Sawyer Edworthy

He’s is the filmmaker of Rest Stop (In The Radio) Dollar Baby film.

SKSM: Tell us about yourself, who is Sawyer Edworthy and what do you do or have you done?

Sawyer Edworthy: As it stands right now, I am a 25-year-old aspiring filmmaker, in a world full of 25-year-old aspiring filmmakers…

…Which is a tough group to distinguish yourself from. There’s a lot of noise at this level of independent filmmaking, so I try to shut it out. Focusing on what I have to offer to those I can reach at the time, upscaling my ambitions and goals with every undertaking. Seems like a viable path for now.

By day, I am a freelance visual media hired gun, shooting everything from wedding films to story-based branded content. It’s soul sucking at times, but bills need to be paid. So, by night, I let the demons out and the ideas fly. Mapping out the next true-to-self projects I can pull off. Something for me to be proud of on a personal level. 

My latest projects have been nothing-budget music videos for musicians that inspire me, but are also at similar stages of their respective journey. Our latest release being Sun Junkies’ Nothing/Smile, released early September of this year (2023). It was a ride, by far the most ambitious run at it I’ve taken to date, all circumstances considered.

SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?

Sawyer Edworthy: The realization wasn’t very apparent. There was no “Ah-ha!” moment where the stars aligned. Shooting and cutting video clips together offered a way to communicate information and emotions in a language that I could understand through the feeling in my chest.

The story I tell people is:
“When I was 12, my father bought a DSLR with a kit lens to make short videos for his business. He’s a busy man, so he asked me to figure it out and teach him how to use it. It’s been 13 years and I still haven’t taught him. Just ran with it.” 

And that is the truth, but it wasn’t until years later I understood the skills I was developing could be used to convey so much more. Since then I’ve used my abilities to try to make sense of situations, relationships, hard times, and things I can’t understand. While also building a business of myself.

SKSM: When was “In The Radio” made? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?

Sawyer Edworthy: We shot the film in March of 2019, and it was finished my mid-April of the same year. Five days of production, no pickup days. And I believe all said and done, we were under $1500 Canadian, so $1100 USD. (€ 1011 EUR)

Somehow things just collapsed into place during production. After we were green-lit, I had some time to get meticulous with storyboards and key details I wanted to hit. The places I was imagining in my head just kept appearing as we scouted locations and we didn’t run into any troubles getting permits, permission, and good graces from the community. I’m not sure that we spent any of our budget on locations, and we shut down a road for a night! It was wild. 

Niagara District Airport for our exterior of the “Rest Stop”. Centennial Secondary School for the bathroom, people just opened their doors to us, very few questions asked. Surreal is a word that comes to mind.

SKSM: Can you explain why you specifically chose this story (Rest Stop) to film?

Sawyer Edworthy: At the time, to spare ugly details, I was in a bad place. To get away from it, I took some time away from school, travelled in and out of the country with my brother. Which may have made my headspace worse. An undeniable spell of depression paired with a less-than-ideal relationship with some substances was causing my grasp on reality to waver. I began to experience these waking dreams and lucid moments. But the time away was necessary.

I got back from the airport at 1:00am, called a friend, who informed me we had to pitch for this Dollar Baby project at 8:00am. What a lovely surprise, right?

Rest Stop was a clear choice. John Dykstra’s dilemma of who he needed to become in dire straits, rang true to my own dilemma of figuring out who I needed to become moving forward. But I needed to put my own spin on things. 

With very little time to prepare a convincing pitch for my peers, I adapted the story beats to mirror my own personal experiences. In other words, I wrote a handful of bullet points on a torn piece of paper and prepared for the most off-the-cuff presentation of my life. It worked.

SKSM: How did you know about the Dollar Baby program? Was it a wild guess?

Sawyer Edworthy: We developed the film during my second year at Niagara College Canada. The college used the DB program to give students such as myself experience working on a production with a strong story, or a more solid jumping off point. As the majority of student films tend to carry this… ‘directionless’ storytelling style.

I don’t think they still use the DB program, I know the curriculum was shuffled around after we left. But it was a great tool to get student productions moving quicker, with a direction to head.

SKSM: Can you explain why the title “In The Radio” was chosen and not for “Rest Stop”?

Sawyer Edworthy: My relationship with music is a one of whole-hearted trust. More so than to film for me. Sometimes it feels like the future is written in lyrics and melodies. Completely out of my control.

When adapting Rest Stop, the music was louder than life. I wanted John’s confused visions to be orchestrated by something he can’t control. Like a man in the radio, predicting spelling out what will happen next.

I also felt we had altered the original story to a point where I couldn’t keep the name. We opted to change it and credit the inspiration appropriately

SKSM: Whose hand was that that hits Jack Lindsay(John) in the face? And how many takes did that take?

Sawyer Edworthy: Ahh yes! That was Mad Mike, our double for Jack Lindsay (John). I can’t remember how many takes we ran that through. It couldn’t have been more than four though. That night was -30 degrees Celsius, we were on a mission to get out of there. 

SKSM: The character John and John are opposite each other. How did you do that so that they actually look at each other?

Sawyer Edworthy: Mad Mike and Jack Lindsay were of such similar builds, we were able to get the lock-off eye-line almost perfectly. And to Jack’s credit, he was able to replicate his movements exceptionally well when we flipped the split screen. A fun challenging shot to throw into our frosty night.

SKSM: Was there a funny and/or special moment during production that you would like to share with us?

Sawyer Edworthy: You know there were some car troubles and good laughs all around, but the special part of it all was how tight and resilient the crew was.

We were gutsy film students with no idea and no care about working conditions. Minus 30 outside? Use grocery bags in your shoes to keep them insulated. Take shifts warming up inside a what few cars we had available to us. If a union rep saw anything from those shoot days, we’d never work in this business again.

I owe it to every one of those names in the credits for sticking it out and keeping it together. 

SKSM: Production is over. Are there thoughts that make you think now, we could have done this differently?

Sawyer Edworthy: Not at all, and I’ll tell you why: When I watch this back, I see every continuity error, I hear every sound mix issue, every nit pick a viewer could make. It is a far-from-perfect film, and that has become the point for me.

It’s a milestone in my life to look back on and wince. Because the memory of making the film outshines the film itself. It gave me back some self-worth, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

SKSM: Were any movie fragments cut out that you now miss?

Sawyer Edworthy: We used every setup, there are no angles that didn’t make the cut. Being a 7 minute film, it wasn’t difficult to storyboard and plan out every shot. There was no need for improvisation or decision making on the fly.

SKSM: How does it make you feel knowing that many Stephen King fans will never see your film adaptation? Do you think this will change in the near future due to an internet/streaming release maybe?

Sawyer Edworthy: I’m indifferent about the amount of people who will see this film. While I do hope that those who see my adaptation will enjoy it and take something away from it, during production this film became more of a best kept secret between all who worked on it and friends of the crew.

You’ll notice The Mamas and The Papa’s song that plays during John’s visions. In the editing room, there was a discussion about including a song we knew we could never afford to license. Knowing full well it would stunt the film’s viewership as we wouldn’t be able to send to any festivals; no one would touch it.

The question being: who is this film being made for? And at the end of the day, it was for us, and I’m happy with where we landed.

SKSM: Can you describe the feeling when the film was finished and how the film was received after viewing?

Sawyer Edworthy: We screened the film at our annual internal awards festival for the college. And people loved it. The college regularly uses it as an example to inspire current students for their own pitches. 

But with any piece of yourself you’ve carved out in the name of art or film: it is tough to let it loose into the opinions of others. You almost want to throw it, like a grenade, duck and cover, wait until it’s over. I’m not sure that I’ll ever get used to the feeling. I find it easier to leave the room until people have formed their own opinions, as if my presence will alter their decision.

SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?

Sawyer Edworthy: I got a hug from my mother, that was the one that mattered the most. 

SKSM: What was your main goal you wanted to achieve about this film?

Sawyer Edworthy: Priority number one was to prove to myself that I could direct a crew, actors, and form my vision as a director that way. Much of my experience before and since has been primarily solo or skeleton crew opportunities. Financial capabilities, the stage in my career, have all affected the assets at my disposal, but rarely hindered my ability to produce. This was an opportunity to delegate the workload, learn to work with a team.

I also wanted to leave a mark where I stood in life at the time. So I could look back and remember the wonderful, the beautiful and the terrible in the time period. I succeeded.

SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?

Sawyer Edworthy: As far as his books go, I have a lot of catching up to do. His works, when adapted for the screen, always make for the most enticing films. Shawshank, The Shining, the IT films. All spectacular.

I’ve just been informed that The Green Mile was one of Stephen Kings works, another favourite.

SKSM: If you could make another Stephen King story into a (Dollar Baby-)movie, what would it be and why?

Sawyer Edworthy: I remember during our Dollar Baby pitch session, someone pitched The Man Who Loved Flowers.

There is so much room for visual storytelling in that piece. I’d love to give it a go. Being able to say so much without a single word spoken is an art form in itself, one I hope to master.

SKSM: What do you think about the existence of a Dollar Baby community? Were you aware of this before?

Sawyer Edworthy: Prior to the production of In The Radio, I had never heard of the Dollar Baby Program.

One of the biggest hurdles when starting to make films, is figuring out what to make. Finding what you can make. Some people don’t have the knack for writing, some don’t know a screenwriter to get the ball rolling.

I think it is a very generous and thoughtful program laid out for the next generation of storytellers by one of the greatest minds in literature.

SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?

Sawyer Edworthy: I balance the paid freelance work with my aspiring personal projects. I try to produce and direct at least one project a year, be it a music video, documentary or short film. I try to step up my game more and more each year. Pushing my abilities on my own.

I work as a subcontractor in Canadian-made Television, and I write to develop my original ideas further. 

SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

Sawyer Edworthy: They may be shocked that I have no surprises up my sleeve currently. That question always stumps me.

SKSM: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Sawyer Edworthy: It’s a tough question, because who knows. Plans change, we live and learn. In five years, the ideal scenario is to be in a place of creative freedom and to be trusted with that freedom for other people’s projects. You wanna be the guy who springs to mind when a certain look, or attitude is necessary for a project, and you want to be at the top of people’s list.

It may take longer than five years, but thats the road I want to be on. Sought after, and trusted.

SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?

Sawyer Edworthy: From what I can see, this page is building a community of like-minded individuals tied together by Stephen King’s work. This is a wonderful thing to see. I want to stress the importance of finding people that are driven by the same forces as yourself. Those are the ones you can lean on and bounce ideas off, and you’ll find yourself inspired to continue the pursuit of… whatever you’re after.

SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?

Sawyer Edworthy: Thank you for finding my project and taking interest in it. 

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