Douglas Aarnioski always wanted to work in the film business, taking the advice of his mother he got a job on the Universal Studios lot so, as Douglas said, "on my days off I could walk around the backlot and pass out resumes." He landed a work behind the camera and has built an insanely impressive filmography as an assistant director and a second unit director working with such film makers as Robert Rodriguez and Terry Gilliam. The Day marks his third feature as a director and his first ever film at Midnight Madness. I recently had the opportunity to ask Mr. Aarniokoski some questions.
1) The Day is your second feature as a director, however you've had numerous experiences as a first assistant director & 2nd Unit Director. How vast is the difference moving from first A.D./2nd Unit to the director of a film?
It's DAY and night. As an AD you are really in charge of the nuts and bolts of the film making process and facilitating the vision of the director. My 2nd Unit directing however was a great way to get me ready for directing in the sense that you are given portions of the story and it's my job to make it fit seamlessly with the directors footage. Granted we are usually blowing up shit and filming car chases, but the story has to work within the scene or the action has no guts to it.
2) What did you connect to in this story that made you say I want to be in the director's chair on this film?
The struggles that these five characters go through within the course of one DAY. Both physically and emotionally. And it is just a wickedly fun ride--I literally read the script in 40 minutes the first time I read it, picked up the phone, called Guy Danella (producer) and said I have to make this. And we never looked back.....
3) You have worked with Robert Rodriguez on numerous films, From Dusk Till Dawn, Once Upon A Time in Mexico come to mind, what did you learn about directing from Robert?
Robert was my mentor--he was my film school. He was the one who said, "pick up the camera and go do it, you learn by doing." We would shoot all day on separate units when I was shooting his 2nd Units, and then stay up into the wee hours of the night editing. Then we'd get up and rock and roll again the next day. I learned the importance of story and how to connect with actors.
4) You were also first assistant director: second unit on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is there a memory you can share working with Terry Gilliam?
Mr. Gilliam was so collaborative with everyone on the crew. His mind works in a way like I've never seen. He pushes you to think in the most unconventional way. It's amazing to see a true artist at work....I've been able to tap into those moments when conceiving the way I approach a film project.
5) What was your experience shooting The Day in Ottawa, Canada?
Fucking Cold!!!! Did I mention it was cold? HAHA--We had a crazy schedule that was literally eat, sleep, work. The actors had to be on the set all day every day in extreme conditions and fight through it....the crew was amazing and resilient. We became like a family in order to pull off an impossible story.
6) How did the Northern surroundings lend themselves to the atmosphere of the story?
It was perfect--isolated, desolate, and harsh. It kicked our ass and just kept coming....but we were looking for just that. We had scouted all over the states and Canada to find the perfect setting. Ottawa provided that, in spades.
7) We have been seeing a lot of post-apocalyptic films recently what makes The Day different and unique from the other films in the genre?
The setting is post-apocalyptic--but the story and the depth of these characters you'll meet are unlike any you've ever seen. The world that is created here is raw and real. It's gonna grab you by the balls and not let go.From your first job in show business being a tour guide on UniversalStudios lot to having a world premiere at the Toronto International FilmFestival, congratulations! I look forward to meeting you.
Yeah, it's been an amazing journey. HAHA, sitting on a tram in Universal Studios and getting to talk about the history of film and how is all comes together to now being blessed to have the opportunity to tell stories and make movies--wow! It's something I will never take for granted and a path that I would not change for anything. Enjoy the festival everyone and hope to see you at The Day. Peace, Doug A
Here is the trailer for THE DAY:
THE DAY screens:
Thur., Sept. 15th 11:59pm Ryerson
Fri., Sept. 16th 3:00pm Scotiabank Theatre 2
Sat., Sept. 17th 9:45pm Scotiabank Theatre 11