Born in South Africa and based in Vancouver, brothers Tony Dean Smith and Ryan W. Smith knew they would be involved in filmmaking. Tony would be known for his directing and Ryan would be the producer with both brothers skilled in screenwriting. After working on short films and some television movies, the Smith Brothers unleash their first major feature film with the sci-fi action thriller Volition, now available on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and other digital platforms from Giant Pictures.
WorldFilmGeek had the chance to talk to the Smith Brothers about the film.
Tony and Ryan, it’s great to talk to you about Volition. This was quite and interesting film that melds some pretty interesting abilities in clairvoyance and time bending. It really drove the film more especially in the second half.
Tony: Thank you so much!
Ryan: Thanks! I’m glad you got to see the second half and understand it.
How did you come up with the idea for Volition?
Tony: The original idea came when I was in film school a long time ago. We did a concept, write what you know. At the time I was late for everything (Laughs). So, I came up with a short film about an absent-minded professor who develops a drug that makes him early in perception. At that time, I developed this concept of someone having a fixed viewpoint of their future. He was a psychic as far as having seen others’ abilities.
Years later, I was feeling stuck in my work as a filmmaker and I felt my fear in my future would feel as a perceptual curtain. I might have well followed the faded frequency of the universe. So, I thought, what if that’s the basis for this character. Not just clairvoyant and a cool hero, in a fun way. I wrote a draft based on that and it was good, but when I showed it to Ryan, that’s when we began to really delve into it as we always do when we work together.
As I mentioned, the second half of the film is amazing with its use of time bending. Were there any influences behind this particular element?
Ryan: What always intrigued me on the initial take of the film is looking at what could be the roots of clairvoyance. And looking at what might be really be clairvoyance. Tony wrote the original draft and then we looked at what if we played with this context in the actual structure. And if the mind is looking in itself and what if the film is to look in in itself. And we made it the puzzle it became.
Tony: Ryan and I attempted at two different versions of it. Even a short film version as an experiment. We’ve always loved the idea of we all have this foresight. This voice in our head that tells us to do this or do that. And from a science fiction perspective, what if that voice in your head jumps ahead, calling back. Wishing they had made a different choice. So the question is, what if you become the foresight? Looking back at your old life, making it esoteric and very trippy and build volition from that as well.
Adrian Glynn McMorran is excellent in the role of James, and the rest of the cast is wonderful as well. Especially Aleks Paunovic as the hot-headed Terry, who plays that typical henchman of a crime boss in a non-typical film of this genre. What was it like working with the cast?
Tony: The cast was a lot of fun! We stumbled upon a family affair, so we wanted to bring people who were kind of like-minded. They worked really hard and were passionate. They were really good!
Ryan: We worked long hours and it was like a love affair every day. From Adrian Glynn and Magda to Aleks and John and Frank Cassini and Bill Marchant, it was an incredible name cast we had. Even the other bit players. I think we all wanted to do something risky that was indie and we still keep in touch because of the experience.
How long did shooting take and this being your first major feature film, what challenges did you face during production?
Ryan: Principal photography was officially 18 days. And we did some pickup shoots. Those days were incredibly hard fought for and production was done with a lot of night shoots.
Tony: It was difficult in we knew that we would be doing something that was bigger in the allotment of time we had. For me as a director as well as having an editing background, I prepped, storyboarded, and shot, I knew we would be doing 12 pages a day.
It’s brutal on everybody so I had to do what I did when I was a kid. That was shooting in camera, where you start with the door opening from here to there, then do the wide shot. I used a lot of film so I shot on film as a tailor would build a suit, when you have just enough material for the body. That’s how I felt. That was the nature of the beast and we knew that going in. My short films were more fluid and lyrical. This was more gritty and utilitarian.
And that’s always a challenge when jumping from short films to features. It’s questioning how to make things longer and all, but overall, I think you did an excellent job.
Tony: Thank you! Can’t wait for a bigger budget version of this or even a sequel (Laughs)
And speaking of that, finally, are there any projects in the works that you can talk about?
Ryan: Tony and I are always developing new ideas. We are building contexts that are off-shoots to Volition and one idea we have is about the mind and perception and its relation to dementia. And the trauma behind it. Our grandfather always passed away from it and he was also a magician. So we’ve been playing with the concept of magic and psychosis.
That’s a very interesting idea and I would love to see that film when it comes out because I really loved Volition and this sounds like it could be a great film as well.
Tony and Ryan: Thank you!
Volition is coming out on July 10 and this is an amazing action film that takes the norms and adds sci-fi elements with some amazing performances. A job well done for a feature film debut. Tony and Ryan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about the film and I hope to see more of your work soon.
Tony: Thank you so much!
Ryan: Thank you for having us!
A Special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR, Tony Dean Smith and Ryan W. Smith for making this interview possible.