One of the best discoveries at TIFF 13 was the animated comedy Asphalt Watches, which premiered in the Vanguard programme. It’s a low budget animated movie about a couple of guys hitchhiking across Canada and running into a variety of characters. It’s also very strange, and follows a weird rhythmic pattern, but still wouldn’t feel completely out of place on late night television.
The film is based on a road trip taken by the film’s co-directors, Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver, a couple of artists whom I got to interview at the festival. We talked about the road trip that inspired the film, the animation process, whether or not they want their film to be referred to as a “stoner film,” and their the merits of mushrooms over cocaine. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say.
On the hitchhiking road trip that inspired the film:
Shayne Ehman: We were traveling from Vancouver to Toronto in the year 2000, and I think the purpose was to get out on the highway, looking for adventure, pretty much. Heavy metal thunder.
On why they ended up hitchhiking instead of train hopping:
Seth Scriver: We were trying to train hop. That was the first plan.
SE: We had this old, tattered, beat up 20th generation train-hopping manual from the 80s. We were using that as a guide, so we were searching for these crew change spots, which had actually become obsolete since the manual was made. We kept on this path looking for the next crew change spot, because that’s where the trains stopped and that’s where you could jump on, and then there was always something wrong, so we ended up heading back to the highway and hitchhiking.
So yeah, we failed at train hopping.
On how they came up with their characters:
SS: Well, it’s all a true story.
On the animating process:
SE: With an animation, you have to boil down your peripheral information. Like, what’s happening immediately, like what’s happening with the society, like what’s happening physically in the cosmos, like you kind of have to condense that all as well as you can, and as simple as you can, so that everything has, like, potentially, a caricature, and it becomes a metaphor.
On how they feel about having their work labeled as a “stoner film”:
SE: Everybody’s allowed to peel out of it what they want to, but I’m not a weed smoker, and I don’t feel that you need to smoke weed in order to enjoy the film.
SS: I wouldn’t mind if people called it a “weed-smoking movie” if it wasn’t kind of dismissing it. We put a lot of time and energy into it and we didn’t just whip it off while we were high. I also want to say that I like people doing drugs and I don’t mind that at all. I’m not knocking drug use or anything like that, just so you know.
Are they OK with people smoking pot and watching the movie?
SS: Oh yeah, but it’s not mandatory.
On their first experience with TIFF:
SS: There’s a beautiful thing about TIFF, it seems as though all these directors and film people, they’re not doing cocaine, they’re taking mushrooms. It’s very sweet. It’s very, very nice.
On cocaine versus mushrooms:
SE: Mushrooms are definitely healthier. You know, giving yourself a little bit of poison that is sort of consciousness altering is probably a lot healthier than going on some weird neurotic ego trip. Mushrooms sort of dissolve the ego and make you more connected to other people’s energy in a healthier way. Even though, you know what? I’ve never done cocaine.
SS: I did it once and it created this big crystally booger in my nose, and then I couldn’t get it out for three days and then I finally got it out and was like “fuck this.” I was telling my mom “I’m never doing cocaine again, I got this giant booger.”
SE: Honesty is the best possibility.
On whether or not Asphalt Watches is a film for grandmas:
SS: It’s not exclusively for stoners. We want grandmas to come see this because we love grandmas, and we love all different types of people.
SE: Hi Grandma! One of my grandmothers passed away, but I told her the story before she passed away and she was extremely stoked. She was like, “It takes all kinds to make a world,” and that made me feel really good.
Asphalt Watches premiered on Tuesday, but you can catch it at the Scotiabank Theatre at 8:45pm on Thursday and at 2:15pm on Friday.
Alan Jones writes about film for Toronto Standard. You can follow him on Twitter at @alanjonesxxxv.