Kick off your Vancouver Short Film Festival marathon with “An Evening of Cocktails and Calamity”

Co-creators of the film, Rowan Landaiche and Garnet Tyler, reflect on their sources of inspiration, creative freedom, and the SFU film program’s flexibility

A closer look at Landaiche and Tyler’s short film. IMAGE: Courtesy of Garnet Tyler

By: Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate

Despite a global pandemic, Vancouver’s film industry is resilient. This is, at least partially, due to is partly due to a group of talented local filmmakers, who you can support during the upcoming Vancouver Short Film Festival (VSFF). Running from January 22–24, the 11th annual VSFF will showcase 61 films from different genres, including action, comedy, drama, animation, and horror. Students can buy discounted student passes for $35 through the VSFF website.

One of the short films, An Evening of Cocktails and Calamity, features the work of SFU film production students Rowan Landaiche, director and co-screenwriter, and Garnet Tyler, cinematographer and co-screenwriter. Their short film follows the journey of two dinner party hosts’ entertaining attempts to handle an uninvited guest.

When asked what inspired An Evening of Cocktails and Calamity, the pair of young filmmakers listed films such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Natural Born Killers, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Tyler noted there was an “overlap of the visual language,” between their film and the aforementioned films. 

“There’s really strong red and green lighting; it’s quite dark visually lots of shadows, lots of deep, rich colours [ . . . ] and all the props on set are done practically as opposed to [with] CGI,” Landaiche elaborated.

Landaiche and Tyler dubbed their movie genre “Camp Bizarre.” Unlike other overused genres with a typical storyline, “Camp Bizarre” is an entirely new category, free from any restrictive boundaries. The alternative approach to filmmaking cemented Landaiche and Tyler even further in their creative vision. “[When] presenting [ . . . ] to our class, we had to be like ‘We know that this is going to work. And even if it seems like it’s not, we’re going to believe that it will.’ And then, we just had to go ahead and do it,” Landaiche stated. 

Continuing on, Landaiche acknowledged that the production and design team played a large role in bringing “Camp Bizarre” to life. “They were so fantastic, even pushing us to go further,” she said. “There were times when Garnet and I would have some ideas, and we’d [say] ‘It might be too much work’ [but] the rest of the production and design team would be like ‘No [ . . . ] we’re going to make it happen.’”    

The amount of creative freedom Landaiche and Tyler had also presented a new learning opportunity. While ensuring that their original ideas were being brought to life as envisioned, they also had to leave room for adaptability. “We definitely learned [to] listen to other people,” Tyler said. “On one hand, I’m so like ‘I want to do what I want to do’ [ . . . ] but sometimes people do have good things to say.” 

“You have to hang onto your creative vision and [not] let it be compromised,” Landaiche added, “but at the same time [ . . . ] we’re working with these people that are so talented, and when they’re on the same page as us, their ideas are just as valid.”

Landaiche acknowledged that creating student films is a learning process and advised students starting out that they should not feel pressured to create an all-encompassing film analyzing all issues. Adding to that,Tyler noted, “The positive of working within the SFU film program is the liberty to make exactly what [you] want.”

An Evening of Cocktails and Calamity will be available for streaming on the VSFF website from 9 p.m. January 23 to 11 p.m. January 30. Until then, you can watch the film’s trailer on YouTube.