For his latest project, comedian, writer, and filmmaker Evan Rissi wants to deliver the most beloved Canadian feature film from the year 1989. Not having his own time machine, however, Rissi has opted to channel his love of ’80s cinema into the feature film Going In, now currently seeking backers by way of crowdfunding on Indiegogo.
Inspired by his own love of 1980s action cinema – particularly the early works of Michael Mann, Ridley Scott’s Black Rain, 48 Hrs., and Road House, which he describes as influences over drinks during an interview about the crowdfunding campaign last week – Rissi’s project spins a tongue-in-cheek homage to a bygone era where most heroes had “tasteful mullets,” and montages were perfectly acceptable forms of storytelling.
Rissi casts himself in the role of Leslie Boothe, a university professor called upon by his estranged black, Jewish, Caribbean friend Reuben Goldstein (played by Ira Goldman, who is, in fact, black and Jewsh, but doesn’t normally rock the flat top his character in the film sports) to help out in a dangerous situation. Reuben’s brother got caught up in a bad situation working for a nefarious, bloodthirsty Chinese drug lord, and Reuben needs Leslie to tap into his old ways and enter a super-secret, invitation-only, underground tournament to infiltrate the criminal organization.
“It’s so easy to do a parody or a spoof, and that’s been done to death,” Rissi says over beers and ciders at The Imperial Pub in Toronto, one of the last remaining bars in Toronto to still feel like a relic from the 1980s. “I really appreciate this genre, and there are times where we have to walk that line because this is still an action comedy, but I want to make it as good as it could be. I worship those films, and it is an homage, but at the same time, I want it to be as authentic to that 1989 experience as I can. When I do make this movie, I want it to feel like this is 1989 in Toronto. The Skydome has just been built. The Jays are battling for the AL East. Brian Mulroney is the PM. And there have been some people who say ‘I was in Toronto at that time, and it was nothing like this,’ and all I can really say to that is, ‘Sorry that you didn’t see any ninjas on motorcycles running around.’ Even the movies from ’89 didn’t have that kind of exact reflection on the real world. It’s an action movie and it’s a comedy. And it’s an ’80s film, so I know how formulaic that can be, but at the same time, we also have a strong female character, which didn’t often happen in these kinds of films from the era. There are certain things that I’m sticking to the book on, but there are other things where we have to update the playbook because it is 2016.”
To get people excited in the campaign for his buddy-action picture, Rissi went one step beyond most crowdfunding efforts and created a seven and a half minute proof of concept reel to show potential backers what they would be getting involved with. Completed in just four days and cobbled together from favours called in by Rissi and a $3,000 credit card bill, the proof of concept perfectly explains the tone and dynamic of the film. It also showcase a period genre film that will let Toronto be Toronto for a change.
“Toronto was always set as being New York or Chicago,” Rissi says about films of the ’80s that would come up to Toronto to take advantage of tax credits without anyone admitting where they actually produced the film. “It’s so hard to find a movie of this kind where Toronto is actually Toronto. Part of the joy of making the full version of this will be to go into the archives to recreate things like the skyline of 1989 Toronto. We shot the proof of concept on low-res 1970s anamorphic lenses that gives that aesthetic. If we had a budget, I would really be trying to imitate Michael Mann, but with little crew and no budget, we did the best we could. I’m so happy with how it turned out.”
Rissi comes from a strong DIY background. By his own admission, he hasn’t really sought government funding for fear the production could be compromised, changed, or worst of all in Rissi’s eyes, unnecessarily delayed. Primarily recognized as a stand-up comic, Rissi has a wider range of talents beyond the stage. He has produced, directed, written, and starred in numerous shorts and pilots. He’s appeared on Much Music in various capacities over the years. He has written critically and humorously for Bell Media publications. He got his start, like many filmmakers coming up in the ’80s, ’90s and aughts, by working on skateboard videos. Skateboarding remains a major passion of his, with Rissi retaining his position as Editor-at-Large for King Shit Magazine, Canada’s premiere skate publication, and acting as a contributing writer for several other sports and lifestyle publications. He does so much that it’s amazing he has time to mount a feature film at all. He’s far from a novice when it comes to writing and filmmaking.
The feature has become Rissi’s primary passion at the moment, and people have been responding to the concept kindly thus far. Launching recently, the crowdfunding campaign for Going In has made over $30,000 of its $100,000 target goal in less than a week, which by his own admission probably isn’t enough to sustain the film on its own. He knows he’ll have to still pay for a large part of the production on his own, but he hopes that the indiegogo campaign will also attract more investors to the project once they see there’s an audience that’s excited to see the film. Rissi’s convinced that a film like this should be shaped and formed by those who want to see it the most, and not by outside influence.
“A film like mine wouldn’t get funded for a lot of reasons, the main one being that it isn’t really Canadian enough,” Rissi explains when talking about why he’s lax on trying to find government funding for his film. “We don’t have any uniquely Canadian stereotypes in it. There are a lot of good Canadian movies being made today, but people my age who just go to the movies to have fun hardly ever hear about them or know about them because genre films in particular in this country are either underfunded or looked down on to some degree. It’s hard to be relevant when no one can see your film. All the big budget films that are trying to be relevant for a wider audience, either aren’t relevant or are made by the same people over and over again. I mean, say what you will about the quality of the film, but even something like the Corner Gas movie, even they had to resort to crowdfunding, too. I know I’m coming at this from an outsider’s perspective. I haven’t made a feature before, but I have made shorts, and produced pilots and webseries, and I come at everything from a DIY perspective. I could have spent a few years pitching this, but it was easier to just rent the cameras and the lenses and to just do it.”
If you want to learn more about the campaign for Going In, the lengthy list of perks offered up to backers, or to check out the hilarious proof of concept video, check out the film’s indiegogo page.