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netribution > features > interview with noam gonick > page two

I was very impressed with the cinematography and production design, what are your crew members up to now? I understand one of them is here in the UK?
It was a predominantly virgin crew, many of whom had never been near a film set before. Paul Suderman the DOP recently shot a ballet version of Dracula with Guy Maddin. Simon Hughes the art director is indeed in London now. His girlfriend is doing a curatorial Master's degree at Goldsmiths. He's living on the Blackheath staring out over the graves of plague victims looking for a gig. Interested filmmakers can e-mail him through the Hey, Happy! website (

The movie astonished me at every moment, where did the story originate?
When I was in film school I had an acid-induced epiphany about a boy who has sex with 2000 other boys leading to a cataclysmic, yet positive, finale. After a botched attempt to shoot it at the time on Super8, I shelved the project, but added elements from my real life over the intervening years. I promoted raves in the ‘90s (where I met a closeted UFO-ologist), and met many of the performers whom I later rewrote the script for.

You seem to have worked in a mix of many different myths and references to witchcraft, rituals and ancient customs. Are these symbolic, parody, atmosphere or..?
I like an epic story — which is why CinemaScope was our format of choice — and I’ve done a lot of reading about magic, specifically in relation to sex rituals. I wouldn’t say I was parodying witchcraft, some of the spells are funny but they were researched and in fact exist, like shitting on your intended lover’s path to win their heart. If I thought I was trivialising ancient customs, I would be loath to include them, my superstitious side would fear otherworldly retribution. I guess I consider it a public service to provide viewers with information about the way they can use rituals to better their daily lives.

I guess I meant parodying conventional society: for instance at one point Spanky rips out Happy's guts and slides a ring onto his intestines, does this represent your view of marriage or is it just for fun?
It was the funniest scene to shoot (I went overboard on coverage, laughing the whole time). A negative appraisal of gay marriage would be a pretty good interpretation, although that was also one of those scenes taken from "real" life. Someone I know claims to have witnessed a sex scene in which gay doctors cut into each other's bellies, reaching inside to play with the viscera. Urban legend? Perhaps -- but I thought it deserved to be captured on celluloid nonetheless.

You’ve said "there must be some connection between biblical ‘end-times’ and fags", are you foreseeing the end of genetic reproduction to be replaced by creative, or informational reproduction, is this the next stage of human evolution?
You know when I was in London I read in some gay tabloid about a man in Asia who was pregnant. He had a website where you could witness his gestation in real-time. So maybe DJ Sabu being pregnant with an alien love child after ingesting the semen of two thousand men isn’t such a long shot. I wanted to go delve into that religious fundamentalist fear of homosexuality, which states that the apocalypse will be heralded by the acceptance of queers and to ask, "if this is the end of civilisation, can we place stakes on the next world?" With cloning and artificial insemination, the imperatives of the family and procreation might slip down a notch. The idea of non-productive pleasure stops being so blasphemous.

Hey, Happy! Isn’t exactly usual Canadian fare; it’s exciting, in-yer-face, and full of life, have you no respect for our perception of Canada? How did the film go down in your home country?
Well Canada is home to some pretty strange shit. I’m thinking of Guy Maddin and Bruce LaBruce, among others. Mr. Cronenberg doesn’t exactly make Anne of Green Gables fare. That said, when we went into theatrical release, some mainstream critics went ballistic, but what do you expect from minds that have been poisoned writing pull-quotes for blockbusters? "Clayton Godson is to acting what Sid Viscous is to the bass" is my favourite critique from that crowd. Other critics congratulated me for returning the Wild West back to the prairies. We made a bit of a splash and the film played five times daily for a month in Toronto, which is rare for a Canadian feature. We’re pre-disposed to hate our national cinema, maybe for its tame reputation.

What do you think of London? From what you’ve seen how would you compare the UK independent film scene to that of Canada?
It’s a bigger playing field — remember, Canada has a population of 30 million, with screens 98% controlled by American content, so the idea of an indigenous cinema sometimes feel hopeless unless we install some Stalinist quota system in our theatres. Many of our struggles are same. I met some guys at Raindance who made a no-budget DV feature (Motion) and that’s going on here too. Everywhere filmmakers feel the pressure to create that huge crossover film with mass appeal as the funding for pure experimentation is drying up. I’m a Derek Jarman fan, and he had huge problems getting projects off the ground in the UK. Luckily for him there was Channel Four. Our public broadcaster would never fund The Last of England, much less show it.

How do you like to write, I mean, do you lock yourself up in a room, travel, monkey around?
I went to the Greek isle of Mykonos for the last draft of Hey, Happy! thinking that the decadent gay party scene would provide fodder. Stupidly, I arrived in off-season and it was just me and a lone, stray cat with fleas in his eyes on Super Paradise Beach. It wasn’t much warmer than Winnipeg, the locals were fed up with foreigners and their used condom detritus, and for all the isolation I might have well have barricaded myself into my bachelor pad to write.

Do you prefer the writing or directing stage? Why?
Directing by far, because I’m writing again right now and hate every agonising second. When you’re in the warfare of production you’re working collectively with so many people, and you really feel like all your cylinders are firing for the first time. Even in editing — I love the meeting of minds where two people create what neither one could ever do alone. Luckily, on this next script I have David McIntosh as co-writer so we share the pain.

You organised raves all over Canada, do you find any similarities in organising raves and directing film?
Sure, and when your film shoot includes organising and executing a 48-hour rave, they really are one and the same thing. Raves always have big-talking hanger’s-on who, when the day comes, don’t deliver. Unfortunately, film shoots do too. You can never have fun at your own party, especially if they’re illegal and the cops are expected. Shooting the film strained a lot of my friendships because getting what you want sometimes means being a total bastard.

You made a documentary narrated by Tom Waits, what’s he like to work with?
Totally amazing. We brought him a big bottle of whiskey, but he’s into fruit juice these days. The writer and I got to do the recording session right inside the studio booth with Tom and he took direction very well. Doesn’t mind re-takes, or even line-readings. I’ve had a much tougher time working with frumpy Canadian television hosts. He’ll break out into song in the middle of a take, which of course we incorporated into the narration.

Are you done with documentaries now?
No, I’ve been shooting the Winnipeg punk band Propagandhi on their world tour which has coincided with Hey, Happy! play dates in a few locations. There’s also a muscle car documentary in percolation right now.

You also edited a book on Bruce LaBruce, was he a big influence on you?
Definitely. The founder of the queercore movement, LaBruce is a scrapper who has managed to cobble together international investors for his skinhead porn oeuvre without any support from the Canadian system. I love his writing too — he writes a monthly column in Exclaim Magazine recounting his adventures, which is pure raunchy wit.

I understand you have another feature script in the works.
A total shift in style and content: a street gang movie set in Winnipeg’s rough and tumble north end where Native and Filipino gangs are in a turf war. I’m also looking at a few novels for adaptation.

Will this be more mainstream; do you have your sights on the holy wood?

I’m going to take a temporary break from astro-camp just so that I don’t have to contend with the "I’m not gonna see that fuckin’ faggot movie" quotient this time. That said, the discerning eye would detect that it was written by queens. I have a repulsion/attraction to L.A. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of dangerous Hebrew pornographers in that town.

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