Queen’s graduate gets gritty

Alumnus Jason Lapeyre directed the Kingston Canadian Film Festival’s Cold Blooded, a crime flick about a fugitive

Zoie Palmer plays Frances Jane, a police officer who must prevent a prisoner from escaping an abandoned hospital.
Zoie Palmer plays Frances Jane, a police officer who must prevent a prisoner from escaping an abandoned hospital.
Credit: 
Supplied

At last week’s Kingston Canadian Film Festival, a man had a seizure during the screening of Jason Lapeyre’s film Cold Blooded.

“I’m not saying the film induced a seizure,” Lapeyre said. “But afterwards I asked audience members if they wanted to continue watching the film and they did. They really did.”

The Cold Blooded director graduated from Queen’s with a film degree in 1996. His new film is a gritty crime flick with elements of slash-horror. It’s about a police officer guarding a prisoner overnight in a hospital when the convict’s crime partners come to help him escape.

What ensues is a violent and dark turn of events that leaves audience-members terrified but engrossed, Lapeyre said.

The film is his third to be produced in the past two years. Lapeyre and five other writers were given a tour of the hospital by the film’s producer Tim Merkel and told to “go away and come up with ideas.” Lapeyre’s idea about a police officer and a prisoner was eventually chosen and made into the feature film.

“I was at a point in my life where I was just immersed in all these horrors,” he said. “Horror evokes fear, it’s a primal human condition.”

Lapeyre said the most important thing a director needs to do during the film-making process is to relinquish creative control.

“It’s fucking terrifying, because you think that it’s going to become something that I didn’t plan, but that’s kind of the whole thing,” he said. “It becomes a collaborative process in order to improve the film.”

After graduating from Queen’s, Lapeyre began to work as a production assistant for a number of years, which mainly composed of picking up lattés for producers.

“After leaving university it’s really difficult because there’s no clear cut career path,” he said. “You don’t go to a movie studio in Toronto and say ‘Hi, I’d like to be a director.’”

A friend from Queen’s eventually offered him a screenwriting job for a sequel to 1993’s Cool Runnings, a project he said was “super embarrassing with crappy pay.” But it allowed him to progress in the industry.  

Despite this, Lapeyre still wasn’t able to make ends meet while pursuing his dreams full-time.

 “I was so broke a couple of years ago that I was applying for a temp job as a receptionist,” he said.  “It was a very, very low moment for me and fortunately two days later I got another screenwriting job and I didn’t have to take it. It may have saved me from hanging myself.”

Lapeyre said he always knew he wanted to work in film because watching movies always made him happy as a teenager.

“I hadn’t figured out at that point that watching movies and making movies have nothing to do with each other,” he said. “So it turned out to be a totally huge mistake that I’ve been living with ever since.”

He was kidding.

“Fortunately for me, once I had actually tried to make them I realized that I really, really loved making them.”

He said success in the film industry requires being stubborn and naively optimistic.

“One of the things that I learned to embrace over that period was my naiveté,” he said. “I [began] to see it as strength. Anyone in this situation would say the smarter thing to do is to give up, but I just naively clung to this hope that if I just kept grinding it was going to happen.

“As somebody who’s trying to be a professional storyteller, a belief in the power of dreams is a good thing to have.”

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