On the road to Route 66 with Allan Wylie

The Canadian ad director turned dramatic filmmaker talks to Playback about the challenges of making his debut short, The Charon Incident, and working the festival circuit.

It’s been a long road for Allan Wylie, whose debut short film, The Charon Incident, is set to make its world premiere by opening the Route 66 International Film Festival in Springfield, Il., Friday.

The Canadian ad director turned dramatic filmmaker began work on the short in late 2011 after finishing a project for La Leche League Canada, featuring Little Mosque on the Prairie alumnus Sitara Hewitt, and meeting Hewitt’s husband, American fitness guru Jessie Pavelka.

“We hit it off and instantly began to think of ways we could work together,” Wylie tells Playback.

“When the winter holiday season rolled around again and the ad campaigns for the flu shot were in full force, I was reminded of a story idea I had in the back of my mind,” he adds.

The film follows a private fixer, working for a shady international pharmaceutical consortium, who is stationed in London to await orders on what is to be his final assignment.

The concept proved appealing to Pavelka, who would sign on to co-produce and star.

From the script’s completion in January, Wylie moved hastily to finance the project without applying to traditional funding programs, a daunting task for a first time filmmaker pitching a short film.

“We self-financed the entire project by pooling our resources, sharing costs, trading on reputations and goodwill, and were fortunate to have the amazing support of highly talented creatives, who loved the concept and wanted to participate,” he says.

“Working in the short format [makes it] perhaps even more challenging to raise capital, as its potential to earn back production costs is slim,” he adds.

Shooting also proved to be a challenge, with the film being set in multiple international locations.

While producer Mary MacDonald Rival found Ontario locations, such as Oakville, Newmarket and Aurora, to stand in for Atlanta, Florida and Germany, respectively, U.K. scenes were shot on location, and Wylie and was thrown a curve ball by mother nature.

“We started filming in London in February for three days. Day one was scouting, day two we shot all exteriors and establishing shots, and then London was hit with its only [major] snow storm of the year,” he explains.

“The city was at a standstill and looked completely different, so we had to re-shoot all exteriors again on day three as well as interior dialogue scenes,” he adds, noting that the crew had to return in March to complete any outstanding shots.

From there, it was on to the festival circuit, which Wylie says can prove difficult to navigate for a longer, unknown short.

“When you have a 20-minute genre film, it’s hard to find a place for it. Large festivals seem to have programming mandates based on pre-set themes, and prefer shorter shorts,” he explains.

He adds that, for this reason, his goal is to screen The Charon Incident at a number of smaller festivals like Route 66, with the hopes of one day getting to TIFF.

However, he argues that it’s most important to simply find the festivals that work for your film.

“Submitting can be expensive. Every forty or fifty dollar submission adds to the expense of your project,” he says.

“Choose festivals that suit your film, that speak to your audience, and speak to you,” he adds.

While The Charon Incident continues to make its rounds, Wylie is penning a feature-length sequel, and hopes the short film will find its way online to reach a wider audience and perhaps help him recoup some of the production costs via a small download fee.