It’s a rare occasion that I both review a movie and subsequently conduct an interview with the filmmaker but here we are. As per last week’s review, I found the sci-fi comedy Relax, I’m From the Future to be a zany, gripping romp powered largely by the charisma of star Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) and his chemistry with Canadian actress Gabrielle Graham (Possessor, Twenties) as they attempt to undo accidental damage to the space-time continuum.

The man behind the temporal mayhem is writer and director Luke Higginson. Based in Toronto, Higginson is probably better known in the industry as a film editor, cutting all manner of content from the action-thriller Wander to CBC’s Dragon’s Den.

It was in the cutting room of the latter that I caught up with Higginson over Zoom to discuss Relax, the short film it was adapted from, and the relatively rare transition from the cutting room to the director’s chair.


Relax, I’m from the Future is an adaptation of your 2013 short film of the same name. Can you tell us about the genesis of this idea?

The short that I did 10 years ago is just a little 5-minute short that was literally just a single joke that was funny to me. I liked the idea of a thoroughly unprepared time traveller who didn’t have any kind of real plan and was just looking to unload to people he could get away with talking to without changing anything.

I shot that for out-of-pocket money with some friends on a rooftop. People liked it and it did better than I expected. I got a lot of questions about expanding it into something so I tried to figure out what that would look like since it was just sort of a one-joke premise.

Then it kind of became a thing for me to filter all of my fears and anxieties about the future through. That’s sort of how it became a feature as it became an exploration of various existential crises I was having at the time.




You’ve primarily worked as a film editor throughout your career. Can you talk about some of the challenges of stepping into the director’s chair?

Yes, I make my living as an editor but I’ve (also) always shot my own films to write and direct in that time. It’s always been a passion of mine.

I’ve been on a bunch of sets. Both as an editor and as a director on shorts of mine. I do think that I direct like an editor. I think about it very much while we’re shooting. I think about how it’s put together as we’re doing it. I would definitely say that’s what I bring to set as an editor is that mindset.

The feature stars Rhys Darby (Yes Man). How did he come onboard?

We were incredibly lucky to get him. I’ve been a fan of his since Flight of the Conchords back in the day. It was always really important that the lead be someone that was inherently very likeable because the character does some sort of morally questionable things a few times and you have to stay mostly on his side.

We were able to get the script in the hands of his manager and his manager’s first reaction was that it feels like it was written for him (Rhys). That was a really exciting moment and he agreed and came onboard. 

It was really just an incredible opportunity. He had just finished shooting the first season of his HBO show Our Flag Means Death. He had this tiny window of time before going home to see his family for Christmas and was willing to come up to Canada to give us a few days of his time. It was amazing.

You shot this in Hamilton, correct?

Yeah. A tiny bit in Toronto, but mostly Hamilton.




Any interesting stories or challenges during production?

I mean time is really the big one. We had 15 shooting days with Rhys and he’s in almost every scene of the movie and only 18 days in total. The freezing cold was definitely a huge issue and the Omicron wave started while we were shooting so it was like a real piling-on of challenges.

We took it very seriously and I’m proud that no one got sick. If we had had to shut down, it’s not like we could’ve gotten Rhys back for a few days. It might’ve tanked the movie so we got really lucky.

The Omicron wave introduced these additional challenges that we didn’t expect. For example, no one wanted to use their apartment for shooting. There were several scenes that had to take place in apartments and there were just literally no apartments available at the time we were shooting. We had to sort of literally create locations out of whole cloth in a couple of different instances and it was sort of a real last-minute feat from our production design team to make that happen. Things that should have been incredibly simple ended up being incredibly complicated. It was a real surprise.

Also, the weather. It was very cold, but we could’ve been completely screwed. Snowstorms happened multiple times during the shoot and if they had happened like an hour earlier or later in a few cases then our continuity would’ve just been destroyed and we would’ve been out there with hairdryers trying to fix things.

I actually feel incredibly blessed. Yes, there were a lot of challenges and anything moving at that speed at this budget level, you’re gonna have to make daily compromises. But I feel like we got a lot more good luck than bad. I’m very grateful.

Did anything substantially change from how it was in the script during the editing process?

A little bit, not too much. For one thing, something we knew would be a factor as soon as we got Rhys was that he’s one of the most gifted improv comedians in the world, so we built it into the shoot to allow for that, to allow for him to have some fun and that kind of thing.

We actually made the decision to switch from doing a one-camera shoot to a two camera shoot, despite the sort of challenges that presented because we needed the ability to capture those moments when they happened, because some of them aren’t replicable. So that was definitely a handy thing to have in the edit and there’s some scenes that were shaped around capturing some of those moments.

I would also say there was a little more backstory to the character of Doris who’s the antagonist time traveller in the film that I was actually very fond of. But just in terms of the pacing…the individual scenes I really really liked, but when the whole film was playing together, it interrupted the flow. It really made the rhythm (feel) off. So we had to lose them and we did some creative finagling to make the story still play.

I still miss those scenes but it undeniably plays better without them and that’s one of the things you only find in the editing room.




What do you hope audiences take away from this movie?

I hope they laugh, I hope they have a good time. That’s the #1 goal of any comedy. The ultimate thing would be if people could take a little bit of hope from it. I very much used this script to bring myself out of a dark place and to a slightly more hopeful one, even if it’s a cynical hope. I hope that that can be true for other people as well.

Do you see yourself directing again in the future?

Yes, absolutely. I’ve got another script that I’m currently re-working with my production team, Wango Films. We are also developing a pilot and bible for a TV show loosely based on the concept of the feature, also called Relax, I’m From the Future. I’m actually quite excited and we’re shopping it around right now to see if we can do something with it.

Relax, I’m From The Future is currently playing theatrically across Canada, including the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver

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