Director Cameron Labine says he’s never shagged a computer. But it’s a question he gets a lot. In his film Control Alt Delete, which opens Friday (April 23), the flabby, HTML–writing lead character, Lewis (played by Cameron’s brother, Tyler Labine), makes a habit of it, through a well-thought-out system of bubble-wrap tubes, tape, and lube.
“I probably should someday, just for street cred,” Labine told the Georgia Straight during an interview at a Main Street coffee shop.
At 34, Labine comes across as a brainy East Van creative type: tweed jacket, tortoiseshell glasses, ample stubble on his chin and head. So it’s surprising that his first feature film, which he both wrote and directed, is so, ahem, perverted. And despite heavily peppering his speech with shits and fucks, the Brampton, Ontario–born Labine is contemplative rather than outrageous. The film, also, is tender rather than pornographic.
In Control Alt Delete, Lewis leads a crew of pasty programmers in preparing for Y2K. Along the way, he discovers his computer-humping fetish and cloaks himself in self-loathing and shame. His girlfriend leaves him. He screws up a promising relationship with quirky, confident Jane (Sonja Bennett). He’s bullied by a coworker (Geoff Gustafson), and cowed by a shrill boss (Alisen Down). The turn-of-the-millennium climax comes both literally and figuratively, with Lewis finding his unique mojo on New Year’s Eve.
Watch the trailer for Control Alt Delete.
“I wanted to tell an unusual, an absurd coming-of-age story, with a character learning to accept himself,” Labine said. “He can’t imagine that this part of himself he hides in his apartment anyone would ever like or love or want. So he just wallows in it.”
Since graduating from UBC film school in 2000, Labine has picked up a Leo Award for best short screenplay, the Golden Sheaf Award for best Canadian director, and the Shavick Award for best emerging western Canadian director.
He’s done this without any industry heritage: his father is a construction contractor and his mother a mental-health worker. At a birthday party in Brampton, a friend’s mother encouraged his mom to get her three boys involved in commercials. She did, and their careers took off. As kids, he recalls, his brothers Tyler (Sons of Tucson, Reaper) and Kyle (Road to Avonlea) were more successful on the commercial circuit.
As a businessman, though, Labine is a daredevil. He dove into Control Alt Delete with no money and no distributor, just an obsessive drive to complete something substantial. It’s paid off. Since the film was completed and hit the festival circuit in 2008, he’s been developing both a comedy show through Showcase and an animated series with Montreal-based Eric San, aka DJ Kid Koala. Plus, he’s writing another feature film.
All this, he notes, while the “whole entertainment industry has been in the shitter”. Many of his local actor friends have picked up nonacting day jobs, thanks to Ontario and Quebec’s attractive film tax credits drawing productions away from B.C., Labine said. Other writer friends have abandoned Vancouver for opportunities in L.A. or Toronto. So what sets him apart?
“A lot of people are afraid to fuck up. But you do fuck up. You learn,” he said, noting that his obsession with making a full-length film is responsible for bringing him bigger opportunities. “I just had to say to myself, ”˜I do this. I work hard. I’m doing this thing.’ People notice”¦this is someone who can deliver something. It puts me in a different category.”