As we previously reported, Battlestar Galactica alums Jamie Bamber and Aleks Paunovic (Marine Sgt. Fischer) have been working on the thriller feature NUMB in the icy weather of the Canadian province British Columbia.
Short Synopsis: When a debt-ridden couple discovers a map that promises to lead to a fortune in stolen gold, they partner with a pair of mysterious hitchhikers to enter the remote winter wilderness to recover the coins.
NUMB director Jason R. Goode, writer Andre Harden and producer Dylan Jenkinson talked to the Battlestar Galactica Museum about NUMB, Jamie and Aleks’ involvement and some of the challenges they faced making the movie, before and during their 18-day filming schedule.
Feeling the inspiration from the classic film Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the first draft of NUMB was quick in the making. Andre Harden felt drawn to the human dilemma and positioned his characters in the icy Canadian wilderness in the aftermath of the recent economic crisis as they feel their lives slipping away from them.
“Honest hard working people can suddenly find their lives destabilized by the corruption inherent in the system, and made to face a level of desperation that makes them consider opportunities they might otherwise reject as immoral.”
BSG-M: You were inspired by Treasure of the Sierra Madre, how does that translate on-screen and are there any significant changes you made?
Andre Harden: In NUMB, we modernized the human dilemma to reflect the lessons of the recent economic crisis.
I wanted to translate the deceit of the American Dream and show that honest, hard working people can suddenly find their lives destabilized by the corruption inherent in the system. They can be made to face a level of desperation that makes them consider opportunities they might otherwise reject as immoral.
BSG-M: That’s kind of a scary premise.
Andre Harden: NUMB is a reference not only to one of the first symptoms of prolonged exposure to the deadly cold, it also describes the sense of loss that comes when ones deeply held beliefs and hopes are shaken, and they’re no longer able to feel the confidence and security that those beliefs once brought to their sense of identity. Desperation interests me, as does the falsity of the “consumerism” story that holds up a big part of our culture.
BSG-M: So is NUMB about survival or about consumerism?
Andre Harden: NUMB was a survival story first. Obviously they are pitted against the cold and nature, but the need to survive their own jobs and culturally cultivated expectations and entitlements that push them to step off the road and risk everything to gain enough money to break them out of the system.
BSG-M: After its first draft was written, Jenkinson/Goode productions optioned the screenplay in 2011. Winning several awards along the way, the movie was four years in development and received monitoring and development assistance by several industry professionals.
Andre harden: Their insight was invaluable. So was the open minded, collaborative spirit that grew over time while working together with Jason and Dylan on the story.
BSG-M: Were there things you kept in mind as you were working through development?
Andre Harden: It was always meant to be a very make-able thriller. The plot has remained mostly intact because it
served the thriller element. The pitch was a strong hook. The married couple could be easily identified with by our audience. To explore variations on their character, the couple was reworked a lot during development.
BSG-M: Were there any pitfalls you tried to avoid?
Andre Harden: It was always a balancing act to keep four strong characters – who see themselves as good – continue to try and get what they wanted through honest action. There was always pressure to simplify the story by allowing the second couple to become villains. It almost always happens this way. We worked hard to find that balance and raise our conflict. We believe we wound up with something really quite unique in the genre.
BSG-M: Talk to us about LATE by Jason Goode and Dylan Jenkinson and how that eventually led to NUMB going into production?
Dylan Jenkinson: Jason and I made a short film entitled Late that earned a berth in a screening series that Telefilm Canada promoted at the Cannes Marche du Film 2012 called Perspectives Canada. We had been working on NUMB for just six months at that time but we used the opportunity at Cannes to talk with sales agents and distributors about the project. It was clear everyone was excited about the story and the possibilities for the film. One of our biggest challenges from that point on was nailing the story development ahead. After continuing to refine the script with Andre, Jason and I attended the American Film Market that fall and pitched it to another round of distributors and sales agents, ultimately catching the eye of sales agent Cinema Management Group.
Dylan Jenkinson: The script also found its way across the desk of Nicholas Tabarrok, one of the finest producers in Canada, who read it and immediately called, saying, “This is really good…where are you going with this project and how would you like me to help?”. Both Cinema Management Group and Nicholas became important strategic partners to putting the project together. Ultimately, backing from Telefilm Canada, Superchannel, Rogers Telefund, and private equity investment were instrumental to seeing the project get made.
BSG-M: Let’s move on to the actual production. You had an 18-day filming schedule in British Columbia. Give us a general overview of what those days were like?
Jason R. Goode: We’d leave for set at 5:45AM. Since we were shooting out in the wilderness, there was usually a bit of a drive to our location. We’d often have to take snowmobiles to our set (!). So our days started a bit later. Using nature as your backdrop makes up for that! We’d go like crazy all day until the sun went down around 5:30PM, at which point we’d all drive back to town… exhausted.
Shooting on location in the wilderness has all kinds of challenges. But when we were able to capture it and use it as an epic backdrop to really personal scenes, that was pretty amazing.
BSG-M: What were you looking to get out of the cast during filming?
Jason R. Goode: I tend to give actors as much freedom as possible. I know where a given scene needs to land in the end to contribute to the larger story, but I try to allow as much freedom for the actor to go where he or she wants to go inside that end goal. It’s important to me that the actor creates the scene for themselves and that I impose as little (or nothing) on them as possible. I believe that that’s when you get really authentic performances. So I try to say “Yes” as much as possible. Some actors like it and some don’t. The freedom can be a bit dizzying at first for an actor, but in general I think most appreciate it, and I find that we discover many more authentic moments.
BSG-M: Tell us about Jamie Bamber and Aleks Paunovic’s involvement in NUMB and when they came in the picture?
Jason R. Goode: Aleks and I go back a decade. He was in my first two short films. We also did a theatre project together. He was one of the first actors to believe in me as a director, so there’s a lot of trust and loyalty between the two of us. When Andre showed me his first draft, I immediately thought of Aleks for the role of Lee, and as we developed the script we wrote it with him in mind.
Jamie was the next actor to be involved after Aleks. I was a huge Battlestar Galactica fan – though I first saw him in the brilliant British mini-series Daniel Deronda – and when his name was given to me as a possible Will, I was really excited. He’s got a depth of character that you can immediately see on the screen: you can tell that he’s a substantial human being, no matter what part he’s playing. And that interested me for the role, because he’s a character that you think should have his life together. He should have the house and the 1.5 kids, he should be stable. That’s what makes NUMB more interesting, because when you realize off the top that his character is decidedly unstable, you’re rooting for him right away.
Currently in post-production, the NUMB-team expects to have the movie completed by the summer of 2015. It stars Jamie Bamber, Marie Avgeropoulos, Aleks Paunovic, Stefanie von Pfetten, Colin Cunningham, Ginal Chiarelli, Paul McGillion, Craig Erickson and Veena Sood.
We’d like to thank Dylan Jenkinson, Jason R. Goode and Andre Harden for their time in answering these questions and sharing their insights!
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