I caught up with the filmmaking triforce Roadkill Super Star (RKSS) from Montreal for a chat on filmmaking, nostalgia, the dynamics of collaborative art, mise-en-scéne and its importance in any film that has an element of “the period piece”, and much more as it relates to their latest, the nostalgia thriller Summer of '84, in theaters August 10 and On-Demand / Digital HD August 24.

RKSS are François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell (Anouk and Yoann are sister and brother) – they really are a force of nature creatively, especially when one considers that Summer of '84 is only their second feature. I'm confident we'll be seeing much more great stuff from RKSS.

(L-R) Directors François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell (RKSS). Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.

Summer of '84 has a fantastic vibe and ambiance to it. One that calls to mind movies about curious kids acting as sleuths when something goes awry in their world. To help transport you there: it's summer 1984 in the Pacific Northwest suburb of Ipswich, Oregon – the perfect time to be 15 years old and carefree. But when neighborhood conspiracy theorist Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) begins to suspect his police officer neighbor (Rich Sommer) might be the serial killer all over the local news, he and his three best friends (Cory Grüter-Andrew, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery) begin an investigation that soon turns dangerous.

Summer of '84 is a wild and supremely fun ride that is aptly described as a "nostalgia thriller". It fires on those cylinders really well too – capturing that adventurous and curious spirit of childhood as it existed in another time, a time before the internet and instantaneous spread of information – in both the same way It and Stranger Things do, but with a spin that is all RKSS and so much fun to behold. I heartily recommend checking this one out.

Hello all...

YKW: Hello.

AW: Hello.

FS: Hello. Hello.

and welcome to The 405! I was hoping we could start with a basic question – one you three may be tired of, but it's kind of elementary I think. What brought you together and initially inspired Roadkill Super Star?

YKW: Oh! We don't get like the genesis of it a lot. We get a lot of, 'how does it work'? 'How do you guys work on set?

The genesis of it, I think... well, we're friends and we want to make films. It's crazy but it's really that simple.

FS: We were having fun with the camera. We're friends and at some point, we did a short film that we actually finished.

All: [Laugh]


...and we got a call, a film festival in Montreal and they were like, 'Hey! We want to show your movie! And what's your production company name?' and we were like, 'oh yeah! We need that!'

FS: After one night of drinking, we came up with “Road Kill Super Star”, which we thought it was funny at the time...

Definitely catchy.

...and that's how it caught on.

FS: Yeah, by the first short that was beyond just our friends, Le Bagman, and it got very popular...

AW: It got picked up by a German distribution company that made a German-dubbed version, which became popular in German-speaking areas all the way to Italy.


FS: Just to show our short film to a crowd and to see that people actually liked what we were doing was just a good motivation for us and that's why we keep fighting, keep doing what we love.

We didn't know that it would be so serious at some point that it would become our carrier, but here we are.

There ya go. Could we get an insight into what the working creative dynamic is like between you? Is it more a division of labor that gets combined for the final product where you all have a area of specialization or is everything more collaborative?

YKW: It is totally a collaboration. Even though on set we will split – like I will be with the actor, François will be with the camera crew, and Anouk will be with the editing department. It's all very collaborative. We do everything together. We cover everything behind the monitor.

We literally do everything together because we hang together every freakin' day.

Those collaborations are the best. You guys have great chemistry.

(L-R) Caleb Emery as Dale “Woody” Woodsworth, Cory Grüter-Andrew as Curtis Farraday, Judah Lewis as Tommy “Eats” Eaton, and Graham Verchere as Davey Armstrong in the thriller “SUMMER OF ’84,” a Gunpowder & Sky release. Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.

YKW: There's not a day that goes by that we don't at least call each other to talk about something.

So, we're always together.

AW: Yeah. So like when we write a script – although on Summer of '84 we didn't write it, we do do a lot of script writing – this is also something that is altogether, in the same room.

FS: We bring our brainstorm to the table. Then we talk about it amongst ourselves. The key is really to learn to put your ego on the side, and when you pitch an idea, it's not your idea it's an idea. And we all have to pick the best one.

Fantastic advice there. To all sorts of creatives who collaborate.

YKW: We put our ego long ago on the side. Even everybody on set, everybody is involved in the creative process and we're all making that movie together, and everybody is more involved and they put more of their passion into it.

I respect that approach because it absolutely gets great results. Getting more deeply into Summer of '84, what initially attracted RKSS to the script?

AW: It all started with a pitch with one of the writers Matt Leslie, who was a huge fan of Turbo Kid and had this passion project with Stephen J. Smith.

We met with him and he was a huge, huge fan of Turbo Kid and said we were perfect for the passion project, so he pitched it to us – it was all about the kid relationship, and everything in the build-up – and the ending as well. The ending is what really excited us and caused us to jump on the project.

We thought it was different, it made the movie really stand out.

I agree it really did make the movie stand out in all the right ways. Both the nostalgia element and the thriller element were very effective here. What was the creative decision making process like to achieve the film's atmosphere?

FS: We wanted to give it a tone of fun, adventure, kid movie like The Goonies and The Monster Squad...

AW: But still keep that gloomy and dangerous...

FS: and move slowly...

AW: Yeah.

FS: So at the end its not a total shift...

AW: But still a shift big enough so that you get the rug pulled out from under your feet because you're not safe anymore because it's the kind of movie where you do think that you're safe and you might expect what's going to happen but then the rug gets pulled again.

(L-R) Caleb Emery as Dale “Woody” Woodsworth, Graham Verchere as Davey Armstrong, Cory Grüter-Andrew as Curtis Farraday, and Judah Lewis as Tommy “Eats” Eaton in the thriller “SUMMER OF ’84,” a Gunpowder & Sky release. Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.


AW: It's summer too. It's hot so we have a lot of nights, we have a lot of dark, everything is a little more sinister with the dark.

We also worked with Le Matos with the music to get that kind of a wedding between the fun kids stuff and the danger in the sound that kind of drove the whole movie.

FS: The music was so important for us because it's basically a character in itself. It's actually the soul of the movie so we are very lucky to have Le Matos that did the soundtrack and also did Turbo Kid.

That's actually the perfect segue into the next question, because the music really functions in much the same way as the mise-en-scéne. Both I think are pretty vital to really transporting the audience to 1984. How challenging was it to really capture 1984 in every nook and cranny of the film like you managed to do in the mise-en-scéne?

FS: It was hard because of the small budget and time constraints. We didn't have a lot of time so we would have to find solutions to make it work in the time we did have.

YKW: And since we're three brains who did a lot of short films with no money, we were able to find creative solutions that helped the story...

FS: I think it's also instinctive.

AW: Yeah. But we storyboard. We storyboard everything as well. Which really helps – we had a map.

FS: Mmm hmm.

YKW: Yeah. The storyboard is the plan. We didn't go to film school but we went to traditional animation school and we learned how to do a storyboard and one thing that is great is filmmaking is solving a lot of problems and we can draw a new storyboard in five minutes and have a new plan to make the movie.

There ya go. I seem to remember that idea of planning and storyboarding most everything as being echoed by filmmakers like the Coen Brothers too. What were some of the other challenges like on the film?

AW: I think the main challenge was the time because we had a lot of night shoots and we had underage actors. The regulations of course there are important.


But we had Judah [Lewis] who came from America, and because of that, he had to be off of the set by midnight or 12:30. Our kids from Canada would be on set until 2:30. Night in Vancouver – which we learned – it's not night before 10 and then at 10 we need to set up the lights and everything because we cannot afford to use the lights that are set up for day conditions so... yeah, that was a puzzle.

FS: Thank God Caleb [Emery] is 21 so he could stay all night with us and we would end every night with him.

YKW: It was a challenging puzzle.

AW: Yes.

Rich Sommer as Wayne Mackey in the thriller “SUMMER OF ’84,” a Gunpowder & Sky release. Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.

That is quite the challenge. I never would've even thought of them as a potential challenge there until you mentioned them. What do you hope audiences will take with them upon watching it?

YKW: Be terrified! No... [Laugh]

All: [Laugh]


YKW: You see it in the theater and you keep talking about it. That the movie stays with them for a while.

AW: That they felt something during it.

YKW: Yes.

AW: That it starts and sustains conversations.

I absolutely know it does that – while being great fun in the process. Which is always a good thing. [Laugh]

All: [Laugh]

What is next for RKSS?

YKW: We have multiple projects cooking. It's all a matter of just which gets the green light first. But we have multiple – there's some stuff we can't talk about yet...


But we're adapting two comic books right now. One horror, one zombie.

We have Turbo Kid 2 which everybody's asking for from us...

Even though we have all those projects cooking, we're open to any proposal, like something about giant robots [Laughs] a giant robot film...


AW: We are all about passion. That's our main motive is passion. We have to be passionate about the projects we undertake.

YKW: I am passionate about giant robots. [Laughs]

All: [Laugh]


FS: We have a lot of fans that are waiting for Turbo Kid 2 and we can't wait to revisit the universe that we created, that's our baby.

We just want to make sure we write the best story we can. We don't rush anything, it needs to be perfect because the fans deserve it.

I didn't think we'd have time for this question, but luckily we do. It's one I like to ask most everybody, what makes a great film?

YKW: Oooohhh...

FS: Hmmm...

YKW: Emotional connection.

AW: Yeah. And well-developed characters that you care about. And a heart.

FS: If you care for your characters, then you will follow them everywhere. That's so important and I hope that's a good tip for filmmakers out there.