There are few things more satisfying than discovering a film which actively draws you into a stunning world of mystery and pulls off the trick of leaving you both satisfied, yet wanting more. The McKinnon Brothers’ KIN achieves that with aplomb, and as the first instalment in a fable film trilogy augmented by music, photography, paintings and a graphic novel, promises to do so much more going forward. We sat down with the brothers to discuss their vision for the KIN Fables’ journey and the near successful Kickstarter campaign which will allow them to realise that ambitious joint vision.
How did you come to be interested in filmmaking? As brothers was one of you responsible for encouraging the other to share in his passion?
We’ve always loved movies, and as kids growing up together we spent countless days shooting films in our own backyard. Year after year, our projects grew more ambitious and we began understanding the different stages of production a little more with every project. The interest sprouted from our initial love for filmmaking. All we wanted to do was shoot, and we were the only people we could rely on to put those shoots together. Five brothers (we’re the two eldest!) taking care of all aspects of the production. We tend to have the same mentality today. We’re both so passionate about making films that we want to be present in every single aspect of a project; gathering crew, making calls, planning, designing, storyboarding, putting together a team of talented people. It’s all so engrossing because it’s the stage where you start breathing life into the idea of your film.
How do you tend to split production duties on projects?
We really do work together as duo on this. Seb is mostly in charge of the art direction and visual development work (concept art, costume design, storyboards, etc.) and Ben, as cinematographer and camera operator, works out the shooting details of the production. For all other tasks, we tend to work as one mind. We share the same email address so we know what’s being accomplished by the other.
Were there particular sources of inspiration for KIN and the series as a whole?
KIN was conceived at a time where we both felt the need to make something that truthfully reflected who we were as directors. A simple need to create something new. We took a month off and back-packed Scotland, got inspired by the land, the myths, the legends. We vowed to dedicate ourselves to one big project when we got back home, and that’s how things took off. Around that time, Seb was also delving into music production, and this exploration conjured imaginary scenes and characters, which became the foundation of the KIN Fables project.
One of the most appealing aspects of KIN for me was the fact that despite a defined backbone guiding the narrative, it felt open enough to allow me to explore the possible meanings of the images and actions. How would you describe the story?
Well, we prefer not to reveal too much here, precisely because we value the viewer’s questioning of the significance of it all. We rejoice when people say “Wow! But what does it all mean?”, because it’s an indication that we sparked a certain interest. You can see KIN as an invitation, the beginning of an intriguing path. Talking openly about this path and where it leads would unfortunately be a spoiler. Everything will come together in the final moments of Part 3: Requiem. Truthfully, we don’t think anyone is expecting where the story will go in these films, but we believe the result will be powerful. But don’t worry! For those who love the mystery of KIN, we’re being very careful to maintain the open-to-interpretation quality of the project. There will be revelations, but they won’t disclose everything. After all, we love films that make you think, and as filmmakers we want to make ones that are thought provoking, rather than supply all the answers.
KIN was a completely self-financed and independently produced film. What was your production setup?
We rented most of our equipment and shot everything on the Sony FS-700, because of its slow-motion capabilities. Shooting in HD at 240 frames a second was essential to the look we wanted. Our lens kit was a few Zeiss SRL lenses. We shot for a total of 6 days, but the production was spread out over the months of October and November.
The completed film has a very stylised look along with some impressive VFX shots, did you work with outside contributors to achieve the post elements for the film?
Yes. Once we shot everything, (including the scenes with the raven), we had a chance encounter with Carole Bouchard and Gunnar Hansen, who’ve been in the VFX industry for years. We met them in a coffee shop, presented a rough cut and they hopped on board! We’ve since become good friends and they’ve both opened up so many opportunities for us. Regarding KIN, Carole, as a producer, and Gunnar, as a supervisor and artist, put together and lead a team of two graduating students, Simon Lachapelle and Olivier Bolduc, who did a phenomenal job. It was a great team! And we look forward to working with them again on the remaining films.
Soon after the release of KIN the film was Vimeo Staff Picked – how much do you attribute that selection to the film’s wider popularity online and therefore as a catalyst for moving forward with the subsequent parts of the fable?
Getting Vimeo Staff Picked was a personal goal we wanted to achieve with KIN and when it got selected, we felt as though we had won an Oscar. It felt so important to us because we knew this recognition would connect us with our audience we were so keen on meeting, which it did. Before that, we didn’t even know if people would like the film in the first place. All we could hope for was to get it seen by many people. To our great joy, the views climbed high, and our project started getting a lot of love and support! So in the end, we owe everything to the staff at Vimeo, for opening the doors to the online world, for shining a light on this piece we created and for getting the ball rolling.
You describe the KIN project as “a musical/visual journey into fable” comprising a trio of films, an album, photography and paintings, and a graphic novel. Was this transmedia storytelling approach present from the conception of the idea? How do you feel the various media feed into and build upon each other?
Yes, absolutely. As mentioned earlier, Seb got into making music, so from the very beginning we knew that we wanted to marry music and visuals to tell the story, each as important as the other. Our initial plan was to make 9 short films, 3 films for each fable! We were so naively ambitious! But we quickly realized that was simply too much to manage. We therefore condensed the story so that each fable had its own film. The remaining ideas and story elements would take the form of a graphic novel, to complement the trilogy. In the end, we made Kin Fables into a multimedia project because we really wanted to offer an immersive experience. We wanted to create, build and invite our viewers into a world. Each facet of a multimedia project, especially one that lives online, also acts as a hook. So maybe someone will stumble upon a painting or piece of music of KIN Fables before discovering the films, before finding out that there is much more to explore.
Are there lessons you’ve learned up to this point which have made you rethink your approach to the rest of the project?
The main lesson we learned is to never underestimate the amount of work it takes to plan a serious shoot. Pre-production is so crucial and sets the stage for everything that follows. The harder you work on pre-production, the more chance you will end up with a film that reflects your vision. You need to expect the unexpected and plan for the worst. If not, the production can take a different turn you might not want for your film. Also, we learned a lot about scheduling. Always allocate more time to filming a scene. During the filming of KIN, we discovered the correct amount of time it takes to capture what you have in your head and heart as a director, especially when directing kids and animals!
The cinematic adventure of KIN has only just begun, with a Kickstarter campaign currently underway for the two remaining films in the trilogy. Why did you decide to reach out to the Kickstarter community and how can people help the project in addition to financial backing?
We spent all our savings on KIN and knew we had to finish this project somehow. We created a Kickstarter campaign because we saw crowdfunding as the most viable way to wrap up the project quick enough and present it to the fans. Applying for government grants wasn’t so appealing to us, because the system is very time consuming. You could wait months and months before receiving an answer, which in most cases, for first time applicants, would be a no. We couldn’t risk that. Also, we wanted to keep all creative freedom and rights to the project, which can be sometimes forfeit when you start dealing with various institutions or private investors for funds. That’s the beauty of Kickstarter; individuals pledge simply because they love a project and trust in it. It also helps to have nice perks!
But there are other ways to contribute as well, not just financially. For KIN Fables, we’re very open to collaborations! If someone has a skill or an art form that they feel could benefit the project in any way, we’d be so happy to hear from them. So far we’ve connected with loads of people around the world and are excited to work with them on reaching new heights with KIN Fables. It’s going to be great!
How set are the narratives for Salvage and Requiem at this point? Can you give us any hints as to what we might get to see in those films or their supporting media?
Narratives are well set. All we can say is that the characters of KIN return. In fact, they are the only characters present in all the fables, but they shapeshift. They may not appear the way you might expect. We have given a few hints in some artwork and there is a sneak peek of our storyboards of Salvage on our Kickstarter page. So we guess it’s safe to say that part 2 begins with a yellow bi-plane flying straight into a storm…
And finally a totally self-serving question as an addict, but do you have any plans for more Game of Thrones fan films? A Tale of Benjen Stark was great!
Thank you! We made that in collaboration with Von Wong Photography. He’s such a busy guy, travelling all over the world, and we try to stay in touch. We’re all keen on making another one, but no one knows when that would be at this point! Anyway, we can’t wait for the next season! That show just keeps getting better! We love it.