What happens when you’re an independent filmmaker who has broken into something like the mainstream and the money doesn’t keep coming? This is a familiar question to Vancouver writer-director Bruce Sweeney, whose new effort debuts here October 2, 3, and 7 at the Vancouver International Film Festival. The aptly named Excited stars Cam Cronin as a golf pro (of sorts) who has a hell of a time restraining his, um, enthusiasm for the women in his life.
“I really admire Bruce,” top Vancouver actor Benjamin Ratner, who has been in three of Sweeney’s films (and is on this year’s Canadian Images jury), said in a recent phone chat. “You gotta like the way he just goes out and does it. He’s an inspiration to the rest of us.”
The director started out doing it guerrilla-style, with very-rough-and-almost-ready flicks like Live Bait and Dirty in the mid 1990s and the more polished Last Wedding at the start of this decade. All three films deal with the foibles and fetishes of everyday people—albeit folks capable of unusually witty turns of phrase, via Sweeney’s deft touch with dialogue and a loyal stable of actors.
In 2007, Sweeney stepped up to a slightly larger league with American Venus, boasting some name actors and a more complicated story line. Okay, the fetishes were still there—this time it was Yanks and their guns—but the wit was missing and the movie didn’t justify the additional investments.
“We got this one in the can for 20 grand,” Sweeney declared in a call from Toronto, where Excited had its world premiere. “I just went out and raised all the money myself and shot it fast and cheap.”
Yes, but with a lot of care put into the cast, which also includes Sweeney veteran Laara Sadiq as the Cronin character’s inordinately patient girlfriend, and Gabrielle Rose as his pushy mother. But you still have to wonder if the filmmaker is a bit premature in his assumptions about what the audience will find fascinating.
“Well, it’s only about sexual dysfunction in that it relates to the notion of an incomplete self,” he replied. “All drama hinges on some kind of conflict, and the biggest conflict here has to do with man versus himself. It’s about a guy who’s finally dealing with the absolutely hardest thing to confront in his life. He has everything else squared away, and here’s this volatile area that is rife with mysterious and troubling questions. And I wanted the viewer to really want him to deal with that. Plus, I wanted to give Cam a really good role.”
For the veteran actor, quietly waiting his turn, it certainly didn’t come a moment too soon.