Surely, it’s rule number one for any screenwriter: keep it simple!
“We were warned!” groans director Tony Dean Smith, who penned the Vancouver-shot mindbender Volition with his brother, Ryan. “The joke was ‘I wish we had a semblance of the clairvoyance James did.’ We’d have known not to tackle this material. It was really difficult. A real puzzle piece of a script.”
Played by Adrian Glynn McMorran, James is Volition’s antihero, a man whose unfortunate gift for precognition has consigned him to the margins of society. Tapped to handle a lucrative job by a local crime boss played by John Cassini, James’s misadventures lead to the source of his unwieldy talent—and that's where movie gets really weird. Eventually, the fast-paced romp is playing 4D chess with the viewer.
Says the Vancouver-based director: “We had such a long prep; we ironed out a lot of the 'issues' only to be surprised in postproduction, when those issues just popped up somewhere else.” Reshoots took care of that, and Volition went on to score the best-feature award at the 2019 Philip K. Dick Film Festival—a nice parallel, since the sci-fi author was stricken by his own precognitive abilities. Smith was already a fan and dived into Dick’s thousand-page Exegesis after wrapping the film.
“It’s my favourite of his work because it’s him talking about this process of discovering stories that the universe had already finished and was sending back as messages through time,” he enthuses. “I think science is still maybe catching up. I think we don’t have the tools to measure what Philip K. Dick was suggesting—that there is something to time and perception that we’re not quite aware of.”
Indeed, one of the pleasing things about Volition is the commitment to its metaphysical premise, coming off as something more than a writing team reaching for an off-the-shelf angle. Smith cagily mentions his own experiences with clairvoyance—“I come at it from a very honest place,” he says—but it’s probably enough at this point to simply record his feelings about the finished product.
“We’re so proud of the film, that it was all locally made and that we tried to do something that was deeper for us, and not just a science-fiction adventure film,” he states.
Volition screens at the Village 8 Cinemas next Thursday and Friday (December 5 and 6).