“The limitless, lowering sky, the long stretches of motionless empty prairie, the silence, complete right down to the absence of birdsong -- who knows what decides a man to leave most of his words unspoken?” Let Him Go, Larry Watson
I recently finished designing the Focus Features adaptation of the Larry Watson novel LET HIM GO — starring Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Lesley Manville. This was a massive undertaking with slim prep and high aesthetic goals, but my entire scenic team did an incredible job supporting my ideas, and creating a palpable 1963 Montana and North Dakota for writer/director Thomas Bezucha. Lensed masterfully by Guy Godfree, I believe we have made a refreshing, decidedly cinematic, and heavy take on family, blood ties, and the many acts and troubled complexities of grief.
Wynonna Earp, for 3 separate seasons, has kept me hopping in varied capacities— art direction, set decorating, and most of all: irreverent ass-kicking western fun. Guns. Whiskey. Doughnuts. And enough Revenants to fill a barn. This hot comic-driven sexy romp is the perfect work anti-dote to cold-ass frozen Canadian winters. 2018 People’s Choice Award winner. Season 4… let’s go.
I have had the pleasure of production designing Canada’s longest running one hour TV series for three consecutive seasons: 10, 11, & 12. This magically realistic family ranch drama has been a postcard advertisement for Alberta to over 120 countries broadcasted around the globe. Equine fantasy. Western mythology. Traditional values.
Everyone seems to have a story about the smalls —or at least the T-shirt. Their myth has only grown over their 13 year absence in music. Their legendary impact and sudden breakup, despite massive regional success, left legions of adoring fans frustrated and abandoned. In 2015 they reunited, now as fathers, country stars, and estranged friends, and proved to both fans and themselves that timeless music has the power to redeem, heal, and erase the years.
Things can never be the same, and nostalgia can be perilous, but a brief visit into one’s own past can often put to bed restless yearning, provide detached perspective, and affirm one’s inevitable place today. This is not a story of failure and glass ceilings, but rather of great success and self actualization. the smalls continue to be resonant in our lives. they mattered to thousands of young, alienated youth and did it with accessible grace, attitude, and a stubborn DIY work ethic.
Diablo. Designing backdrops for some high powered talent slinging guns and psychological trauma across the big screen. I was lucky enough to rattle spurs with Scott Eastwood, Walton Goggins, and Danny Glover on this dark twisting ride.
Art Direction. Season One of Fargo.
Aw geez. The show racked up 18 Emmy nominations, and 5 TV Golden Globe nominations. It’s a sprawling TV concept, in a Coen brothers’ echo chamber, to be proud of.
Star Tribune says: “Wrap a snowmobile suit around that thin skin of yours, and relish one of the best darn series of the year.”
Klondike. There was gold in all that stone and mud. I art directed this Discovery mini-series for Ken Rempel, and fought hard amongst the worst of work conditions to capture the gritty realism of the Yukon in its gold mad fury.
Recently released exclusively through the Apple iTunes store– Dark Hearts: Haunting Melissa 2. I designed this alternate viewing experience in 2012, and I’m thrilled to see it come alive with curious followers and on mobile devices across the globe. It’s pretty cool and Neal Edelstein is simply the best to collaborate with. We were able to really expand the visual universe from the first film, and this new set of fragments and chapters really gets juicy, ideally scary, and mysteriously alive.
Let me earn my spurs in the battle's blur where the day is lost or won
I'll wield my lance as the ponies dance and the blackguards fire their guns
A sabre keen, and a saddle carbine and an army Remington
Where the hot lead screams with the cold, cold steel let me be a cav’lryman
I wanna be in the cavalry if they send me off to war
I wanna good steed under me like my forefathers before
I wanna good mount when the bugle sounds and I hear the cannons' roar
I wanna be in the cavalry if i must go of to war
Let 'em play their flutes and stirrup my boots and place them back to front
Cause I won’t be back on the rider-less black and I'm finished in my hunt
I wanna be in the cavalry if they send me off to war
I wanna be in the cavalry, but I won't ride home no more
-closing in on two million hits/plays on You Tube, it's easily my most successful collaboration with Corb Lund
-it charted for weeks on CMT's Top 20, and ranked strong in the US and Australia
-nominated for 4 AMPIA awards in 2008, including Best Music Video and Best Costume
produced by Crowsnest Films, for CMT, with RGK Entertainment
Producer: John Kerr
Cinematography: Courtenay Forster & Dave Luxton
Timed & Edited at Studio Post, Edmonton, AB
Six Figures. Production designer for this taut and austere study of familial pressures, financial peril, and a well placed hammer.
My short. Written directed, & produced: Growing Holes. 8 nominations in 2005 for Alberta Motion Picture Industry Awards.
A prison chain gang digs two fresh graves for men destined to be executed that night. As time slips away for the murderers' salvation, the grave diggers' mixed reactions to the grim task split them apart and unravel the progress. The supervising boss is obliged to act and, himself, lead the group through the awful task and morally justify the indifferent nature of the world.
In a few brief days off from touring with the smalls in October 2014, we shot and edited this music video for Corb Lund, CMT, New West, and RGK Entertainment. With it’s Christmas and snowy themes, the biggest challenge was creating a cold winter atmosphere in October– 6 weeks prior to its December debut. The deconstructed Christmas TV Special I think worked out well as an anchor concept— de-glamourizing the country star persona; and our lonely rancher vignette really hammered home the required melancholy. Add horses, my kids celebrating Christmas, and voila.
Big thanks to the Bews family, SAIT, Crowsnest Films, Nine40, Sean Smith, Thom Dudley, Aaron Bernakavitch, Turko, Jayna, Libertee, and all my helpful crew and practicum students.
Stay with me thru september, summer didn't last
and there aint nobody in new york city, could need you half as bad
i can picture how you’re livin, in a tiny 4th floor flat
and there's times that a thousand acres and the rocky mountains can’t compete with that
With the first single September, off Corb’s album “Cabin Fever”, we hoped to create a distinctly Albertan and haunting Rocky Mountain vision of the solitary cowboy, broken hearted, and preparing for a cold winter of solitude. The woman, now off to New York to fulfill her dreams, is a vision of August and things past. She’s just a memory that never turns her face back to us—always leaving over the hill. Corb, our hero and songwriter, on occasion imagines himself in New York, but the image never matches his fantasy. It’s alien, full of glass and steel, and his love is nowhere to be found. Instead, he is left to the tasks of the ranch, riding alone, and singing solo on a worn out porch. He rides the fence line, steers cattle, and crests hill upon hill of empty meadows. All the time the indifferent and ancient Rocky Mountains look on. They’ve seen this story a hundred times before. Man and horse, and a longing country song as salve.
Missing Person. My best dramatic short film, shot during the Six Figures production. Mixing media, having my wife direct pieces on Super 8mm. Intentionally fractured and pulled by two separate voices. Engaging an amazing NYC illustrator Jonathan Twingley for the end poster. Great festival success.
Missing Person is the story of an estrangement– told through the unreliable mind of a man, Eddie, that shifts between multiple levels of his guilty consciousness. His wife Maria is missing. The key mystery is the capacity to which she may, or may not, be missing and whether Eddie himself may not be in a place that is farther gone.
2006 Calgary International Film Festival—Best of Alberta nominee, (4) 2005 AMPIA nominations:Best Cinematography Drama Under 60 Min, Best Original Musical Score, Best Overall Sound, Best Actress Drama: Lori Ravensborg
AMPIA award winner for Best Art Direction/Production Design in 2014.
Production Design by John Dondertman.
When pigs fly. Really– a flying pig. (wild boar actually)
Bears in golf carts.
Making hang gliders.
Giant paintings of scrotums.
Canmore, Pincher Creek, Banff, Fortress, Kananaskis, Calgary, green screens, every inch of floor space for studio sets.
The Right Kind of Wrong. Crazy film, crazy work conditions, many locations. Credit to my Toronto crew. It was pedal to the metal. And then, a year later, closing the loop at the Calgary International Film Festival with the premiere.
Winner of "Best Music Video" and "Best Editor - Drama under 30" at the 2010 Alberta Film and Television Awards.
Down the road and on the right hand side
There’s a place I sometimes like to dine
Coffee refills ‘far as I can…….see
I’ll be waking, are you watching me?
Are you watching, are you?
Are you watching, or just waiting to see
That your days are numbered
‘Cause my days are numbered too
Are we cool now? Are we cool?
Director: Trevor Smith
Producer: John Kerr
Director of Photography: Craig Wrobleski
Timelapse Photographer: Shawn Viens
Editor / Colourist: Darren Bierman
Production Company: Crowsnest Films
Post Production: Nine40
I'm a losin' lately gambler but I've booked my share of wins
I still see some value there but my edge is pretty thin
I'm a losin' lately gambler but that's not all I've ever been
Cuttin' back your losses is just another way to win.
Produced by: Crowsnest Films/ John Kerr
Director of Photography: Courtenay Forster
Colour & Editing by: Nine 40/ Darren Bierman
for CMT Canada
Scar. 3D horror. When in doubt, blood cannon or splatter gun. I’ve never had more meetings about methods of killing.
The truth comes out as the fire burns low
It comes to light as only embers glow
The whiskey talks, the west wind moans in the night
The deadfall's gathered and the branches are cut
Kindling crackles and the smoke curls up
The small sticks catch then the bigger stuff will burn
Chinook dies down as the dark descends
Pine has burned, an' the ash has cleansed
The message smolders, is lost, but finally sent
I think the essence of the song “The Truth Comes Out” is about change, and the slow, invisible disappearance of man’s connection to the natural world. This is a truth that can only be noticed in the dead calm and crackle of a late night campfire when all of our usual comforts melt away and the horrible, vulnerable nature of our fears finds no peace in the lonesome darkness. The allusions to the animals changing their regular patterns and nature’s shifting weather are the signs of this slow upheaval. Corb’s lyrics refer to the lengthier history of red men and this ancient knowledge of an Alberta much richer and longstanding than any of ours. It is this deep oral tradition and intimacy with nature that has dissolved away---and with it, the ghosts of history. I think it is this sense of loss and reverence in the outdoor church of nature that causes the heart to falter when sitting ‘round a late night fire. The truth, obscured by the silence and our fears, is there, and its moral weight is there--- hidden in the inarticulate details of the animal kingdom and just outside the firelight’s edge.
- charted for weeks on CMT's Chevy Top 20
- nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award: Best Music Video
Produced by Crowsnest Films, for CMT, with RGK Entertainment
Cinematography: Courtenay Forster & Time Lapse by Rick Garbutt, CSC
Stock Animal Footage via: Karvonen Films
Editor: Ken Filewych
Lab & Timing: Studio Post, Edmonton, AB
S Lazy H. Here’s a recent live music video we threw together on a dime for Corb Lund, RGK Entertainment, and New West Records, destined for CMT — we were winging it. One song, 5 cameras, simple modern country ballad.
“This is one of the most personally meaningful songs I’ve written in quite a few years,” Lund says. “It’s not literally a true story, but it’s an amalgam of a handful of authentic agricultural family estate/succession disasters I’m aware of from people close to me. It’s a very common theme in the West, and shows no signs of slowing down.”
The tune has taken on the life of a hymn of sorts at Lund’s live shows. “There are always a couple of cowboys, silent with hats off anytime I play it west of the Pecos,” he says. “I’m glad it’s reaching people, but I wish it wasn’t a necessary topic.”
Sometimes right isn't equal, Sometimes equal's not fair
There will soon be rows of houses, On that ridge over there
Many lifetimes of labour, Will be all but erased
So shed a tear and look skyward, God help the S lazy H
The last few years were a struggle, But I gave it my best
And I tried to go forward, On the land that was left
Well I have lived with the sorrow, And I will die with the shame
For now the bank owns what's left of, The S Lazy H
The wind still blows the dust across the exhibition grounds
The chute still creaks and moans and echoes saddle broncin' sounds
The horses all wound up the same as the ones that came before
But we don't ride 'em anymore
I shot this as a sneaky after-hours student film on 16mm short ends. I lit and shot the thing (with a schoolmate Brenden Ayah) on 16mm in a basement suite Corb rented. Corby provided 8mm rodeo material from his family archives that I transferred by videotaping off of a cement wall projection, and my future wife Jennifer edited it, on tape, sequentially, on an old deck system after hours at school. Talk about committing to a cut!