh, Learning! There were all these things we didn’t expect and now we know, and we know how to fix it, the list of things we are fixing! Oh my goodness!
Erich: I don’t know if we said three yet, but another thing that surprised me is how much people, who are paid to do the thing they do, helped us for free, and eagerly so.
Gray: That was weird.
Erich Zach Green horn (Author’s note: Our Director of Photography), the sound…I can’t even think of all the things he does.
Gray: Zac Greenhorn the tech guy! That’s too low of a credit, Wizard?
Erich: Yes! There we go: Zac Greenhorn the tech wizard. He put as much effort into his part of the work as we did. And the difference is: He absolutely gets paid to do this. He is a professional, he came at it with enthusiasm, and that was really awe inspiring.
Gray: And his dad, and Gerry.
Erich: And Gerry
Gray: Gerry was a guy who was always there, and he had no reason to be, he asked Zach “I’d like to be involved” and Zach said “Bring a camera, you can do behind the scenes.” and he took that so seriously. Jerry is a professional sound engineer and he was at every, single, shoot. Even the ones that happened at 3 in the morning. He never complained, he was/is amazing.
Damien: Onto Kickstarter, the timing of the Canadian version was serendipitous, do you see crowd sourcing as the new doorway to gaining a global audience?
Erich: (Laughing) Depends on who you are!
Gray: Kickstarter was a thing that I am glad we did.
Gray: I don’t think it was very effective. It’s this weird expectation vs results. And while it was a thing that I am glad we tried, I think we can do something more effective in the future.
Erich: We expected to get 300, $10 donations, instead what we got was 30, $100 donations.
Gray: And it just showed how willing our friends and family were willing ot throw a lot of money into it, and we can do better for them. What I have done for the future is already registered Amodeus Films as a business, and I have looked into deferred payment as a future plan. Where we can offer people a producer credit, in exchange you will get 1% of all money after we have paid off everything. And actually give them a thing: “You may never get this, but this is your part of the film”.
Erich: You’re basically buying a share in the film.
Gray: And being able to do that is a lot better than getting them stuff.
Erich: Kick starter was a good experience, but a good half of the money is going back to the people who donated, almost none of it went to the film.
Gray: A large part of it has to go back to making things for the donors, which is stuff we were going to do anyways. But not we have to dedicate to it. If it was just a smaller group of people who gave more (like this was), it would be a lot easier to give them a call and say “We’re going to make you producers with a percentage, and then we’re going to give you stuff as a thank you. You’ll be accredited and you’ll actually have a say in how things go.”
The Kick starter seems more geared for global projects, the whole crowd sourcing things…I’ve become disenchanted with it, it’s so hard to predict what you need to do. Of the money we made, we probably used $500 towards the film, the rest had to go towards things (Kick starter rewards). There was another experience! I had to put money in a bank account and not touch it (laughter), and I am good with that!
I wouldn’t recommend Kick starter personally, maybe for a different kind of project, maybe like a book or something.
Erich: Really do the math before you do a Kick starter.
Gray: Definitely , understand that there is a weird legal obligation.
Erich: One thing I would say is never (solely) rely on a Kick starter, always have it be a side thing, because there’s always the chance that it won’t go though.
Gray: And I guess there’s the overall point: If you need a Kick starter to make you do something, then that’s a bad sign. It was a good thing for us because it was an opportunity.
Erich: Daimons would not have changed much at all if we did not do the Kick starter.
Gray: We would never base a project off of it. If we wanted to do a project that badly, we would just do it.
Erich: I would take out a loan and be in debt for several years and know i have the money and know exactly what I need it to go to.
Damien: If a brand new film maker from Saskatchewan was asking you for advice, and you had five minutes, what would be your number one tip?
Erich: (Laughs) If I had five minutes I would give them my number and we would have a two hour meeting. My number one tip is…
Gray: Five minutes you said? (Starts timer on phone)
Erich: Okay yeah, lets do this! For me, what I would say is, first of all, plan everything, pre plan everything and do it again and again and again. You should essentially make the film twice, you should do it in story boards, you should do test shots of everything, you should do animations if you have anyone who can animate. You should know exactly, exactly how you want the film to look. If you think you know exactly how you want the film to look, you don’t know exactly enough how you want the film to look.
Gray: You need to write it down, take a look at it, have someone else take a look at it, have them tell you what they think. Go though it again and again and again: “What works, what doesn’t?”.
Erich: Even for simple things! Like a scene for someone sitting in a chair, take a camera, sit in a chair and record yourself, then put it on TV and ask: “Does this look like a film and, if not, why not?”. Don’t cheap out on lighting.
Gray: (Laughs) Don’t spend $700 on makeup and zero on lighting.
Erich: (Laughs) It’s an in joke.
Gray: Lesson one!…Step one, get someone people who are willing to dump a lot of time into it with you. Step two, use what you have and just do it. Step three, don’t put money into it unless you are completely confident you will get it back, or, you don’t care if you get it back.
Erich: Yes! Yes, that one entirely.
Gray: Do not expect your thing to make you a lot of money or make you super rich and famous, because it won’t.
Erich: Brace yourself for being the only driving force behind it. You will get people who are willing to put time inot it but be ready to do all of that stuff yourself, be ready to be the one to call people and say: “Hey, why are you not here, you need to be here.”
Gray: We are more or less done (on that topic)
Erich: Oh no we could keep going! (to Gray) Couldn’t you?
Gray: 3:17 (on the timer) All in all, use what you have.
Erich: If you have an Iphone, settle for an Iphone, don’t be all like (whiney voice) “Aw I would be a good film maker, but, I can’t afford a camera, so I quit.”
Gray: Red or bust, red or bust!
Erich: (Laughter) Take whatever you can get, if you are in such a position that you can’t buy a $200 video camera, and shoot anything at all, and just work on the craft…then you definitely don’t have the time to think about making a film at all. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, do the project and have that be your goal.
Gray: One of the things that I am definitely going to be working on in the future is using limitation as an advantage, it was a thing that was easy because of stage plays. With plays it was easy, because it was where we both started, and where it is very clear: “The Actors are on stage, the audience is right there, you can’t use any special effects.” You can only do things that are real, you cannot break their suspension of disbelief, unless you want to”. And using those limitations “What can you do? What can’t you do? What goes against their expectations?” And that was very easy. Film? The things that you are not allowed to do are harder to grasp. You can kind of do anything, but, reasonably, you can’t. You can have a giant car wreck, but do you have the time and energy to actually put that together? Or the resources? Or the finances?…
…We couldn’t get special effects so we focused a lot on the dialogue, audio equipment is a little out of our price range right now, so our next project is going to be a music video. We can’t get the best of this, so we are going to work around that. That’s why I was really dedicated to the ‘one shot’ thing, the one thing I know I can focus on more is the Actors, I don’t understand camera’s so much, and Erich does, and that scares me. I always work with what I have (to Erich) 43 (seconds remaining) you can go.
Erich: we covered it mostly, step one: do it
Gray: Here’s the other part, if you actually want to make it, just call us, we’re probably going to be willing to help.
Erich: Even now we are starting to order some equipment, we’ll be able to provide people with what other people provided us.
Gray: At the very least we can always say: “Alright the big problem I see here is that you don’t have lights in your budget?…”
Erich: (Laughter) “You see that car you use? Not anymore, sell it and go buy some lights!”
Gray: Hundred bucks, get a work light.
Damien: What is on the horizon for Asmodeus Films?
Gray: The next project…(to Erich) how much do we want to go into that?
Erich: I say we show them the road map and not the projects.
Gray: Ok, so we’re going to do some smaller projects next, test people out in different roles.
Erich: The next few projects are about finding our weak spots and making them our strengths.
Gray: One of the negatives of the first times round is some people shone and some people didn’t do so great. So having a bunch of projects that don’t have as high of stakes and testing people in roles and seeing where people do a really good job and say “Next time, we’re calling you, when there is a budget we are calling you”. When the stakes aren’t so high, we’re able to meet up with a lot of people and ask: “Do you want to be involved? What do you want to do? Direct? Alright; you can do the small one, and then we decide from there.” It gives us a chance to meet people from all levels and get them started.
Erich: It’s really funny that you say that, because it’s exactly what I would say, except about the gear. It wold be about: “How do we light this thing? How do we work within our budget? What do we have to absolutely spend money on to absolutely shine? And where can we use the craft to refine things?”
Gray: It’s very humorous that we just naturally fall into those.
Erich: (Chuckling) Yes!
Gray: It’s exciting, there is a lot of people who were intrigued right from the beginning by Daimons (link) and like the process there. The people near the end are the ones I am more interested in, who saw the product and said “That is within range” and they want to see what the next step is. That’s probably the next year or so.
Erich: The next big project we are working on is a western, and I don’t want to say anything other than that.
Damien: Sounds good.
Gray: Story boarding though! Aw man, all those story boards!
Damien: Will there be any sequels to Daimons?
Erich: (Laughing) If there are, they are not within out minds right now. we keep joking about revisiting it, but I don’t know about sequel.
Gray: I think if there was a sequel, it would be a spiritual one.
Erich: What I feel is more likely, is like, five years from now, we’ll be like “Man, we have all the equipment, and experience and we know who’s good and who isn’t, lets just remake ‘Daimons’, but properly, beginning to end, as a film and not episodic”
Gray: If someone was really interested in making a spin off, I’d help.
Erich: That said, our ideas do not end with Daimons, we have so much stuff we want to do.
Damien: Bonus question time: The seven Daimons are all at a house party and the famous “Chocolate Suicide” cake is being served, however, there is only one piece left and they all want it. How do they handle it?”
Erich: I think I would yell “Cut” and I would take it (laughs).
Gray: I don’t know! There would be this giant clash where if anyone tries to step out of line, someone would keep them in check. Greed and Pride would be bickering, If Wrath go the first shot of taking it and she could kill someone, she would do it. Gluttony would steal some from the back, he’d find a separate solution. Lust would joke about trying to take it, he’d try to but there is too many powerful forces.
Erich: Sloth would be annoyed that people are not giving it to her.
Gray: Yeah, Sloth would be out of the running pretty quick…I think the major players would be Wrath, Greed, and Pride. It would depend on who went first. And the consequences therein.
Erich: I think Pride would argue to take it because she organized the party.
Gray: But then Greed would counter it…he would say “No” and try to take it, and then Wrath would be like (scary Batman voice) “You don’t get to take it”. and then Pride would say “Whoa, whoa, whoa lets all split it three ways” and then Greed would say “Ok, I’ll split it”. And it would spin in circles.
Damien: And what was the result for Envy?
Gray: I don’t know…I think Envy would wait till one of them won and convinced them to give it to him.
Erich: Convincing isn’t Envy’s thing…He would wait until one of them won…He would convince Greed to give him the most pieces.
Gray: No, Envy would try to take the people who opted out early.
Erich: Hmmm, yeah! “You guys already don’t want cake so can I have your pieces.”
Gray: No, no, he would try to inspire them “You guys clearly want the cake, but you are not going to able to get this, so follow ME, we will make it so we get the cake, we will start a vote and we will win”…Wrath is still a good counter to that.
Erich: The thing with Wrath is: Wrath doesn’t play by anyone Else’s rules. Right now we are talking about “who is best at convincing the others” and it doesn’t matter because Wrath would physically beat the others.
Gray: The question then becomes…is Wrath able to beat the others? And the answer is maybe. In a fair fight, one on one, yes, in a one on six fight, maybe, but not in a room.
Gray: No one really wins…Eventually someone gives up and destroys the cake, probably Lust. He’d say “You know what? No one gets cake!” and destroys it…and Gluttony would lick up the pieces.
Damien: Anything else you would like to add?
Gray: I spent too long on this project (laughter)
Erich: It’s like having a kid, you don’t have the kid and you’re done, that’s when it starts.
Where can we watch Daimons?
Damien: Gentlemen, thank you so much!
Gray/Erich: Thank you!