BY SARAH BERMAN, VANCOUVER SUN
Sometimes we want what we can’t have. For Vancouver-based filmmaker Katrin Bowen, these words have rang true for sex and television.
“I was raised very religiously and raised without much technology,” the director says of her Mennonite upbringing in rural Alberta. “I didn’t see a TV until I was about 12.” On set of her latest film Random Acts of Romance, Bowen feels she’s come a long way to the sharp-tongued social media jockey she is today.
“I’m directing a film about sex, which is something I didn’t talk about ever until I was 18, and learning all these new technologies,” she explains. “I thought maybe the repression makes you go there. It’s like you kind of rebel against it.”
In her sophomore film, Bowen has set out to expose all those obsessive human behaviours that arise when love, sex, desire and repression pull us in conflicting directions. Shooting inside an Oakridge home with a small crew, Bowen watches the monitors from a toilet seat.
“It’s my director’s throne,” she laughs.
Lead actors Amanda Tapping (Sanctuary) and Vancouver local Zak Santiago (Amazon Falls) work through a hangover-fuelled argument in the adjacent kitchen. Their characters Dianne and Matt are fashioned after one of Bowen’s own unhealthier past relationships.
“It’s the sort of situation where you can’t help but try to mould them and make them who you want them to be,” Bowen recalls of an ex who was 10 years her junior.
Along the same lines, Tapping plays Santiago’s older wife and former teacher — two roles she seems to exchange and confuse without warning. “She’s always trying to fix him and get him to go to school and inspire him,” Bowen says. “That’s definitely been something I’ve done in the past.”
Check out the Vancouver Sun website for video footage of our interviews and set visit.
Later joined by actors Katherine Isabelle (Endgame), Robert Moloney (The Odds), Laura Bertram (Andromeda), Ted Whittall (Once Upon a Time) and Sonja Bennett (Young People F—ing), Santiago and Tapping weave together several snapshots of modern romance complete with frankness, humour and the occasional abduction.
“Everyone will see themselves in one or more or these people,” says Santiago, minutes after the particularly heated scene.
“Perfect Zak! Perfect Amanda!” Bowen announces as crew make their way to a backyard lunch table. The team wrapped up three weeks of shooting Friday.
Over the long days spent inhabiting his underachieving character Matt, Santiago found elements of himself reflected throughout the script. “When I watch some of these actors and the way they’re bringing their characters to life I just feel it,” he says. “I see myself in one of the girls, I’m like ‘I know what’s up!’” Fans have written in to say they “know what’s up” too. From her website and Twitter feed, Bowen solicited first date horror stories.
Such playful social media interactions won her adoring fans during the production of her debut film Amazon Falls. “With Amazon Falls we didn’t have a budget to hire a real publicist. It was just me,” Bowen recalls. “I’d never tweeted before. I’d learned all this stuff to promote the film.”
Luckily Bowen is a quick study, and soon culled somewhat of a cult online following. “I call them my army of bloggers,” says Bowen of the young women around the world who took a shining to the director’s biting, cynical approach. This blend of Internet buzz and virtual community came in handy when production funding for Random Acts of Romance was threatened.
“We were getting ready to do this about two years ago, and a piece of funding fell through,” Bowen says. Undeterred, she wrote Amazon Falls in two weeks, and used the already-assembled cast and crew to craft the tale of a struggling B-movie actress on a shoestring. The result was an indie success, that went on to tour festivals and win awards.
It wasn’t until August 2011 that Telefilm picked up the original Random Acts story Bowen co-wrote with Scottish Vancouver Film School grads Jillian Mannion and Kevin McComiskie, “We thought when we got Telefilm on board we’d hit the lotto,” says Bowen. “But they only give you 50 per cent of the budget, so you’re still really scrambling.”