Inspired to make the jump into the waters of narrative shorts by an approaching milestone of adulthood, Vancouver Director Michael Milardo cast his mind back to the memories of his teenage years for Roam, in which a teenage boy finds himself standing at a crossroads between friendship and his future. DN asked Michael to tell us how technology and the decisions that go on to shape our lives informed his 90s coming-of-age tale.

Roam is my first film and although I’d worked as a creative in advertising for years, doing a personal project always seemed like a scary endeavour. But with a baby on the way in 2017, I found myself thinking hard about what sort of world my son would grow up in, and reminiscing about the world I grew up in, before the internet was everything.

I wrote Roam with the intention of telling a simple and timeless coming of age story. It’s about the moment you realize your friends might not be who you thought they were, and that the only person who can change the direction of your life is you. Underneath that Roam is also a story about the power of technology and the hold it has on us, how it’s engineered to make us hopeful for a better future – a future which may or may not be coming.

We shot the film over three nights in April in Vancouver, BC. The locations were really important to me and we spent weeks scouting places that reflected the stillness and freedom and wonder and danger of the night. It was shot by the incredibly talented DP, Bobby Shore, on an Alexa Mini with old Panavision Super Speeds. We used mostly available light, though had a couple sodium vapour lights to emulate the yellow glow of the streetlights. The weather was truly anxiety inducing as it’s super unpredictable in April in Vancouver, but we got lucky and it only rained lightly in intervals, the wet streets giving us even more texture to play with.

I found myself thinking hard about what sort of world my son would grow up in, and reminiscing about the world I grew up in.

In terms of cast, I really wanted believable, authentic kids and we were fortunate to find such strong actors. Our lead William Dickinson is a talented performer who communicates a lot non-verbally, which made him the perfect fit to play Jacob, a near-silent character.

The film was produced by Jesse Savath, hot off the heels of producing his feature film Hollow in the Land, and we were lucky enough to get some of the crew from that film working on Roam. The short was self-funded and very lean, with many, many favours called in (thank you!) to make it happen. Filmmaking is definitely the gateway drug I had hoped it would be, and I actually left my job six months ago to open a production company called KIDDO with a partner. I haven’t looked back 🙂

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