Published on March 23rd, 2016 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Ross Munro
As the writer, director, and star of A Legacy of Whining, Ross Munro has put his lifelong love of movies into creating his own cinematic labour of love. The end result is a brand new Canadian film that will celebrate its world premiere at the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver on April 5th.
Ross Munro joined us to give us the inside word on everything we need to know about A Legacy of Whining and why you should see it!
Can you start by telling us a little bit about you and A Legacy of Whining?
Well, like a lot of filmmakers I grew up as a kid spending all my weekends hanging around movie theatres – I would watch the same film all day long (including all the trailers, shorts, cartoons)! The first movie I went to without my parents was Red Sun with Charles Bronson back in 1972- I’ve been obsessed with movies ever since!
A Legacy of Whining was created as an homage to the very popular ’70’s buddy film genre which I loved seeing so much back in my early moviegoing days- with a healthy dose of Woody Allen’s sarcastic humour thrown in.
What should audiences expect from the film?
Hopefully, audiences will find many of the painful situations that my character gets into not just funny but they will also recognize the universal themes of what it’s like to question where you are in life and whether you’ve made the right choices in trying to achieve success i.e.- what’s your legacy?
You wrote, directed, starred- Can you take us inside your creative process for building the script, prepping to play the character, bringing the overall vision to life?
As for the script, once I settle on the central idea or concept – in this case, a buddy film about two mismatched former high school friends who reunite 30 years later – I like to take some time to just think about it, let it germinate. I buy a fresh notebook and continually jot down info about character, plot, situations, scenes- any and everything that would seem to fit the film. Then when I have the main ingredients for the body of the film, that’s when I get on the computer and do my official first draft – using the blueprint of my now – hopefully- overflowing notebook.
As for preparing to play the main character of Mitch, I found that while still in the writing process, I kept visualizing him- with all his sarcastic commentary and never-ending complaining- as very Woody Allen-like as he’s always trying to talk his way out of jams a la Bob Hope (Woody Allen’s self professed influence for his cinematic persona).
Bringing the vision to life is the most exciting part – when you get to bring in all your cinematic collaborators – camera, costume, actors, production design, music, etc. – and share your vision with everyone and see all the amazing ways they contribute to taking it from the page to the screen!
What was the most memorable moment for you during the making of this film?
It was probably the very first day of shooting. We were filming the Fred Astaire-like 1930s dance fantasy sequence- I remember I was dressed in my tux and top hat and looking around at how our amazing crew had transformed the studio into an old Hollywood musical set and thought to myself, “Wow, we are actually doing this!”
The feeling of accomplishment at bringing a film all the way into the production stage is something I never take for granted and at that time, I felt so blessed- especially to be collaborating with my wife, Maria Munro, one of the film’s producers.
What was the biggest challenge in creating the film and how did you handle it?
The biggest challenge was the unique situation of trying to maintain my directorial vision over the course of the six months of filming. A Legacy of Whining takes place over the course of one crazy night- from dusk to dawn. The challenge was keeping my focus and always re-calibrating my cinematic compass to make sure the film’s structure and events always flowed smoothly. Needless to say, myself and the other lead actor, Robert David Duncan, who played Dunc, had to also assume the daunting task of keeping our physical look the same over the course of the six months filming for the sake of continuity i.e.- keeping our hair, weight, clothes , complexion etc. – that was not easy. I even made sure not to be in the sun too much or end up having a tan that would not match previously shot scenes in the earlier colder months!
Any books/authors that have influenced you in your career so far?
I am and have always been a voracious reader- I’ve seen great film directors mention what a great influence in their work that books bring and I have to agree! One book that I go back to again and again that influences me greatly is Catch 22 by Joseph Heller for his absurd but deadly accurate satirical style. Another of my favourites is Chilean author Roberto Bolano – especially his awe-inspiring opus 2666.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?
It’s the most cliche but also the most true – never be afraid to follow your dreams and visions! If you have passion for what you believe in, you will never stop until you achieve your goals! Also, surrounding yourself with like-minded talented individuals who believe in what you’re doing and have the same commitment and passion will only elevate your work!
What advice do you have for actors who would like to write and direct their own material?
I grew up watching many of my favourite actors write and direct their own films – Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen, Jacques Tati – so it wasn’t a hard leap to want to climb into that arena. I think it’s important to prepare your film as much as possible as both the writer and director so that by the time you’re on set filming, you are able to then focus more of your energies as an actor as most of the technical aspects – like shot lists, blocking, performances of the other actors, etc. – have all been worked out ahead of time. But mostly, if it’s something you want to do, then just ignore the terror that you might feel at that daunting prospect and just go for it!
What’s your opinion on the current state of the Canadian film industry?
Working as a Canadian independent filmmaker, especially here in Vancouver, it seems like there is a lively, thriving community of fellow filmmakers, acting talent, and amazing behind-the-camera crew people. Everybody seems to know everyone else and there is fantastic support amongst everyone and a willingness to help and encourage that I am constantly in awe. Basically, whether it’s docs, shorts, features of any/all budgets- there really are an abundance of creative people with that do-it-yourself spirit!
Where can we find more info about you and A Legacy of Whining?
Thanks to Ross Munro for speaking with us!
Don’t miss A Legacy of Whining at the Vancity Theatre on April 5th at 6:30PM!
Tickets available through VIFF.org.