Short Synopsis: When stoners Dexter and Royce mistakenly assume their friend Matilda has overdosed, they can’t call the cops because she’s OD’d on stolen drugs. So, they decide to bury her body themselves. Good news is she’s not dead. Bad news is she wakes up just in time to interrupt a Satanic cult performing a ritual sacrifice in the same place the guys were going to bury her. Our heroes end up on the run from the Satanists, the drug dealer they stole the stash from, and a gang of angry little people all while trying to pull off a heist of their own. It’s one crazy night in one crazy town!
Nothing much happens in the lives of 20-something pals Dexter and Royce except for getting high and hanging out with Royce’s girlfriend, Matilda. This all changes one wintry Northern Ontario evening when Mattie overdoses on a stash of Dexter and Royce’s drugs — drugs fronted by local drug kingpin and tough-guy Omar to sell in order to cover their previous drug debt.
Thinking her dead and knowing that calling the cops would only land them in jail the boys decide to bury her in the boiler room of the closed drive-in theatre where Royce used to work. With the impending threat of a drug dealer in their rear view mirror, the two set off to deal with Mattie’s dead body.
While the boys begin to dig a grave downstairs, a Satanic cult lead by Abel enters the supposedly abandoned drive-in and begins a ritual involving pentagrams and human bloodletting in the upstairs concession stand. Their plan is to resurrect Jason Taylor (hippie turned reluctant but rich internet entrepreneur and Abel’s unwitting hero) out of his coma. However, when Dexter walks in mid-sacrifice, everything goes awry.
Dexter and Royce are captured, gagged and duct-taped and Mattie’s corpse is discovered. But when some of the sacrificed follower’s blood unexpectedly ‘awakens’ Matilda an all out chase ensues. Luckily, Royce and Dexter get to her first. After safely stowing Mattie in Dexter’s apartment, the boys run into Omar and his beefy sidekick Garry, who deliver a few swings of a curling stone and an ultimatum — debt (plus interest) paid by midnight or lights out. Knowing that millionaire Jason Taylor has a safe full of money at his place, Dexter and Royce take off to break in and steal it.
With a few unexpected bumps along the way, Dexter and Royce successfully manage to score the safe and take off with it in their trunk…well, sticking OUT of their trunk. En route back to Dexter’s apartment to grab Mattie, they run into Abel. A classic car chase causes our boys to seek refuge in a mall where they encounter the fury of a three-and-a-half foot tall security guard named Martin. After winning his trust (Martin has unresolved issues with cults himself) he lets them leave without further battery.
Meanwhile at the New Age Resource Centre, Mattie (having been kidnapped by Abel) has been tied to an upside-down cross along with an unconscious Jason Taylor. Abel’s plan is to offer Lucifer Mattie’s life in exchange for Jason’s. Just in the nick of time, Dexter and Royce arrive to try and stop the ritual and rescue Mattie. Omar shows up looking to collect his debt and he brought Gary — and his gun — with him. In hot pursuit of Abel and his cult, Martin and his (physically) diminutive friends arrive only to crash into Dex’s car, propelling the safe from the trunk into the New Age Centre…crushing Abel.
With Abel plan’s dashed, Taylor gives Dexter and Royce the okay to hand off the safe with all of his money (remember, he’s a hippie) to clear their debt to Omar. They happily flee the scene with Mattie in tow.
WEIRDSVILLE ABOUT THE PRODUCTION “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
-Hunter S. Thompson
It began simply enough. In 2002, Producer Nicholas D. Tabarrok was in a pitch meeting with VH1 and they were looking for rock n’ roll movies. Tabarrok turned to writer and previous collaborator Willem Wennekers, who had a script that wasn’t about rock n’ roll, but had a rock n’ roll sensibility. That script was Weirdsville.
After reading the script Tabarrok “knew it would make a great feature film. It’s funny as hell; it’s manic, original, fast-paced, great characters, good moments and wonderful dialogue. I just knew it would have a huge appeal to that college, smart, movie-going crowd — the Trainspotting crowd.” Though it wasn’t what VH1 was looking for, Tabarrok optioned the script anyway, determined to make it elsewhere.
He also knew that he had to call director Allan Moyle. The two met making the MTV movie, Jailbait! It was a big success and they hit it off — becoming instant friends. “I knew this was his material,” says Tabarrok. “It’s got drugs and Satanists and hookers and dead bodies. And I thought, man, these are his people, this is his world.” As expected, Moyle was immediately drawn to the story of Weirdsville. Says Moyle, “It’s really made for me. It’s about drugs and freaky people and things.” The two quickly agreed to develop it together. Moyle also describes it as “Trainspotting shot in Canada – but with more heart.” As a transplanted Canadian living in Los Angeles at 58 he’s come to realize what Canada has to offer. “Canada’s the best culture in the world. I finally really realized this when making New Waterford Girl, and recently another movie out West that this is a trippy country with huge resources, human resources.”
Of course, as Moyle points out, it all comes back to the story — and a good script. “The writer is the reason we’re all here. The director always gets too much credit for the writer’s work. I like everything about his writing. It’s good writing; smart writing. The drugs are really just a red herring. It’s a classic hero on a hero’s journey looking for redemption.” ON THE DIRECTOR: ALLAN MOYLE “When casting this film we had such an instant interest from the agencies because of Allan’s attachment,” says Tabarrok. “Sure the material was great and the actors loved the characters but we had all kinds of cast coming to us – which was a first for me – all because they were eager to work with Allan.” Prop Master Jim Murray adds another observation that is as matter-of-fact as it is poetic, “Working with Allan is a dream. We all refer to him as the organic director. Some directors have everything planned out and you can’t talk to them. Allan, he just likes to have fun on set.” Given Moyle’s approach to directing, it’s understandable why actors are lining up to work with him. “I’m there to serve my actors,” says Moyle. “I’m just the sleazy little wizard who sets it all in motion. I’m not going to tell these guys how to say their lines. You create a comfort zone — and it works because we’re all in that zone. I’ve learned that when it comes to directing, joy is a tool, that’s much more valuable than time or money. I couldn’t have known that at 28. That’s really the way to make movies and stay happy.” Moyle also brings authenticity to the project. “This is his milieu, not just in filmmaking, but in real life,” says Tabarrok. “He’s a very edgy, street kind of guy. He can relate to homeless people, drug addicts and junkies. He gets them.”
ON THE WRITER: WILLEM WENNEKERS
The "original" Weirdsville was written as a half-hour script shortly after Wennekers graduated from film school.
“A group of my fellow graduates and I had access to a drive-in theatre and wanted to make a film there. Since we all wanted to be directors, we decided to each write a short film that we would direct and connect them as one feature film. The project never came to fruition and a year later I expanded the thirty-page script to a feature-length. This took about three weeks. However, the process from the first draft to production took a few years so there were a lot of drafts during that time.”
“Nicholas Tabarrok and Allan Moyle assembled such an amazing creative team for Weirdsville that it was a pleasure to watch the film come together. Every single department on Weirdsville treated the film like a labor of love. At the end of the day, I feel deeply privileged to have had such a talented group of people make my crazy little script come to life.”
ON THE PRODUCER: NICHOLAS D. TABARROK “I have known and been friends with (screenwriter) Willem Wennekers for years, and he and I have developed a bunch of scripts together and this is the first one to go, so it’s really exciting for us to be in production on one of his scripts” explains Tabarrok. “I love the humor. There are some really funny moments. They’re all such great characters; they’re all so unique, well conceived and funny. The other thing I love is now there are all these intricate complex storylines that all kind of converge and meet each other.” “I have no idea how this story got started in that crazy brain of his – I’d be afraid to know the origins,” laughs Tabarrok.
“You know, to this point in my career, Weirdsville has been my favorite script. It was my passion project. So to have been able to make it, especially with a director whom I have known for years that I respect and love, along with this incredible case, it really is a producer’s dream come true. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
THE LOOK OF WEIRDSVILLE An unconventional script called for an unconventional look. We’re embracing an un-pretty, unpolished look,” explains Tabarrok. “We’re going to have some slightly out-of-focus shots, some odd framing and strange composition. There are things like having the camera look to find a frame and them moving off it a few inches and the color is going to be saturated. We’re not going to be worried about things you usually have to be so careful about like shot continuity.” We’re going to be breaking a lot of rules and coming up with a really unique look. We want to tread new ground, shake the audience up a little bit.”
“Films like Man on Fire, Domino and The Constant Gardener have been doing things like this,” Tabarrok continues. “They’re startling and new and you’re sitting there in the audience watching this and you’re riveted because it’s against the conventions of how we’ve been taught to watch films and what we expect. So you’re not only being hooked into the story, you’re also being captured by the manner in which it’s being told.”
And finally, says Tabarrok, “going back to the whole of rock n’ roll thing, the script has that off kilter, unbalanced, rough-around-the-edges feel to it.”
Moyle agrees. “Because we’re making a movie about drugs, that starts with a dream, we can put in anything we want. It’s being shot so that there will be lots of extras for the DVD, a directors cut, fan’s cut and so on. And Nicholas totally gets this. The website will also have tons of stuff on it. ”
“We’re shooting this movie brave as hell,” adds Moyle. “We warned our continuity lady it would be like this. She’s a trooper. There’s been little flare ups on the set because what we’re doing is so strange – someone will say ‘the eye line’s wrong,’ and the DP gets irritated because we’re not worrying about the eye line. We’re going to cross the mythological ‘axis line’ that’s so strictly adhered to in conventional filming. I never understood it anyway. I’ve sat through hundreds of arguments on sets about where the axis was and whether we could cross it. Usually the DP and the continuity person battle it out, and I’m sitting there on the sidelines thinking, ‘I missed that day at school.’”
Other interesting tactics are being used to give Weirdsville it’s unconventional look and sound. Moyle, who scored all his movies with songs, has 30 or more songs planned for Weirdsville. “Were’ madly trying to make the movie more creative and different and interesting.”
Not surprisingly, Weirdsville requires an imaginative prop master which Moyle and Tabarrok found in Jim Murray. “I worked with Allan and Nicholas on Jailbait and we really connected,” says Murray, from on set. “I’ve been trying to work with Nicholas again for years and Allan is such fun guy, I wouldn’t miss this opportunity.”
Sometimes, the seemingly simplest props are the hardest to find, Murray explains. “One of biggest challenges was finding the perfect garden gnome. It’s a small part but it plays a prominent role. You’d think it’d be easy to find but it wasn’t. It had to be the right garden gnome. The audience has to feel the connection to this gnome. It had to read as likeable. We couldn’t find the right ones in Canada, so we ordered some gnomes from England, but the final choice came from Arizona.”
Ironically, for a movie set in the dead of winter in Canada, snow has been one of their biggest challenges thanks to a freakishly mild winter.
“It’s a nightmare,” says Director Allan Moyle. “We’ve been finding creative ways to shoot around it, using snow blankets, fake snow, shooting everybody up. It’s a disaster.”
Although, as luck would have it, says Murray, the night they shot the biggest outdoor scene in which snow plays a big role – the night at the drive-in where Dex and Royce attempt to bury Mattie and come across the Satanists for the first time – it snowed like crazy. “There was almost too much snow for continuity with the rest of the filming,” laughs Murray. Moyle stresses that hiding the “Canadianess” of the location was never an issue. “In fact, we’re tripping on how Canadian we can make it by including details like Timmie’s ‘double-double’ coffee and hanging a huge Canadian flag with a marijuana leaf instead of a maple leaf on one of the sets.”
“Weirdsville is a small town of about 30-50,000, kinda run down, economically depressed, not very pretty, kind of industrial, seen better days,” adds Tabarrok. “And, no offence to the citizens of Hamilton, but that’s kinda what it is.”
Creating the ‘look of Weirdsville combined visions from the director, the producer, the actors, wardrobe, hair and makeup. And Robbi O’Quinn (lead Makeup) had a great time marrying all of these visions together to come up with something that suits not only each character but a look that everyone is happy with. O’Quinn expands, “One of the first shots we did was a scene where Dex is in bed waking up out of a week of trying to kick his drug habit. I applied a cream to Scott’s face that gave sort of an oily appearance. Scott quite liked the look of it and he wanted it as a continuous ‘down and out’ look for his character. So thus became Scott’s look.” “The characters, the tone of the script didn’t warrant make-up in the traditional sense of a base...we wanted ‘realism’, the ‘organic’ look of everyday skin. We wanted to SEE skin,” O’Quinn continues. “The Royce character didn’t take much makeup at all. We kept Wes makeup-free and just broke down his eyes. There is this scene in the bathroom where Royce gets high and through some convincing, I put some cheek redness and some shine on him. There were some scenes where I thought a subtle effect would look quite good creatively but Wes really wasn’t into any ‘effect’ make-up. Which is where a makeup artist has to sometimes let go of his/her creative process as the actor wants to sell his piece in a different way.”
With Taryn’s character, O’Quinn got to play. Mattie had about four different looks. Her main look is heroin-chic. She is a drug addict with style. She has some flashback scenes where she looks a little more clean-heroin-chic, she has a look where she is drained of color, she has a commercial look and a cleaned-up look. “We had fun building these. I used Chanel Vitalumiere foundation which has photo-reflective pigments which helps soften imperfections and gives a luminescence. It allowed for build able coverage where/when we needed it, yet still allowed us to see ‘SKIN.’”
In regards to the other characters, for example, Abel, actor Greg Bryk was a big part of his creation. He loved the ideas of eyeliner, of Abel seeing this as his big night equivalent to a prom. He wanted to dress it. “I added some darkness in the eye area for added drama. Upon seeing Treena’s wardrobe, Maggie and I decided that a clean look was appropriate. She wanted the innocence of a doll. Seamus, played by Dax was so into his character. I remember during my prep, Dax called and wanted to know if his character could have a tattoo, a goat to be specific and black nail polish. I called Allan and this was all good. Dax arrived for his first day of shooting with part of his eyebrow shaved off. I thought this looked incredible. So thus Dax became Seamus. All of the cast made very good choices in my opinion.” Of course, the prominence of drugs in the Weirdsville raised obvious questions about the film’s stand on drug use. Moyle is clear on his position. “I love drugs, I’m very pro-drugs, but I don’t consider pot a drug. And in terms of their danger to society and your body, alcohol and sugar are a lot worse in the long term. I’ve done every hallucinogenic known to mankind, often, and, in my opinion, I think it’s helped me and I didn’t go, you know, killing families or walking into strangers houses with a knife. Our culture’s fear of what happens to you when you take a hallucinogen is crazy. I’m really happy to see a movie in which normal people are taking drugs in a normal way. They’re young, they’re going to get over it. All artists try everything; it’s their job. But the movie is really about heart.” Still, funders needed to know – is Weirdsville a pro- or anti-drug film. So Moyle took up the challenge and, with the help of Tabarrok, drafted a ten-page manifesto on the subject, which they ended up sending to the actors.
“They all said it made them want to do this movie,” laughs Moyle. “Even though I wrote it, not tongue-in-cheek, but to try to sell the idea that this would not be a pro-drug movie to the financiers. But of course it’s a pro-drug movie because we have Wes Bentley and Scott Speedman taking drugs. Okay, we don’t show needles going into arms, we show the cool way of doing drugs which is off a little piece of tinfoil, which is hipper, more real, more interesting, and hasn’t been done before. And these guys, for the first part of the movie, are taking drugs. But it’s a journey – and they quit drugs in the end. So ultimately, it’s both pro- and anti-drug.”
However, any controversy about Weirdsville’s stance on drugs is overshadowed by the positive energy surrounding the production. “Everyone seems so attracted to this script and this project in an unusual way,” says a clearly pleased Moyle. “There’s a buzz going on in our little production culture that I can feel, and it’s great. There’s something about this story and this script that has even sophisticated and somewhat jaded people smiling. It’s almost sure to become a cult hit.”
ON CASTING: Allan Moyle’s philosophy is “directing is casting.”
Moyle explains, “Dexter is the reluctant hero and Royce is the sidekick. Even though Royce gets to do fun things like cry and rush the villains...the burden is on Dex. He is a classic hero on a hero’s journey.” They wanted actors who would bring authenticity to the film.
And they found that in Scott Speedman [Dexter] and Wes Bentley [Royce]. Moyle continues, “We cast Wes and Scott, they’re not comedians, they’re actors. The last thing they want to do is hit the joke. We made a conscious choice to hire these serious actors, both ‘methody’ and both very serious actors in the role of these two comic people. So while the movie might not have the kind of humor you’d have with someone like Billy Crystal it’s gaining something else.”
Says Tabarrok about Scott, “It goes without saying he’s a good-looking guy. He’s got a lot of charm and charisma and the thing about Dex is he’s the honorable one. Royce is a good guy but Dex is the one who says, ‘We gotta do the right thing.’ He’s more thoughtful and he’s making all the right choices and he kind of has to think through the decisions that Royce doesn’t. Scott is a great actor who’s had some amazing success and he has a real depth to him. There’s always something going on behind those eyes. He looks thoughtful but he’s also got on-screen charisma and the kind of good looks that audiences automatically like.”
“I call him ‘Uncle Scott’ he’s so smart,” jokes Moyle. “He’s all over the continuity person, making sure everything is correct and logical and honest. It’s fascinating to see these two smart boys with built in integrity working with an old prostitute like me.”
”Wes is not going to do anything he doesn’t want to do. That really helps us and adds to the integrity of our film. If I ask Wes to do something cheesy he’ll say, ‘No I don’t want to do that.’ So I have to find a way of making it not cheesy or more authentic so I don’t lose him. We’re very good friends. I’m depending on him and Scott to maintain the authenticity of the story.”
“We thought it would be cool to get serious actors to play this. It’s losing the bump you get if it was a sitcom — and there are sitcom elements to the script — but we’re gaining a mythical feel, and people are going to be shocked. You should see Scott and Wes doing the drugs, it’s as if they were doing that all their lives. It’s horrifying, like watching a train crash, and your eyes pop open. I’m thrilled but mystified as to how it’s all going to come together. But I’m glad it’s going to be interesting — interesting it will be.”
Rounding out the cast is Taryn Manning, who plays Mattie, Royce’s good-time girlfriend. “Taryn was a natural,” says Tabarrok. “I have to give due credit, she wasn’t on my radar originally, but an agent suggested, ‘What about Taryn Manning?’ and I thought, oh yeah, Hustle & Flow, she’s just perfect, she’s beautiful and young and she’s sexy but she’s got a street edge, you know. She’s not bubblegum Hollywood, she’s not a slick, airbrushed bland beauty. You look at her and you can see her — and I mean this in the most complimentary way — taking drugs, being a little down and dirty, living a ‘street smart’ life like Mattie is, so she just fits so well.”
Taryn brings more than her acting talent to Weirdsville. Also a hot, new recording artist, one of the songs from her upcoming album, “It’s Not My Fault”, is being used in the film. Not only that, items from her new clothing line Born Uniqorn will also make an appearance in Weirdsville.
Legendary casting agent Mike Fenton (Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, E.T.) cast the three leads from Los Angeles, while back in Toronto, Tabarrok and Moyle worked closely with Canadian casting agent Lisa Parasyn on the supporting roles. This collaboration was both creatively productive and incredibly rewarding. Moyle was incredibly pleased with the chemistry between the three leads. “I met them all in Los Angeles. All three had other big movies offered to them and they choose our small movie. Because of the integrity of the script, they saw something there.”
Scott, Wes and Taryn felt the same way. Scott comments, “It was pretty obvious right away that we were all going to make each other laugh in stupid ways.” Wes adds, “We just clicked.”