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An Interview with Phil Bourret, Director of First Night

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2015

Films directed by Phil Bourret on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie First Night - in a few words, what is it about?


Two roommates call the police to complain about their neighbour, three officers show up. Things do not go as they should, to say the least.


With First Night being about police gone bad - does it in any way mirror your own feelings towards the police force, and other sources of inspiration when writing the movie?


The script was based on an emotional reaction I had in late 2012 (when I wrote it) that was prompted by actual situations I witnessed first-hand at the time. Up until then I had a very standard, I guess you could say, view of the police and law enforcement in general. I tended to see it as necessary for our society to be functional and not degenerate into utter chaos, but I also understood (obviously) that there is always the constant flaw that you have in everything: these are human beings (my favourite TV show is The Shield, so I was never overly naÔve).

I admit that I became MUCH more cynical, weary and critical at that point. I still keep an open mind but like it or not your views and attitudes can shift a certain way based on personal experiences.

More than an actual view on the police force though, is that I based the two main antagonists of the film on types of people (actual police) that I see on a regular basis, mainly where I work (I work in a gym). I see guys like J.P. and Moses and to think that guys like that constitute who is supposed to Ďíserve and protectíí is scary and depressing.

To be precise though, I based First Night on actual dream I had, which was obviously a direct reaction to my experiences at the time.


First Night does get pretty violent at times - so what can you tell us about your approach to these scenes, and was there ever a line you refused to cross?


When I came up with (dreamt) the plot it was what it was without necessarily being a specific genre or style, but I WANTED it to be categorized as much as possible as a horror film, so I specifically wanted to use elements that are conventionally used in the (much-maligned) genre. I wanted it to be violent and graphic and to have nudity (the lack of money prevented it to be as graphic as I originally wanted, as well as last-minute problems with the FX guy, i.e. he didnít show up).

The area where I stopped short was with the sexual assault; I had no intention of going any further there.


What can you tell us about your overall approach to your story at hand?


Very logical, I think. I had an endgame in mind, and I just wrote it so as to get to that conclusion as logically as possible. Characters are introduced, the situation is set, the characters interact in a way as to make the situation escalate, leading to the inevitable conclusion.

Other than the basic plot (which is essentially the dream I had, which is the conclusion of the film), I started with figuring out the characters, how many there would be, their personalities, so that would help determine how they would act in the story, making it become what it was.

Right there, I think, is my overall approach: that the characters drive the story more than anything. And despite my wanting it to be a horror film, I never want to force the style or mood (for better or worse).


Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


I actually wrote every character with a particular person in mind. Iíve been working on independent and underground films for a few years and Iíve made some contacts over time, so when I cam up with the characters I immediately thought of who I wanted for the role.

Robert Verret was always going to be Rich, since I had actually came up with that character for another project I was planning but didnít do and he was going to play him. Matthew Saliba and Andrťe-Anne Saliba were talking about moving away to Toronto at the time (Iím in Quebec) so I wanted to do something with the both of them before they left. I had met Sandra Foisy on a short and got her contact info, then saw her in a performance of Macbeth so it was a no-brainer for me to want to work with someone that good. Rounding out the main cast is my brother, who wanted to be in my filmÖ

They were all my first choices and they all said yes. No auditions. Alina Gotcherian, who plays Jodie, was a late addition. I had worked with her on a short, I asked a few people in my contact list and she accepted.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


I could write pages about the shootÖ I learned a lot. I wrote a series of posts on "Things Iíve learnt doing a no-budget/DIY/underground film", there was so much material to be taken from the experienceÖ

Most notably, there was a last-minute cancellation of the shooting location which I wasnít prepared for and completely threw me off (I spent days preparing a shot list with my assistant director based on that location, which was all but scrapped because of it). Because of that I found myself not really knowing what and how we were going to shoot on a given day, I was a nervous mess on the first day especially. I was pretty much saved by my assistant director, who was much better than I was at problem-solving.

We ended up shooting at my apartment which is NOT meant to have that many people in it at a given time. Itís a situation I donít wish on any filmmaker (or his cast and crew!). Be careful who you trust.

I canít speak for the cast and crew, though Iíve had some of them earnestly thank me for the opportunity, but for me I was pretty much a wreck for most of it. For what was essentially my second short (the first being a simpler 48-hour project), it was actually pretty ambitious for someone with little experience such as me! Once the shoot was over (six days total, though not all full days), I was physically sick due to the stress.

I can say that some people seemed to be having fun though!


A few words about audience and critical reception of your movie so far?


Iíve submitted it to festivals and online reviewers and so far Iím really happy about the reaction! The written reviews in particular are awesome to read, the reception is very positive. I keep my expectations down but all of them so far have had positive things to say about it, some immensely so.

It had its premiere at the 2014 Mascara & Popcorn Film Festival and it got three awards: Audience Choice, a special jury mention for Best Screenplay and a Best Actor award for Robert Verret. Thatís extremely validating


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Iíve done two shorts since: a 1-minute quickie just to get back into it called Apartment 32 and a 10-minute short called Bonne Personne (Good Person) which is in post right now, my first (mosly) in French. I have plans for a feature-length called The Human Sketch, weíll see what happens with that one.


What got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Iíve been a film freak all my life. I studied it in Cegep and went to film school but only started working on projects about 5 years ago after having abandoned the idea of becoming a starving artist (go figure), mostly as a sound recorder and boom operator.

I live and breathe film, mostly. Always have. I only made my first short in 2012 (not counting student projects), Iím a late bloomer.

The training that really matters most is the experience Iíve gotten and continue to get working on projects, my own and other peopleís.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to First Night?


Lots of independent and underground projects as a crew member, such as various projects directed by Joe Rossi and Adam Kelly Morton. A few bigger projects as a P.A. (like X-Men: Days of Future Past) but thatís not something I seek out, though when Iím offered paid work, why not?

As a director, four shorts since 2012.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Learning, is the best way to put it. I think I still lack discipline in pre-production as Iím a compulsive procrastinator. One person on my last shoot said I was very "hands-on", but Iím not sure what she meant. At first I was very open to suggestions but I find Iíve become more "I know what I want and Iím not changing my mind2 over my last two projects.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


John Carpenter, Brian DePalma. More lately, Ciaran Foy really blew me away with what he did on his film Citadel.


Your favourite movies?


Impossible to break down. Iíll mention Blow Out since I have DePalma in mind, but itís one of many. David Fincherís Seven is up there as well.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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Germany (East AND West)

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x-rated  find Phil Bourret at

Oddly enough for someone who loves the horror genre and dark subject matter I tend to have the biggest dislike to films that I find are irresponsibly gratuitously violent, which are more in the action genre than the horror genre in my opinion. I hated John Frankenheimerís Ronin for example, and The Wild Bunch. I know, weird.

Expensive movies that are incompetent are also obvious, like Elektra and Ghost Rider.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Only a Facebook page:

Iím too poor for a website!


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I could write a lot more about this film! This was really enjoyable, thank you for the opportunity!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
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and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD