After presenting three short films at TIFF, Canadian director Simon Davidson returns to the festival after a six-year hiatus with his first feature film, The Odds.
The film follows 17-year-old Desson (Tyler Johnston), a teenage gambler, as he tries to discover who murdered his best friend and fellow-gambler, Barry (Callum Worthy).
You were inspired by a news story about a teenage gambling ring in Singapore. How did the script develop from that news article?
Before the news story I had the kernel of an idea that I wanted to talk about a young person who’s at a real major turning point in his life, because for whatever reason, that was really important to me. I didn’t know if he was a criminal but I knew that he couldn’t be an angel. And here he was at a turning point, is he going to be more of a criminal and go that route or not going to? This is what I wanted to talk about. So, I’m surfing around and I find this article about Singapore and this whole gambling ring. I thought, “That’s pretty wild.” So I started researching gambling itself and how people get involved. I decided I did not want it to be an addiction movie. It’s there, but it’s a murder mystery, because I wanted to tell the story of what’s going to happen to Desson at the end.
A lot of this film relies on the strength of young actors, particularly Tyler Johnston. Were you nervous about working with young actors?
My three shorts all involved young people and in fact a lot younger than these people. So, I knew I was going to tell this story with young people. For me, casting these actors, I mean, as I got to know them, I realised how damn professional they are. They’ve been on more sets than I have. Literally, Tyler has been acting since he was 13 or 14. I was really amazed at how talented 21-year-old people really can be. Or not talented, of course you can find talented people, but how professional they were.
What was the biggest difference between filming your shorts and your feature?
With a feature, I think the difference in filming for me was staying in the character arc. Really tracking that character arc because you’re shooting for 20 days and Tyler was the main guy throughout, but we could be shooting a scene where he just found Barry dead and two hours later we’re filming a scene where he’s grooving with Colleen and when you’re doing that on the 15TH day I really had to track that character arc and find out where we are in the story.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on another murder mystery actually, which is a new feature. It’s kind of a more personal story. It’s about a friend of mine who was actually murdered. It was about six years ago in Vancouver. He was stabbed nine times in kind of a random altercation with a guy in a restaurant. My co-writer was his best friend. That’s my next movie. A murder mystery.