Interview With Tyson Poulin, Aspiring Filmmaker:
Hello, everyone! The concept of filmmaking has been around for ages, constantly evolving and growing with each passing decade. Filmmaking is a craft all its own, which requires meticulous planning and skill. Of course, I’m no expert in film production. I know some techniques and terms, but I’m not super knowledgeable on what goes into them.
That’s why I’ve decided to ask someone who knows a lot about films, and what goes into making them. Today, I have an aspiring filmmaker with me to share his craft with you all. Allow me to introduce you to a good friend of mine and a great filmmaker, Tyson Poulin.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, how about you tell us about yourself?
I am a 23 year old independent Saskatchewan filmmaker who does it out of passion. I see filmmaking as the best form of storytelling in the world. From the stories, the characters, the emotions film can evoke, to everything that goes into making a film, there’s a lot involved. I’m also a 2018 graduate of the Recording Arts Institute of Saskatoon’s Motion Picture Arts program and work a full-time job to pay bills and support my passion. I’m a semi-hardcore gamer (PlayStation for life), am the eldest of three brothers, both of whom I am at least 10 years older than. They also have the ability to make me feel old whenever they like, but they are amazing kids and I love them to death.
What inspired you to get into film in the first place? Was it a movie you saw, or just general interest in the medium itself?
Some of it came from general interest. I was a huge nerd growing up and loved watching things like Star Wars, or the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. I also really enjoyed Disney classics like Toy Story, Tarzan, or Monsters Inc. I was fascinated with those characters’ stories, the worlds I would get taken to, and in some cases the action. I love good action scenes in movies and TV.
However, a majority of my interest comes from life experience in creative arts. My entire life I’ve been involved with drama. From school to community theatre, I’ve always been involved somehow. Growing up. being a drama geek felt like the only safe place I could be myself. I played a few sports, Softball mostly. It was fun, but it never gave me the feeling I had whenever I had fun rehearsing and screwing up lines with my fellow actors, or whenever I performed on a stage.
While attending Tommy Douglas Collegiate in Grade 10, myself and a few people I knew got together and started making short YouTube videos that I acted in. It was during that time I also developed an interest in editing. The guys I made the skits with never let me do any of that. I was also a huge wrestling nerd at the time and in the slightly older WWE games, there was an option to export short twenty second gameplay highlights to YouTube. So with that, a YouTube downloader, and Windows Movie Maker I learned basic editing while making dream match highlight reels. From The Rock vs Shawn Michaels, to The Undertaker vs Sting, to Stone Cold Steve Austin vs CM Punk; I had a lot of fun making those. Then I moved to Warman for my Grade eleven year. When I was going through electives, there was an option for computer media. It was in that class that I learned some more advanced editing as well as some visual effects in Adobe Premiere and After Effects. I started to make live action videos of my own from there.
On top of my like of acting and editing, I also enjoyed creative writing as well. So with this trio of things I enjoyed doing, I wanted to make a movie. So, just before graduating high school, a few friends of mine helped me make my first film called Impulse. It was a 40 minute movie that I starred in, wrote, directed, and edited. The experience and enjoyment I had making that movie, as well as all my other previous experiences made me realize that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
I imagine making your first film to be a rather daunting experience. What was it like making your first film, and what are the biggest takeaways you got from it?
As much as I enjoyed it, yes, it was a little daunting. At that time, just the idea of making a movie felt nerve-racking. I remember on one of the days we were shooting, the thought came across my mind was “We are actually doing this!”. However, just like whenever I was in drama, I always had fun with my friends on set. One of the things that made the decision to go into film much easier was how familiar some aspects of it felt to prior experiences I’ve had in my life.
The biggest takeaway I got from making Impulse was the certainty of wanting to be in film the rest of my life. Despite everything I did in creative arts up to that point, for some reason I wasn’t sure about it being the thing I wanted to pursue full-time. There were times where I would’ve wanted to be a teacher, or a video game tester, or even a professional wrestler at one point. Impulse changed that for me. I’ve been 100 percent certain since that day that this is what I want to do with my life.
Is there any specific film or project you’ve worked on in the past that has left a lasting impact on your filmmaking?
As someone who likes playing with visual effects, two action films I did called Resistance and Retired, taught me that if I’m going to do an effect, to do it well. Both films featured some terribly done 3D helicopters or drones. Next time I do any 3D object stuff I know to be more careful and if it doesn’t work, then toss it out.
My most recent film, The Confessional, on the other hand has taught me my biggest lesson to date. One of the biggest essentials to film is community. You can’t do it alone. Before then, I was always doing too much, from the acting to the directing, as well as everything else. I remember a conversation I had with a friend after making Impulse, and when I told him I did just about everything, he said “Holy crap, that’s a lot! You should get some help.” Over the last few years, I’ve had little to no success. I have a bad habit of carrying too much on my shoulders and doing it all myself. Then in the Confessional, I had help from the very beginning. When I was going through my idea for the project with a friend that would become my Co-Producer for the project, she jumped on board right away and took so much weight off my shoulders, that I don’t think I would have done this film without her. I still wrote, directed, edited, and shot the film. However, I didn’t act in this one. My Co-Producer casted, scouted locations, called people in to help. With her help, as well as the help of a few others, I know what it feels like to not have to carry it all on my own and that I have people in my life who are here and are as committed to this as I am.
When you started making films, what kind of issues did you face? Is there anything you’d go back and change about said films if you had the time/budget?
Finding people to commit to films alongside me. That probably was the reason why I developed the bad habit I mentioned of carrying too much on my shoulders. I knew little to no one when I started that were fully committed to film like me. I also faced then other character flaws like rushing to get certain things done. If I can go back to any projects I rushed when I started, I would take more time with them. I sometimes wish I could go back and either fix or get rid of terribly done effects that I wanted in there, because I wanted to do something cool. There’s a number of things I wish I could change with the proper time, budget and other resources. We’re all human, and we all have things we’ve done in our pasts that we would want to change. However, what I try to do is instead of spending time wishing I did this differently in one of my projects, I accept my film for what it is and learn for next time. I’ve learned from personal experience that I can’t keep looking back at everything that has happened and keep wishing for something else. It’s not how I want to live my life. Same goes for my film career.
Film has a ton of genres and sub-genres, so I imagine it could be taxing to someone starting out in the field. Do you think there’s specific genres one should avoid when starting out, or should a new filmmaker just go with the flow and try any genre?
Do genres you are comfortable with at the start before challenging yourself with genres you are less comfortable with. As you are starting out, you want to build a solid foundation for yourself and have an idea of what you are doing in the filmmaking process. If you challenge yourself right away with a genre you’re not comfortable with, you could get overwhelmed and even say to yourself, “This isn’t for me”. It’s like going to the gym for the first time, going crazy in your first workout, and then being unmotivated to go again, because you are too worn out from that first work out. You need to start easy.
Adaptations are pretty common in film nowadays. With that being said, have you ever adapted anything from a different medium into a film?
Not as of yet. With all the adaptations and remakes Hollywood is dishing out, I’d like to stick to original stories. With that being said, should the right story come along, I would love to make an adaptation out of it. It just has to be the right one.
Should someone starting out on their first project go all-out and make something big, or start off with something small?
This goes back to starting with what you’re comfortable with. You could be like me and go with a 40 minute sci-fi film where you’re blasting lighting out of your hands. You could also start with something small, like one which involves you having trouble studying for a test. It all depends on you, your skill level, and what you are comfortable with doing.
I imagine every film being difficult to make in its own right, but is there any specific thing that’s hard to get right in any film?
Personally, I would say it’s the script. If you have a terrible script, then not even the best acting, cinematography, and editing may be enough to save your film. While those things are also extremely important, the script is the main foundation of a film. It takes a lot of time and effort to write a fantastic story that makes sense, has great well written characters, and that has the least amount of plot holes as possible. There are so many things that can go wrong with a script. If you are not careful, bad writing can bleed all over a film and people will see that.
Alright, so we’re at the end here. It’s been a wild ride and I’m glad you could answer all my questions, Tyson! Anything else you’d like to add?
For any one starting out, one last thing I would like to make clear is that your first number of films will suck. Impulse and several of my other projects are not great. And that’s ok. Every filmmaker makes bad movies, especially at the beginning. Christopher Nolan’s first film wasn’t The Dark Knight. George Lucas’ first film wasn’t Star Wars. Filmmaking is something you learn to get better at with time and practice. Good film isn’t easy to make. Filmmaking is the ultimate creative art form. If you do it, do it because you love it.
Well spoken, Tyson! I’d like to thank you for answering all my questions, and providing some great tips for filmmaking beginners. I’m glad you could provide some insight into filmmaking for both my audience, and me as well. It’s good to have you on the blog, and I hope you have a good one!
I’ll conclude this interview by showing you Tyson’s website, which contains a ton of his amazing work: