Aaron Poole returns to the big screen this week in new horror movie The Conspiracy; a project that has been taking the film festival by storm in recent months.
The movie marks the feature film directorial debut for Christopher MacBride, while Poole has served as executive producer as well as one of the lead actors.
We caught up with Poole to chat about the film, working in a producer role and what lies ahead for him over the coming months.
- The Conspiracy is released here in the UK this week so can you tell me a bit about the film?
It is about two documentary filmmakers who do a profile on a placard waving crazy guy downtown. But when he disappears, they begin to investigate the theories that he was investigating himself. They end up going down the rabbit hole.
- So what was it about the character of Aaron and Christopher MacBride's script that initially drew you to the project? And how do we see your character develop throughout the film?
I liked his scepticism and how his empathy for another person opened him up to fear and paranoia. I think, as for as a horror movies go, to use dread and a point of human contact as an entry for fear is a really good and scary thing to do. It’s smart. It’s ill advised for a human being to do that, but it is good as far as a horror character goes (laughs).
In terms of how he develops, I think you will see his curiosity turn into… I don’t want to give it away… his curiosity turns into a righteousness.
- This is a film that looks at conspiracy theories, so how much did you immerse yourself in that world as you were preparing for this movie?
Online there is a lot of information and disinformation - I think that a lot of it is actually disinformation. The community thrives online and I really enjoyed hitting up all sorts of sites; a lot of it is American. There is a store called Conspiracy Culture in Toronto that holds talks regularly, so I was able to go there and got close to the owner.
- The movie marks the feature film directorial debut for Christopher MacBride, so how did you find working with him? And what kind of director is he?
We actually went to high school together, so we did have an already established relationship. I also worked as the executive producer in developing this with him. Therefore, we had worked closely over a number of years: as well as knowing each other prior to that. Therefore, it was very very easy as he is a smart and very creative guy.
- You have touched on my next question actually. You have worked as executive producer on this film, as you say, so how have you found the experience of being quite a driving force behind this project?
I really loved building communities and groups of people that can work well together. I love bringing the elements of a creative project together, and then handing it over to someone who can do the financing end of things, so I can enjoy acting; which is the first thing that I love to do.
- We are always hearing about how difficult it is to get films off the ground here in the UK. So it is the same in Canada? Was it tough getting this film off the ground and ultimately made?
Being from Canada I think we share a similar thing as the UK, in terms of financing film. You guys take a more robust for the films that you make for yourselves: because Canada has a smaller popular does struggle a little bit. Therefore, it is always a challenge.
However, this was budgeted at a level that was modest, because of the genre appeal; people seemed to really take to it. Plus, the script was really strong. So it actually wasn’t that difficult. I took about a year and a half of development before we were shooting it.
- You star alongside James Gilbert in the film; he takes on the role of Jim, so how did you find teaming up with him? It is a partnership that works well in the film.
Thanks. We looked carefully for someone with whom I had a strong dynamic because we play friends who have known each other for a long time. Jim and I became fast friends and it really was quite easy to work alongside him. He is a smart guy.
- How hands on were you with the casting process? Did you do many readings with other actors?
Yeah. We looked long and hard for the right Terrence character as well as for the right actor to play Jim. We had James over to my place with me, Chris MacBride and producer Lee Kim, and we just sat around, had drinks, and chatted. We had met a couple of other people over the weeks, but once we sat down with James, we were confident that he was the right guy.
Terrence was a very challenging role to find. However, when we finally came across Alan Peterson we knew that we had struck gold (laughs).
- How have you found the response to the film so far - it does seem to be going down really well?
Yeah, it has festivaled really well. We have had to open territory by territory; we didn’t go worldwide all at once. Therefore, that has meant that it has been a very quilt patchwork response.
But country by country, we have had great reviews and personal letters; from the moment, we went live on iTunes in the States we have letters from people curious about whether it is real or fake.
There has also been a lot of anger, not at the film but assuming that the content was real; there was a lot of anger and frustration towards the Tarsus Club. So it has been a fascinating sociological experiment (laughs) - which was an unintended outcome.
- Away from The Conspiracy you have been working on Forsaken so how is that shoot going? A great cast has been assembled for that.
That was a lot of fun. We wrapped just before the start of the Toronto International Film Festival. That went really well creatively. It was also a dream to be able to work alongside Donald Sutherland, Brian Cox and Kiefer Sutherland; it really was exciting.
- Throughout your career, we have seen you move between TV, film and shorts so how do you find that the three mediums compare? How much do you enjoy moving between them?
For me, I am really interested in people and human beings; almost more so than any of the mediums - including novels. I just like talking to strangers and assuming roles. So as long as I am interested in the character it is quite effortless.
Obvious there is an economic driver these days (laughs), but if I really like the character, them I am happy to assume the project.
- We have talked about you serving as executive producer on The Conspiracy so how much is being behind the camera something that interests you? Directing or writing perhaps?
As a creative producer, I don’t do any of the financing, but I love developing projects and then building the teams. I didn’t think that I ever wanted to direct, but The Conspiracy really brought me to a level that made me feel confident and curious enough to start to look in to that. So I have had some producers send me novels to help adapt and then direct.
- Finally, what is next for you going through the rest of this year and into 2014?
I am taking my first middle class immigrant trip to Los Angeles; I am doing that in a couple of weeks to meet with agents and mangers to see if I can find some collaborators down there.
I am shooting a film called Relative Happiness on the East Coast of Canada, and that is a very idiosyncratic rom-com from that area of Canada.
The Conspiracy is released 11th October.