Talent On Tap – Shane Brar Gives Us the Low Down On, The Doctrine

When we watch films we are blown away by the visuals and the magnificent sound but how many points do we give to the story or heart of the film? Is it just me or is there a surplus of superhero films that are about to expire? If you’re a fan, my apologies but I personally go to see films for the mystery, the suspense and the story. If the trend of cookie cut, swallowed and then regurgitated continues then the future of cinema will someday resemble the inside of a comic book store. Just my thoughts.


Luckily for us that still enjoy and appreciate the journey of great storytelling with a great message there are filmmakers like Shane Brar out there. He is not afraid to take risks and march to his own drum, mostly because he knows you will all want to join the band, when you hear him play. Shane always has his finger on the pulse of social issues and the psychology behind the dismantling of our once euphoric society. Welcome to the age of ‘bombardment of influence’ with a twist of doom. Our social interaction is changing at the rate of a wildfire. We are influenced by social media, government and other entities that stand to win from chaos and unbalance.


Shane Brar’s film, The Doctrine addresses this very issue.  He was kind enough to drop by and give us the lowdown on the why, where and huh?    


“What was the inspiration for The Doctrine?”

“The character is based off a feature film that I wrote. It’s about a character named Andre, whose a schizophrenic writer.  He got into a really bad accident and it messed with his mind. I base it off that character but in this short film I change the story to how he lost somebody he loved to the pharmaceutical companies/the Big Pharma. She was misdiagnosed and the Big Pharma took advantage of them. In order for him to have closure he wants to fight the system. Going after Big Pharma has cost him everything. So, I was inspired by things I’ve read about pharmaceutical companies draining peoples accounts while having the ability/opportunity to help people but they’d rather make money, I want to expose that.”


“When did you write the feature and why did you decide to make a shorter version?”

“I wrote the feature three years ago and I’ve been going back and forth with it. I wrote the short version just over a year ago in 2017. We did some crowd funding before we shot it.”


“Did you use the same people from your previous projects?”

“I did, I had the same cinematographer, the same editor, as well as people I’ve met at festivals. Normally there’s one or two new crew members on set.”


“What is the plan now with the film, will you be submitting it to festivals?”

“I have begun submitting it to festivals. Currently, its been sent to 13/14 festivals. I sent my last film to 30 festivals and it got into 14. This year I’ll probably do the same. The success of Atone really helped a lot and in my opinion this is a longer film at 16:30 mins. It doesn’t seem that long but for me it’s not about the length, it’s about the character and that’s what’s most important to me. I think that we may have a tougher time getting it into festivals because of the length but I believe they’ll appreciate it for the way its made and really enjoy it. I feel that it’s better than my previous film, Atone and I believe it will have more success than any of my previous projects.”   


“What did you do differently from your last film?”

“On this film I focused more on the camera movement. The actors are professionally trained theatre actors and happen to be friends of mine. The main lead, Ray is a brilliant actor and is Shakespearian trained. He really sells it. The biggest thing I did differently this time was to have rehearsals. We did the rehearsal 2 months prior to shooting so I could work out the bugs, to help them understand the dialogue between them and make the scenes more natural. I asked for their input, which allowed me to make some changes before we started shooting. I also worked a lot more with my cinematographer on this one. Because we had rehearsals I trusted the actors more and didn’t have to be in their ear as much. They knew what I wanted so I let them carry the character and they sold it. They did an amazing job.”


“What is the main motivation for making films? Is it to send a message or is it to show that you can make a quality film?”

“It’s both. It’s about having a film with a message but it’s also about making a quality piece that people can enjoy. I think that one of the hardest things to do is to find that balance. I know there are many films out there that have a message but I believe that the execution can hinder that message from getting across if not done properly. This is especially true with this film; you don’t want to come off as preachy. I did my best to balance it and the feedback has confirmed that it is very well balanced. I didn’t want the film to be all about exposing Big Pharma, I also wanted it to be about this guy struggling with his past and wanting to get over it.”


“How did you finance the majority of the film?”

“I did crowd funding and I basically covered the rest. We shot it in two days at 4-5 locations. On the day we shot the hotel scene, we spent the entire day there. It was a twelve-hour day. On the following Sunday we shot the rest of the scenes.”


“What would you consider the hardest part about making this film?”

“Time. I couldn’t make as many mistakes, I didn’t have the extra day because I was paying for the locations. I had a hotel room and yoga studio that I made look like an insane asylum. The only free location we used was the outdoor scene with Ray and his partner. That was filmed at Blackie’s Spit in White Rock. The Courthouse and the hotel were shot in Chilliwack. The yoga studio/insane asylum shots were all done in Abbotsford.”

“How did you go about finding the right cast?”

“I worked with the two lead actors on Atone; I’ve known Ray and Parker for six or seven years from acting school. I’ve always felt they were great actors that kept getting better. With Ray, he really has tremendous camera presence and the camera wants him. The same goes for Parker. Knowing that there’s real talent there I reached out to them with the script. I ended up rewriting 15 drafts and the script changed so much from beginning to the end. They really liked the film, they were sold on it and believed in it. If they didn’t believe in it, it wouldn’t have turned out as good as it did. I’d put this film up against anything, any day of the week. That’s how confident I am about this film.”


“Are you still planning on making the feature film that this story is based on?”

“I kind of put it to the side for now because I’m currently developing another script with another writer. It’s called Andre, based on the main actor Andre. He’s a writer that goes into the backwoods so he can write his next book.  Because of a previous car accident and his schizophrenia he begins seeing things as his book starts to come to life. Whatever he’s writing is becoming his reality. I’ve already written the script and Andre is helping me to clean it up. I’ve already done 21 rewrites of it but it still needs to be cleaned up. It’s a lot of work, it’s a very in-depth film; it’s a thriller but a mystery thriller. It’s got a lot of pieces in it that I need to fix. The beginning and ending are really right. In total I need about 30 pages cleaned up. I took a couple of years off from working it to focus on other projects. I’ll get back to it eventually but for now I’m going to focus on some other short film projects that are also based off other features. I’m really looking to work with other people to develop new scripts and produce them.”       


“What did you shoot it on?”

“We used an FS 7 (Sony FS 7), like we used on Atone but with spherical lenses. Anamorphic are very stretched and spherical are very rounded. You don’t get that stretched look but you can still get that 35 mm cinematic feel to. Because we were in closed spaces that lens was perfect. The biggest part about this film is the hotel scene and the details/the props, so we used those lenses for that. My cinematographer thought they’d work well in there, he was right.”


“How important is it for you to direct what you write?”

“I only write for myself to direct. People have asked me to write for them but I’m really not a writer by trade, I’m a writer for myself. I’d work with a writer, if a writer came to me and said ‘lets work on a script’ I’d co-write with them. If I write it I’ll shoot it because nobody’s going to understand what I’m trying to get across. My films have deeper meanings to them and I think a lot of them would go over peoples heads.”


“When you get an idea/premise for a film, what is it that gets you excited?”

“I like exposing the psychology of society. I like talking about how people think day to day.  Psychology and philosophy are big for me, especially the manipulation of the masses/the media. I also like to expose things; I like to expose reality. Philosophers wrote books, there’s writers that write poetry and with my films I try to paint a reality of what society is. I don’t believe we’re in touch with reality and I want to steer people toward it. I want them to question and think for themselves, that’s why I make these films.”


“Have you ever considered making a documentary?”

“I have made a couple short docs. Oliver Stone is someone I look up to. He’s made documentaries, he made Snowden, JFK, W, Platoon and so many others. I like those kinds of films because he’s taking a risk that nobody else is willing to take. He actually says that when he’s accepting awards. He says we have to look at reality, we have to look through the politicians, through the media, through the government because they’re not looking out for our best interests. My films will continue to expose that. My next project will probably be exposing what technology is going to do to us, about the tech companies and how they’re brainwashing us.”


“In this film there is no action, it’s character driven. I made this film to pay tribute to old cinema in the 50’s, the 60’s and in a time when it was about storytelling and characters pushing the story. It wasn’t about the special effects. I wanted the feel of  Godfather in this room, with the colours, the yellows and the lamps. I wanted to pay homage to classical film. I always tell people, ‘if you have a great idea, write it. If you can get everyone else to believe in it you can’t help to not make a good film 8 or 9 times out of 10.”


“Do you have anymore features you’re currently getting ready?”

“One’s being edited by a writer out here. It’s going to be a chapter-based thing. One through to five chapters, feature film. The first four chapters we’ll be developing the characters and in the fifth chapter they all come together.”


“It won’t have a first, second or third act?”  

“It is three acts but it won’t be done the traditional way. The first four will be about the characters and will have the first and second act but it’ll be done in a different way.”


It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Shane Brar about his film The Doctrine. He always brings his best to the table and never disappoints.


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