Steam Powered Success, conversations with multiple award winning director Jon Blizzard
Jon Blizzard: I’m thrilled to be here. I was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It’s a small, quiet place, but over the years it has grown on me.
1st: When did you first get interested in film?
Jon: When I was a kid, I used to watch shows and imagine it was me doing the performances. I never took it seriously though because in my mind, filmmaking was just not something a regular person could do. I think it was 2000 when I was brought in to work on a short film called Rewind with several friends and to this day, I still work with most of them. To add gas to the fire though, Rewind was selected to be a part of the Winnipeg Film Festival, and they offered to fly the whole crew of us out there and let us take in the event. Needless to say, this instilled a sentiment that filmmaking is more awesome than anything, into my young brain. Forward to 10 years later and I met the woman who would become my wife and co-producer on a movie set. The film community has been very good to me.
1st: Who are some of the creators who influenced you the most?
Jon: Starting out in film, I was more of an actor, so the major influences were Christian Bale and Bruce Campbell. Bale, in my mind, is possibly the best actor working today, while Bruce Campbell is one of the most charismatic and enjoyable (at least to me).
Since I have become more of a director/writer, I’ve been heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick, Park Chan Wook, Guillermo Del Toro, Nicolas Winding Refn, David F Sandberg and especially Ari Aster as of late. If you are familiar with these people, you may notice that I like really dark and depressing movies, and yes that would be correct. I tend to leave the comedies to my friends.
1st: If you could hang out with any creator, who would it be?
Jon: I feel like a lot of my favourite creators wouldn’t exactly be fun to hang around with, but one that comes to mind would be Guillermo Del Toro. The man is a genius, but aside from that, he seems like the most interesting guy. I feel like there would be much to learn from him, especially if we spent a day at his Bleak House where he has some of the most incredible horror movie related things in the world. This has nothing to do with this interview, but here’s a quick video to show what I’m talking about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0WXqEl846k
Jon: Outside of filmmaking, I’m pretty obsessed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I enjoy PS4 games, watching movies, true crime stories and hanging out with friends. I’ve also become one of those people who goes for late night walks to help get my creativity going.
1st: Jon, you are a director what can you tell the readers about being a director?
Jon: Of all of the jobs that I’ve done on a movie at this point, directing is the one that filled me with the most joy. Essentially, the director reads the script and interprets how it should feel and look with the help of the entire cast and crew. A director needs to overthink every detail and know exactly what emotion the audience will be feeling. A good director is almost an expert in mind control. In my mind, the director essentially has to watch the entire movie before it’s even shot, as odd as that may sound.
1st: What can you tell me about Steam Powered Studios?
Jon: Steam Powered Studios is my production company and its name serves as a reminder that if I want it to be done, I need to do it under my own steam. I know, it’s a bit on the nose, but it was created at a time where I was very reliant on other people to make any projects. Now I realize that the only way a project gets made is to start making it. Since starting this company, I’ve worked with so many great talents to help bring their projects from page to screen, including my frequent collaborator John David Thornton (director of Kick Start Justice and Lady Eternal) and my wife Annick Blizzard’s directorial debut When We Were Young, which is nearly ready to be shown.
1st: Jon, your films have been very well received. A few of the titles are: Cabby, Glitter, Kick Start Justice to name a few.
Jon: Kick Start Justice was a huge project for Steam Powered Studios to start with. Writer/Director John David Thornton came to me with this silly action comedy movie about a man who has his shoes stolen, and the project ended up coming out as a real fan favourite. This was the first Steam Powered Studios film set, and a lot of things were established that still go forward in our newest projects. In fact, here’s a link to watch it on our new Youtube Channel https://youtu.be/fKAoTtP8alk. If you like it, give us a subscribe!
Cabby is very important to me, but it also brings out the worst of my critical thinking. Cabby is the one project to date that I have written, directed and edited. It was a lot of me and unfortunately, I am now too close to it to properly enjoy it. The lead actor Clayton Boone, who has been my best friend since elementary school was a real shock for many people in the local filmmaking scene as he hadn’t really been in any other short films in a large capacity. This made it all the more impressive when he brought home a Best Actor award at the first festival it was ever screened in. I’m extremely proud of the cast and crew of this one.
Glitter has been a huge success for us. It has made it to many different film festivals, and gotten recognition in various places. I hope to have Glitter available to be seen online in the not too distant future. Keep an eye out for Tracey Lavigne! She’s doing very big things.
1st: Your films have had 6 wins and 8 nominations. That must have been an awesome feeling, what can you tell your fans about that experience?
Jon: Many of the awards that I have gotten have come from my short film Cabby. I have found that thinking of awards and festivals kinda just stresses me out, so I searched around for festivals that I thought would maybe have interest in Cabby, submitted to them and didn’t think of it again. I did get many rejection emails, but every now and again, I’d hear about it getting in to a festival in Tokyo, Japan or winning an award in Los Angeles and I’d more or less smile to myself and go about my day. Like any artist, the awards aren’t everything, but recognition from other filmmakers unquestionably feels really good.
1st: Jon, you won a Best Director Award (December) at the Independent Horror Movie Awards for Cabby. That must have been an amazing feeling, what can you tell your fans about that experience?
Jon: It was really neat. Cabby was the first real official project that I had directed, so I had a lot of uncertainties, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t help me breathe a sigh of relief when I got that award. If nothing else, I think the atmosphere in Cabby stands out and that is probably the biggest thing I’ve taking away from that project. I’m so excited for what comes next.
1st: Cabby won best horror short film at the Silver Wave Film Festival in Fredericton, Best Suspense Short Film at the Indie Suspense Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival in Florida, Best Horror at the Global Film Fest Awards in to name a few. Can you please tell your fans about Cabby?
Jon: Would you believe me if I told you it wasn’t a horror film? Cabby is essentially the story of a down on his luck taxi driver who experiences a particularly traumatic night driving his clientele home. After reaching a new low, a mysterious man gets in to his car and insists on pushing the taxi driver to reach a whole new potential in himself. It’s a pretty dark story that was shot all over New Brunswick, including Fredericton, Saint John and the Minto area with an entirely local cast and crew who were really giving it their all. If I had to pick a genre, I’d say a drama really, but a drama with some thriller elements.
1st: Where can a fan view this film?
Jon: Cabby has just wrapped up the film festival tour, so I’m hoping to put it up on our youtube channel soon with a bit of a retrospective discussion about the process of making it. Unfortunately, festivals don’t want your movies if they are already available online, so up until now, we haven’t been able to have it out there for people to see. I’d suggest that you keep an eye on www.spsfilm.com/cabby and subscribe to our new Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWmIFpWpfC-n4E6zYcfVmtg/) which will be getting a lot of new content in the coming months.
Jon: Glitter was a project that I was fortunate enough to co-produce with my wife, for our long time friend and collaborator Tracey Lavigne. It was a very ambitious first film for Tracey, and thankfully she was more than up for the challenge. So, to answer your question, awards aren’t everything, but Audience Choice is always the one that means the most to me. The audience voted us as their favourite and nothing could have meant more to us.
1st: Among your many talents is also acting, what can you tell your fans about that experience? Any links to share?
Jon: Acting is how I found myself getting into this whole filmmaking thing. I find myself doing it a bit less right now, because I found myself falling in love with my time behind the camera, but when I get a chance to act in a project, I am always grateful.
Here are three movies that I especially enjoyed acting in.
Black and White and Dead All Over (2016) written and directed by Alex Brewer
Kick Start Justice (2013) written and directed by John David Thornton
Gary (2014) written and directed by Jonathan Brenan
1st: Jon, you are also a writer. What can you tell your fans about writing scripts?
Jon: Writing is very tricky for me. I have a really bad case of ADHD and find myself getting into everything else but my writing, which makes it take much longer than I’d like to admit. I also have that problem where I’m never happy with my own work, so a lot of my scripts have been thrown out after creating multiple different drafts have been made. I’ve never felt that writing was my strongest suit, so I try to make an effort to write 3-5 pages every single day in hopes of growing my skill set. I’m really excited to see what comes next.
Jon: This is a hard question. I guess if I could have any actor in one of my projects, I’d have to say Christian Bale, because I would love to see what level of performance I could get out of him. Genuinely, as a producer, I find the idea of working with Kevin Feige to be pretty high on the list too. What he has done with the MCU is something I would have said was not possible before he started doing it.
1st: What advice can you give to anyone interested in getting into film?
Jon: I’d say try it out. If you feel like you know how to make a movie, try it out with the camera on your phone. Good filmmaking has nothing to do with the camera that is being used. If you find that fun and want to take things a bit further, I’d suggest joining a local filmmaker’s cooperative. Often they will have programs to teach you the skills you want to learn, and they can help connect to like minded people. It must also be said that if you’re getting in to any form of filmmaking with the intention of getting rich, try something else.
1st: Jon, can you tell your fans what projects are coming up in the future that we haven’t covered.
Jon: For my jobs in front of the camera, I’ll be acting in a full length feature film being shot here in Fredericton in the spring. It is called The Camp, and is being produced by Shauna Chase and Alex Vietinghoff, the brilliant minds behind the popular website The Manatee. I’m afraid I can’t say much more than that at the moment, but there will be updates soon.
I’m also very excited to be acting and producing John David Thornton’s upcoming short film Awful Lawful. It’s a buddy cop movie with a lot of great imagination, action and comedy. We also expect to film that in the spring.
I’m also excited that we are finally almost ready to screen our two most recent film projects. Annick Blizzard’s Short Film Venture Grant winning film, When We Were Young was a massive undertaking for us. Not only was it my wife’s first time writing or directing a movie, but it was also my first time as director of photography on a higher quality production. I’m very happy with how it turned out.
Our second project is Robert Silliker’s End of Leash. It’s a beautiful story about a man spending one last day with his best friend, his dog. I don’t want to say too much about this one, because it’s a really interesting story. Robert was a joy to produce for and the cast and crew were unreal! We hope to have announcements soon as to where they will be premiering.
Finally, for the next “Jon Blizzard project”, I’m working on a few possibilities right now for what is next and I very much hope to knock out two next year. We shall see, though.
1st: Thanks so much Jon Blizzard, this has been amazing. Are there any shout outs, groups or links you wanna mention we haven’t covered in this interview? Thanks Jon, keep on creating!
Jon: Thank you so much for having me. I want to shout out any of the people out there making movies because they love doing it. I want to encourage you not to give up, because as the saying goes, the worst day on a film set is still better than most good days in life. If you have any interest in what we are doing, I’d request that you follow us/ Subscribe at this huge list of places. Even if you just pick one of them, we would greatly appreciate it.
You can find everything we do at https://www.spsfilm.com/