Interview: Director Lowell Dean talks Another WolfCop
When it comes to pitching WolfCop flicks, writer/director Lowell Dean has a knack for dreaming up enticing amalgamations. He pegged the initial installment as Teen Wolf meets Bad Lieutenant. He’s labeled the follow-up Another WolfCop – now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD – as a cross between Gremlins, Slap Shot, Strange Brew, and Lethal Weapon. It’s an apt description of the lycanthropic sequel’s mixture of comedy, action, beer, gore, and hockey.
This time around the plot finds the titular hirsute law enforcement officer (again played by Leo Fafard) battling shape-shifting aliens whose scheme to take over the Canadian berg of Woodhaven involves impregnating its citizenry via a hearty new stout.
Continue onward as Dean talks Kevin Smith cameos, the importance of a kick ass poster in the age of streaming, and the challenges of capturing explosions, werewolf lovemaking, car chases, and alien baby berths in a 17-day shooting schedule.
When we talked about the original WolfCop back in early 2015, you had the sequel script ready to go and were hoping to get financing in time to shoot that summer. Did that ultimately happen or did production get pushed?
Lowell Dean: Oh, it got pushed! By almost two years. Development on the sequel was almost as much of a journey as production itself. The first film was very modest (a budget of about 1 million Canadian) and it was more a mystery film than an action film. Everyone involved agreed that the sequel needed to up the ante in terms of action and practical effects, which of course meant (we needed) more money. In the end, the producers pulled together just over 2 million but it took more time. Over that period the script underwent several revisions. We changed the villain. The setting changed from winter to summer and then back to winter. To be honest, there was a stretch of time when I thought the sequel just wasn’t going to happen.
It took a while after the film was completed to get it out into theaters and onto VOD/DVD. What are the difficulties right now in releasing a movie like Another WolfCop and making a profit?
Lowell Dean: Yeah, it took a while. We had a good festival run with Another WolfCop, including Fantastic Fest in Austin and Fantasia in Montreal, where it won the audience choice (award) for Best Canadian Film. But I honestly have no idea why it took another two years to reach the masses. We had a limited theatrical release, but for a film like ours, the online release is where the real impact happens. In 2018, I think streaming services are the best showcase for indie features. I say this purely regarding exposure. I’m not sure about investment recoupment. As a filmmaker it ensures your work can reach anyone in the world at the push of a button. It levels the playing field with bigger budget films. I say this from direct experience. When the first WolfCop was released in Canadian theatres with limited grassroots marketing, we got attention but nothing major. The day it hit Netflix US, that’s when it made a real impact. I was getting messages daily from people watching and live- tweeting the film. It was cool to watch.
Like the first film, the marketing for Another WolfCop features amazing artwork. You’ve got another great Tom Hodge poster, this time a riff on Stallone’s Cobra. When you and I were growing up, the cover art on a video store shelf made a huge impact on what we wanted to rent. How much of an effect do you think cover art has when people are browsing through streaming platforms?
Lowell Dean: It’s huge! It’s everything. Regardless of your budget and your genre, a film needs a good poster and a good trailer. Without that, you’re dead in the water. You’re competing for attention with countless films and TV shows dropping weekly on Netflix and VOD. Your poster has to grab the audience’s attention and your trailer has to sell them in one minute or less that your project is worth their time. That’s why I love Tom Hodge’s artwork. Every piece he’s done for WolfCop has topped the last. They grab the eye. He’s such a talented artist. His work evokes the best possible version of what our little films are all about.
On the first WolfCop, you had only two weeks to do your visual prep. That led you to making these “photo boards” with action figures. With more prep time for Part II, did you break out the action figures again or did you draw storyboards?
Lowell Dean: Since we had a longer prep period I was able to storyboard almost the entire film – certainly every scene that featured any action or practical effects. But I did bust out the toys to prep for some of the opening action scene, since I hate drawing cars and trucks.
That opening action scene is a night car chase in which a band of robbers are firing out the back of a truck at a police car in pursuit. You had double the budget this time around, but you were working with the same 17-day shooting schedule as the first WolfCop. How difficult is a scene like this to pull off with those restrictions?
Lowell Dean: We had to shoot that whole sequence in one night. I don’t think we could have pulled it off
without storyboards, a dedicated crew, and a strong 2nd unit. Practical effects supervisor Casey Markus had a lot to contend with in terms of pyro (a rocket launcher, blowing up the car) and blood spray and our stunt coordinator Sean Skene was stunt driving and overseeing the action. In fact, the exterior chase sequence was shot while I was inside filming the (werewolf) sex scene! That was the only way we could complete this film in 17 days. All of our exteriors were done in the wonderful small town of Lumsden, Saskatchewan. They let us shut down Main Street to film the chase. The exteriors took half a night and the interiors of the henchmen inside the van took another half. We shot the interiors inside the Saskatchewan Soundstage. Our only breaks were when someone was cleaning up blood.
Let’s talk about that werewolf sex scene. I think it deserves a place alongside Team America: World Police and MacGruber in terms of sheer ridiculousness.
Lowell Dean: We definitely wanted to push the scene to the limit. My only real goal was to make it as different as possible from the sex scene in the first WolfCop, but in a complimentary way. I wanted it to be funnier, weirder, and uncomfortably long. We had tons of props and goo standing by at all times.
Ironically, the sex scene was probably the one scene in our shooting schedule given enough time to do right – and then some. We even built Kat’s bedroom in the soundstage to be sure we could get a variety of angles. Priorities, right!
How did you land Kevin Smith for his cameo as Woodhaven’s mayor? And how much of his dialogue did he make up on the spot?
Lowell Dean: Executive producer J. Joly reached out to Kevin Smith, who was going to be in Saskatchewan scouting his film Moose Jaws. He graciously came out and shot with us for half a day for an extended cameo. They were big scenes, though! We had to kill him and then give him a bunch of exposition. It was a joy having him on our set. A definite “pinch me” moment. He was so kind. I encouraged him to change the script and ad-lib as he saw fit, which resulted in many hilarious improvs. The hardest part was choosing which take to use in the edit.
Any good stories behind the creation of “Frank,” the robot creature who serves as one of the villain’s henchmen?
Lowell Dean: The “Frank” character was a real challenge. Honestly, that character took the biggest hit during production. He was supposed to play a much larger role in the last act of the film at the hockey rink. In prep, our shoot schedule was slashed from 20 days to 17 and I knew immediately I had to cut at least 10 pages from the script. Those 10 pages ended up being a big rematch between Frank and WolfCop on center ice. There is a lot more to that character than what you see in the final film.
As for his design, we went through countless trials to create his look. We wanted something creepy and odd. Someone you’d do a double take at if they stepped into your establishment. He was played by actor and friend Alden Adair, who starred in many of our early short films.
That finale at the hockey rink might not have a lot of “Frank” the robot, but it does have a militarized Zamboni.
Lowell Dean: That’s a similar story. We intended for the big showdown on the hockey rink to spiral out of control with lots of “how is this even happening!” types of moments. Originally, I wanted a Mad Max-style Zamboni that sucked up bodies and spit out blood. We couldn’t afford to build it and the crew was already overextended with other bizarre requests, so we decided to rethink the Zamboni. Leo Fafard (who plays WolfCop) was adamant we keep that moment, so he reached out to a connection with an old military vehicle. The owner was nice enough to drive it down and roll it on the ice. We had it for about 30 minutes, if memory serves, so all hands were on deck and we filmed nonstop to get a couple passes of it barreling toward WolfCop.
There’s no werewolf transformation this time around, but in terms of effects the pièce de résistance is the “Bad Willie” puppet. Walk me through that effect.
Lowell Dean: Like most things in the sequel, I didn’t want to just repeat the beats of the first film. We limited the WolfCop transformation this time around to be part of a “three way montage” that also featured Frank killing at the strip club and Willie birthing “Bad Willie.”
As for the Bad Willie birthing, the first shot was an incredibly realistic false belly worn by Willie (actor Jonathan Cherry). Hiding off camera, (make-up effects supervisor) Emersen Ziffle poked his finger around beneath the surface of the belly (top left) and then popped Bad Willie’s hand through the belly button (top right). It was so creepy to watch in person.
After that, we gooed up the Bad Willie puppet and pushed it through the false belly to sell that he was crowning (bottom left). For the final reveal, Jonathan laid on the ground and Emersen puppeteered Bad Willie (focus on Jonathan, puppet’s back to camera) and then Jonathan swapped out for a member of Emersen’s team and they puppeteered Bad Willie for his gooey dialogue close up (bottom right). It was much harder than it looks!
One of my favorite elements of the WolfCop films are the amusing little touches that the art department sprinkles throughout the locations. Did you have a favorite bit this time around?
Lowell Dean: There is so much to love in the design and artwork of Another WolfCop, but my personal favorites are the bad puns and WolfCop “sell out” merch at Liquor Donuts. The art department was led by the brilliant Justin Ludwig, who production designed the 1st film as well. This time Justin collaborated with Joseph Kabbach and his team out of Northern Ontario (the film was shot partly in Sudbury). The world of Woodhaven is a unique mix of vintage, silly, subversive, and intentionally sad. So there was never a dull moment or location. We also recruited Maurice Roy, a passionate designer who we met at Fan Expo Toronto. He was a fan of the 1st film and offered to provide art for the sequel. He’s the man behind the awesome Darkstar jersey logo and more.
The end credits for Another WolfCop are pretty rad as well.
Lowell Dean: I wanted this film to have a really fun end credits sequence so I recruited Trevor Corrigan, a friend and talented Toronto VFX artist. Trevor and his team at Wingman VFX took the spirit of the film and translated it into a vibrant, playful sequence that leaves the audience with a smile on their face. I know they did a lot of work by hand and also used 3D modeling to make the whole thing pop. I love it. Plus, it’s set against Gowan’s song “Strange Animal” so how could you not?
To finish up, what’s the status of the further adventures of WolfCop? The sequel ends with the promise “WolfCop Will Return.”
Lowell Dean: To be honest, I don’t know what the future holds for WolfCop. When it came time to tease something at the end of the credits for Another WolfCop, I asked that we keep it vague since we didn’t have anything immediately lined up. I’ve heard rumors of a TV series, but I haven’t been approached yet. I’d love to do a series. I love the characters and there are so many places to go with it. I’d also love to do a third film and complete the trilogy. I guess time will tell!
Behind the Scenes gallery
All stills taken by Allan Fieldel and Christos Kalohoridis.