An orphan. A mysterious girl. A sadistic cult leader. And a world known simply as the Wasteland. This is Turbo Kid, an epic journey of good and evil that conjures up visions of Mad Max, ’80s nostalgia, romance, and an overdose of blood-soaked, cartoonish kitsch.
Premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Turbo Kid was written and directed by RKSS (Anouk Whissell, François Simard, and Yoann-Karl Whissell). And faster than a speeding BMX, we offer this inside look – a quick take from the film’s directors on working in three’s company, looking to sugary cereal and toys for inspiration, and navigating locations and designs under budget.
First, we could say that our creative process is very organized. Since we are three filmmakers working together, we have to argue and agree amongst ourselves before we talk to anyone else about our ideas. It’s especially essential the closer we get to production that we remain on the same page. That’s actually pretty easy since we’ve developed a “hive mind” over time!
When the script is ready, we storyboard everything to visualize what we want to achieve. We do a lot of visual research and develop our own concept art. Anouk and François both draw, which helps. Being able to present animated storyboards helps us to work with the crew on lists, breakdowns and details. We can establish with each department (stunts, prosthetics, make-up, costumes, etc.) what can and cannot be done within our budget. Being able to find solutions for every limitation early in the process is key.
The crew on Turbo Kid was a great mix of friends we’ve been working with for the past 10 years, as well as experienced crew, which our producers brought on. Together that made for an amazing team. Our project was so over-the-top and unique. It got our crew super motivated and inspired. The fact that we were so prepared enabled them to work within the right framework.
Objects from our youth hugely inspired the production design. We’re BMX kids—the generation that grew up with the coolest action figures. We’d play with our G.I. Joes and Ninja Turtles in front of our favorite Saturday morning TV cartoons, eating sugary cereal.
We actually brought many of our own toys to the set to use as props, then our Art Director added to that. We wanted to put practical effects forward instead of having a VFX mindset, so with the team we were able to create a lot of cool practical effects. One of them is a shot where our protagonists look into a Viewmaster with a POV angle. So we opened one up and used a micro lens to film inside the mechanism of the toy. To achieve this, we needed to create Viewmaster reels in a photo-shoot with toy dinosaurs. In the same aesthetic, we shot our own cloud tanks using a mix of milk, sea and fresh water in an aquarium.
Our location managers had previously worked on a post-apocalyptic film in Montreal, so there was a lot of research done already, and that was very beneficial. The main location was a quarry in the northeast of Montreal that really looked like a wasteland. The location for the villain’s lair was a warehouse where a pool had been built for a big American production and had been abandoned since.
Our budget limitations were very real and it forced everyone to be creative. But as soon as the crew was on board there was a great commitment from everyone. There was a lot of love through the team, both during production in Montreal and through post in New Zealand. We all had fun making the film, and that would be our major tip to send out: if you’re having fun, you’re on the right track! MM
Turbo Kid makes its World Premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on Monday, January 26, with repeat viewings on January 27, 29, and 31.
Photos courtesy of Epic Pictures, 2015.