An Interview with Rory Lambert (Behind the scenes of Trepassey Junior High)

October 3, 2012

Rory Lambert is an actor, writer and director from Rattling Brook, NL. He studied Theatre at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. I don’t need to look up any of these things because Rory has been one of the most lovely and entertaining people in my life since I met him in my late teens. With the recent debut of Trepassey Junior High he shows he’s still lovely, entertaining and downright funny as well. Joining him in this endeavour are fellow Grenfell Theatre alums Colin Furlong and Adam Brake. Rounding out the main cast is Daniel Payne, red haired musician extraordinaire.

After seeing the first trailer I started with the emails and texts: “When’s the episode going to be ready? What’s taking so long? Why did you guys do this anyway?” So I’d like to thank Corner Brooker for giving me a much more legitimate medium with which to grill my buddy and maybe gain answers others would also like to hear. Surpassing just over 2500 hits in 2 days Trepassey Junior High appears to have found an eager audience. Here’s what Rory had to share with me:

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Helen: Of all the shows you guys could’ve paid homage to, why the Degrassi series?

Rory: Degrassi was one of my favourite shows growing up.  Right from The Kids of Degrassi Street right up to the made-for-TV movie School’s Out! (they even use swears in that one!).  I also loved the fact that (other than Kids) they kept a solid continuity that travels into Degrassi, The Next Generation.  Mostly it was just great to actors that looked real; like people I could have gone to school with.  And they took on real issues in a way that was relatively less cheesy than other shows at the time.  Mostly, there’s something about it that captures what it meant to be Canadian at that time.  It’s nostalgia, yes, but it’s also something to be proud of.  And to celebrate.

Helen: Can you tell me a bit about the Children’s Television Sweatshop and Playing With Rhyme?

Rory: The Children’s Television Sweatshop was formed when I was in the Theatre Programme at Grenfell College.  A friend of ours had a camera and a bunch of us wrote and filmed a short, naughty parody of a kids show called The Big Dirty Old CouchSadly, all copies have been lost.  Years later Adam Brake, Miguel Doyle and Steve Oates and I filmed a silent film entitled Ninja’s…Have A Listen.  This became a tradition for us, filming a summer short.  Most of them were pretty tongue-in-cheek and REALLY insular.  You really had to know the circumstances and the people to get it.  For this one we decided to try and film something that was distinctly Newfoundland but more universal.  Something that (we hope) a larger audience can relate to.  Or, at the very least, an audience that doesn’t know who we are and laughs just because Lambert is doing that thing where he sticks his teeth out.  Um…wow…I’m totally rambling.  So we decided to make Trepassey Junior High under the Children’s Television Sweatshop banner.  The Degrassi series were all dubbed “A Playing With Time Production”, so we created “Playing With Rhyme”.  At this point the “company” is composed of original members myself, Adam Brake and Miguel Doyle with Colin Furlong, Daniel Payne and Johnny Cann.

Helen: I know it took little time to film but a lot of time to edit. How come?

Rory: Schedules were tight this summer and our shooting time got whittled down from a week to two days, really.  So we had to get really specific about what and how we wanted to shoot.  It involved myself and Adam Brake doing a lot of stick-figure storyboarding. Editing was another matter.  All the other shorts we created were shot with cheap digital photography cameras or with a $300 camcorder — neither of which had great built-in mics.  So our previous productions were either silent or carried very poor audio; Children’s Television Sweatshop – now with Dolby Hiss!  This time the group really wanted to experiment with an external microphone and so we used a Zoom recorder to record nearly all of our audio.  It was definitely a step up, quality-wise.  The time drain came up when we tried to marry the audio to the video.  We’re using consumer grade editing equipment and we really had to bend the rules to get it to do what we needed, so trying to keep the audio synced to the scene was a big challenge.  I’m sure someone more experienced could’ve knocked it out way quicker.  But we like to keep things in house because a) we like to learn and b) we have no $.

Helen: When can we expect to see another episode?

Rory:  Yikes, soon I hope!  The first one has taken off way quicker and bigger than expected.  We hit 1500 views in little under two days and we’re hoping it will continue to soar.  Meanwhile we’ve discussed a six-episode arc that could come to fruition and Adam Brake has already started preliminary work on the script for Episode Two.  Hopefully we can knock it out in the next month and schedule some shooting time!  Maybe by Christmas?  Now you know what to ask Santa for, I s’pose!

Helen: Will other much loved characters make an appearance? 

Rory: That would be great.  I guess it will really depend on whether we branch off to create our own storylines or continue to parody existing Degrassi Junior High ones.  I suspect the answer will live somewhere in the middle.  Meanwhile, if you look closely at the background performers, you’ll see a version of Spike!

Helen: For the pilot which scene presented the most problem during filming (for any reason)?

Rory: The toughest shot to get, in my opinion, would have to be the final scene outside of Lee’s house.  That house we filmed at was on the main drag so we spent a lot of time standing there, waiting for traffic to go by so it wouldn’t interfere with the audio.  Unfortunately, every car that passed was wondering what that crowd of skeets with the tripods and mics and cameras were up to.

Helen: Is there a blooper “reel” waiting to see the light of day?

Rory: There’s a LOT of footage and a few bloopers I would imagine.  That might be a nice way to bridge the gap between Episode One and Episode Two.  We’ll see what we can do!  I’m sure CornerBrooker.com will be the first to know!

Helen: Zach Goudie tweeted a link to the pilot. How did that make you feel? 

Rory: Awesome!  The more people that tweet it and share it the better!  As of the time of this interview we’re rapidly approaching 2,000 views.  That either means 2,000 people like it…or 1 person has watched it A LOT.

Helen: Can you give us even the smallest hint what we might see in an upcoming episode?

Rory: Hmm….it’s hard to say.  We’ll learn a little more about the by’s; hopefully include Miguel a little more.  The story of the fire in La Scie will definitely come to light and things might take a dark turn for our pack of skeets.  We’ll keep it light and fun and funny though.  Or at least we’ll keep writing things that we find funny.  Hopefully everyone else will have a chuckle too.

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Judging by the number of hits and the Facebook shares it seems a lot of other people find their writing funny too.  As Rory said, when there is something new on the Trepassey Junior High front we’ll be the first to know. Until then we’ll enjoy the trailers and the pilot. Could Christmas come three times in one year? We will see!

Lead image: Screenshot from Trepassey Junior High: The Pilot