After two children go missing and another is followed home by a strange man, 12-year-old Noel (Will Saleken) and his friends launch an investigation.
Some believe the Supermarket Psycho is to blame. Noel’s brother Jason (Rhys Saleken) thinks it could be the murderous groundskeeper from his summer camp. Noel’s best friend Oscar (Jaime Naranjo) says it’s the weird guy who lives nearby, and that the abducted kids might be locked in his basement.
It’s a big mystery, one that’s equal parts exciting and frightening, and Noel might just be in the middle of it all.
I wrote the screenplay for The Dummy Factor in 1998. It was based upon my free-roaming childhood in Vancouver in the early 80s. Back then, it was not uncommon for my parents to have no idea where I was or what I was doing between the time I got out of elementary school at 3 PM and arrived home for dinner at 6 PM. My friends and I would often go on adventures, occasionally making up our own mysteries to investigate. Sometimes, we’d snoop around random houses, taking notes and looking for clues. I incorporated as many of these early memories as I could into this script, and, after working through several drafts, I was eventually satisfied I had done a decent job of weaving and embellishing my personal experiences in a reasonably compelling narrative. Unfortunately, I also fully believed that said narrative would only ever exist in screenplay form.
Making a feature film is a monumental undertaking. I was well aware of this before I made my first feature Patterson’s Wager, and I only became more aware if afterwards, when I began exploring how I might possibly make another one. There’s just no getting around the fact that moviemaking requires lots of money, lots of resources, and lots of people. … But what if it didn’t?
As I thought about what my sophomore feature might be, and, more importantly, how I might possibly find the means to produce it, I began to wonder if maybe I might be able to do something with a lot less than what was traditionally required. Sure, it’d be nice to have a good budget (really, any kind of budget) and a professional crew, but, given how difficult these things are to access, I was loathe to accept this was the only way I’d be able to do it, so I decided to undertake an experiment: I wanted to try and make a feature by doing everything I possibly could myself, all-the-while maintaining decent production values and not compromising my aesthetic.
When I was initially toying with this idea, I didn’t know what movie I’d make. I didn’t know if I’d attempt one of the various features I’d already written or if I’d try to come up with a new one. Then, I realized my two nephews Will and Rhys just happened to be the same ages as two of the main characters in The Dummy Factor (at the time, they were 12 and 17, respectively). I figured I’d never get a better opportunity than this, so I asked them if they’d be interested in collaborating. They were, which then meant the only thing left to do was to try and make the darn thing.
We shot The Dummy Factor over 37 days during the summer of 2018. Except for five days when I had a friend help out with location sound recording, I handled all of the technical production work myself, this included directing, production designing, costuming, lighting, camera operating … you name it, I did it. Similarly, once the filming was done, I handled all of the post-production myself – picture editing, dialogue editing, sound design, music, mixing, and colour grading – all of which took me nine months.
The Dummy Factor is a deeply personal film, and I am deeply proud of it. My nephews Will and Rhys exceeded every expectation I had for them, as did all of the other non-professional actors who agreed to participate in my little experiment. Speaking of the experiment, I can honestly say that, from my perspective, it was a complete success, and one which I hope to repeat in the future.