Soothsayers & superheroes

Director O. Corbin Saleken has an independent spirit that would make Herzog proud

Financing a feature film is no picnic. Pursuing grants from arts organizations like Telefilm Canada can take years and crowdfunding campaigns are a gamble with no guarantee of success. So when O. Corbin Saleken decided to make the leap from short films to features, the Vancouver filmmaker took an approach that few filmmakers dare. His film Patterson’s Wager, which has its world premiere at the 2015 Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival, was entirely paid for by Saleken himself.

“I think there was an element of pride in the decision,” Saleken admits. “It just felt kind of weird asking people for money to make my movie. Also, a crowdfunding campaign takes so much effort. I wanted to focus all my effort on the movie, and allow myself complete creative control.”

Patterson’s Wager stars Fred Ewanuick (who Canadian audiences will recognize as one of the stars of Corner Gas and Dan for Mayor) as an ordinary guy who discovers he has the ability to see two minutes into the future. The cast is full of prolific Canadian character players like Chelah Horsdal (Arrow, Hell on Wheels), Alex Zahara (Eternals, Once Upon a Time) and Garry Chalk (The Killing, Stargate SG-1).

Saleken says the film’s high-concept premise arises from themes of trust and belief that he’s always wanted to explore on film.

“The idea started as a short story that I wrote about five years ago,” Saleken explains. “It was just this idea, ‘What if you could see two minutes into the future?’ Because it’s kind of useless. You can’t really do anything with it. How would you deal with that? There’s no espionage, no convoluted plot. You’re just going about your daily life, but this thing is kind of tacked on.”

When asked if he’s considered the super-power premise in relation to the phenomenon of superhero movies, Saleken says the connection isn’t lost on him.

“I read comic books, so I’m a big superhero guy. But I’m just so sick of superhero movies. They’re all so big, they’re essentially gods on-screen. You can’t relate to them as individuals. So with this idea, it’s a single fantastical element, and you just plunk it into a realistic setting.”

“Another thing that bugs me is how audiences are always ahead of the characters. Sometimes you have to wait an hour for the characters to catch up to where you are. I didn’t want to do that. In Patterson’s Wager, you’re discovering things at exactly the same time as the characters,” explains Saleken.

 In addition to his decades of filmmaking credits, Saleken is also one of the few people to have attended The Rogue Film School, the filmmaking workshop run by eccentric German director Werner Herzog. When pressed, Saleken revealed some facts about the mysterious school.

 “We weren’t picking locks or boxing like [Herzog] talks about,” Saleken admits, “but we did get an email forbidding us to reveal the location of the meeting. It was very clandestine. Like a secret, Fight Club-esque meeting.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 4, 2015)

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