Interview by Chris Olson
We have recently been promoting short film, Lookouts, on the UK Film Review website. Executive Producer (among many other things) for that film, Kristin Bousquet, gave us the extraordinary pleasure of giving us an insight into fantasy filmmaking on an indie film budget, as well as some fantastic answers about casting a film like Lookouts.
How would you sum up Lookouts and why audiences should seek it out?
Lookouts is an adventure film about facing your fears. It’s a delicious bite-size serving of an epic universe. This short film follows a young scout who sprints through the Eyrewood to escape a fearsome Basilisk. The themes are universal but our approach to the story is anything but common. At a time when fantasy cinema continues to move out of reality and into the digital realm, Lookouts is rooted in the real world, with physical sets, practical FX, and a puppeteered monster that was inspired by the masterful creature work from Jim Henson.
Can you tell us about your roles as Producer, Casting Director and Production Coordinator and what they entailed on this project?
Those are actually just a few of the roles I had in Lookouts but wearing many hats is common practice for independent filmmakers. The “making” aspect was something we were really looking forward to and we wanted to be involved as much as possible. Ultimately my job was to try and figure out how to get the film made within our budget and to our standards so when I couldn’t find certain “resources” my next approach was to figure out how we could do it ourselves. I’m crafty so I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty…I was right there alongside David helping to make the stone statues, costume armour and the basilisk.
The casting was fantastic on this film. How impressed were you with your choices in the end?
Thank you, I couldn’t have been happier with our cast! Not only were they great actors, they were awesome people in general. We did several rounds of casting in Los Angeles and that’s where we found our three leads (Kelton as Pehn, Chris as The Ranger and Stefanie as Kliea). We auditioned close to 150 boys for the role of Pehn and actually met Kelton on our first day. This particular character was critical because if he appeared too young, our story would be “cruel” and if he appeared too old, the audience wouldn’t have empathy for him. There was also a tremendous amount of physical performance so some of our call-backs were simply for physical tests. This was probably one of the most important “ah-ha moments” I had during casting. We quickly eliminated several finalists based on their coordination when most people would assume “all boys can run – it’s natural”.
How was it working with David Bousquet?
David and I have been working with one another since college and we started RedGate Films shortly after graduating. We have over ten years of commercial/brand advertising experience together so at this point I’m able to anticipate many of his production needs before he voices them to me. Yes, we’re married but I think this only helps our working relationship…this approach is certainly not for everyone, but it works well for us. David is extremely focused and knows what he wants. He had a very clear vision for Lookouts and really pushed it creatively.
Were there any difficulties or limitations for the shoot?
Like most indie filmmakers I would say budget was our biggest limitation. David and I self funded Lookouts so we certainly didn’t have unlimited means. We strive for top quality so when we couldn’t afford to pay someone to do a particular job, we had to figure out how to do it ourselves. For instance, our basilisk. We actually hired that out to a practical VFX company but what we got in return was completely unusable. When we couldn’t afford to hire it out again, David subscribed to the Stan Winston online school of VFX and watched hours upon hours of tutorials. He mapped out a step-by-step plan for how we could make it ourselves and off we went. Six months later we had a fully articulating wearable puppet suit that we couldn’t have been happier with.
How was it working with the performers?
Our actors were incredible to work with. Working with child actors is known to be problematic but our experience was very positive. Chris (The Ranger) was amazing with the boys both on and off set – there was great chemistry between them and I think this is apparent on screen. Kelton (Pehn) has a photographic memory so he read the script only a couple of times and was set with his lines…this was a bonus we found out about after he was cast.
What, in your opinion, is the toughest aspect of filmmaking in 2016? I would say for the most part, the toughest challenges of filmmaking in 2016 are the same challenges that filmmakers have always had and I don’t see those changing. I think all productions face a countless number of roadblocks and how one handles or navigates those is critical to the development of the film. You can lie down and accept defeat and make sacrifices or you figure out a new strategy. Our goal was to execute quality at every level and it wasn’t easy.
Has your work on Lookouts given you any important lessons about filmmaking, and what you want to do in the industry?
Our work on Lookouts has confirmed many lessons we’ve learned over the years, so fortunately we were able to apply those insights to this production. Even though David and I had a clear idea of what we wanted and had a solid game plan, we couldn’t have made the film without our amazing crew. We’ve built up an “A-list” roster over the years and we were incredibly fortunate to have many of those people with us during production.
What is the next project you are working on?
Taking on commercial/advertising work, developing a feature and continuing to promote Lookouts. We’re developing an original feature script while continuing to promote Lookouts.
What would you say if you were a dolphin?
“…meow.” [cat-dolphin breaks internet]
Read the full Film Review for Lookouts - here.