[VFF2018] The Wild West Tale is Redefined with Undertaker’s Son, A Short Film

8 Feb

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By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Making an effective Western that stands out can be a challenge. All the tropes have been done to death and how can any filmmaker offer a tale that’s new? Foreshadow Film‘s (formerly known as Affolter Entertainment) The Undertaker’s Son is a very impressive work which I believe deserves number one place if I was to say which one of the 2018 Victoria Film Festival‘s BC Shorts Program (which played Weds night) I enjoyed the most.

This piece began as a challenge under the auspices of Vancouver’s Crazy 8’s challenge — to make a film in eight days. Since finishing this project a year ago, this nugget of gold has been making the film festival rounds.

With this tale, young Christopher’s (Darien Provost, The Whispers) anxiety shows when he knows that one day he is to train and be the next in line to continue the family business. In the days of the Wild West, death can be anywhere. Whether that’s a matter of surviving in untamed frontier or the lawlessness that’s around, we hardly learn about those on the sidelines or has the thankless job of burying the dead at Boot Hill. This short film looks at the life of a young lad — who clearly has interest in a girl he meets along the way to the morgue — and also his relationship with his father, Jonathan (Louis Ferreira, Breaking Bad & Stargate Universe).

The challenge in making this genre work always begins with having characters we are interested in. The Undertaker rarely gets full attention. As soon as Ferreira came into frame, I was captivated. He has a presence which made me stand at attention. Next involves the perfect location and lastly is getting too involved with bringing in fantastic backdrops. I have nothing against John Wayne or John Ford in how they established the genre half a century ago, but another adventure glorifying the romance of frontier justice is not what I’m looking for. This piece does it just right. The tonal quality of the work gives it a celluloid look and the choice of Jamestown on the Macinnes Ranch located in Langley, BC as the set has that air of familiarity.

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Ferreira plays his role somewhat like the mortician from Howard Zieff’s My Girl (1991). Both father-figures lack the understanding of what the youth is feeling. The potential for expanding this story further exists. The question of whether it will happen depends on studio interest.

A leap in time is made to give this piece a conclusion. I won’t say what it is. This production team, led by brothers Nathan, Jon, Heath and Thomas Affolter with Mat Gilroy, are worth following to see what other trends they can buck when given the chance. Since they won a slot with the Crazy8s program, just what’s next can be anything. They produced music videos for talents like Nickelback and Dallas Smith. Their hilarious send-up Soggy Flakes about old breakfast cereal mascots needs watching. When their company webpage lists clients like Cartoon Network and YTV, it’s safe to assume they made the bumpers we are accustomed to seeing.

As for what they will create next will depend on getting the green light to do so.

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