Turbo Kid is a post-apocalyptic, BMX-powered, blood-splattered love story that follows the epic journey of an orphaned outcast reluctant to be a hero in the wasteland of an alternate future.
The film is directed by The RKSS (Road Kill Super Stars), a collective of three filmmakers: Anouk Whissell, François Simard, and Yoann-Karl Whissel. They co-write and co-direct all their films – over twenty shorts in the last ten years, many winning awards at various international festivals, including Le Bagman, Total Fury, and Demonitron: The Sixth Dimension.
The RKSS also wrote and directed the short film T is for Turbo, which was originally made as a submission to The ABCs of Death contest. Although the film was not chosen for the first anthology, it won the People’s Choice Award for the contest. Inspired by the characters of the short film, Turbo Kid is their first feature film.
The nostalgic action-splatter flick made its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and is part of the Midnighters program at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. I recently had a chance to sit down with Anouk Whissell, François Simard, and Yoann-Karl Whissell to talk about this insanely awesome ode to the ‘80s. Check out my interview below!
Geeks of Doom: First off, I fucking loved this movie. It’s exactly the kind of bat-shit crazy mash-up of exploitation and ’80s insanity that I constantly crave.
RKSS: Thanks, we’re really glad you loved it!
Geeks of Doom: This all started with your ABCs of Death submission, T is for Turbo. Can you talk a little about the making of that short and where the initial concept came from?
RKSS: Yeah, we’ve played with a lot of genres on the different short films we’ve made, and we’ve always wanted to make a post-apocalyptic one – actually we wanted to make a fake trailer out of it, but before we even started on this one, we heard of the ABCs of Death contest from our pal Jason Eisener, who strongly suggested we participate. So long story short, we started to write T is for Turbo that exact same night. We always thought that riding BMX in a post-apocalyptic world would first, totally make sense since gas is always an issue, and second be fucking RAD! And when we think about BMX, we think about BMX Bandits, which we loved as kids!
Geeks of Doom: What happened after the contest? How did you get the resources needed to expand the short into a feature?
RKSS: We won the People’s Choice Award but didn’t get into the anthology, though we didn’t win the contest, we think we ended up winning way more. Ant Timpson, one of the producers behind ABCs of Death, contacted us and asked us if we wanted to turn it in a feature – so we started writing the script. Jason Eisener came on board next as executive producer, and together we pitched the movie at the Frontiere International Film Market where we met with Anne-Marie Gélinas, our Canadian producer, and we all totally hit it off. Tim Riley and Benoit Beaulieu joined as well, and the Turbo Team (5 producers/3 directors) was born!
Geeks of Doom: What inspired the post-apocalyptic setting of the film? What influences and inspirations were you drawing on in creating the look and feel of the film?
RKSS: Our main inspiration for the setting comes from Mad Max, and all the Italian rip-offs that came from it, mixed with BMX Bandits for the primary colors and plastic look. We loved playing with the contrast of gray wasteland and popping colors on our main characters. For the heart of the story, we’re looking at the movies of our childhood like The Goonies, The Dog Who Stopped the War and The NeverEnding Story.
Fun fact: we were planning on having a dry and arid wasteland, but because of the terrible weather (we had the worst Spring in Montreal of over 70 years) we ended up with a nuclear winter and acid rain!
Geeks of Doom:Turbo Kid is a lover letter to the kind of films we grew up with in the ’80s. Shades of BMX Bandits, The Road Warrior, and Peter Jackson’s early films like Braindead can be seen here. How influential were these kinds of films to your personal tastes and styles as filmmakers?
RKSS: These movies were totally an inspiration and influence on Turbo Kid. As you said, this movie is really a love letter to these films we loved as kids (and still do.) Braindead had such an impact when we first saw it; that’s when we knew we wanted to make movies!
Geeks of Doom: What I really love about the film – aside from the incredible costume designs and old school practical effects – is the amount of character and heart in the film…
RKSS: Well thanks! It’s all about riding the fine line between both worlds, and also everything is there for a purpose and must serve the story. If you want the set piece to work, you need the audience to care for the characters.
Geeks of Doom: A big part of what makes the film resonate with me are the heartfelt performances – can you talk about the casting process and how Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, and Michael Ironside came on board?
RKSS: Each of them has a different story. The Kid is the only character for which we organized auditions. We drove to Toronto to meet all of these talented actors, but the first one we saw that day was Munro. He was incredible. This kid’s got talent, he came in so prepared, and as soon as we saw him act, we already knew that he was the Kid! Laurence is such an amazing actress, she’s huge in Quebec and we really wanted to work with her! We knew she’d be perfect for Apple. So François did some Photoshop concept art of Laurence as Apple, and our costume designer, who worked with her on another show at that time brought it to her. It definitely got her attention and so she immediately asked for the script. Once she read it, she jumped in!
And finally, Michael’s story was such a random act of faith, it’s even frightening! While writing the script, we always envisioned Michael in the role of Zeus, even imagined his voice while coming up with the dialogue, but we never believed it could be possible. One day, we drove to TIFF to meet with our New Zealand and Canadian producers for a cocktail when, totally out of the blue, Michael Ironside walks into the room (he told us later that he wasn’t even supposed to be there, he bumped into a friend who dragged him to the cocktail)! And so we looked at each other thinking Zeus just entered the room! Anne-Marie brought us to him and made us live pitch, after which Michael was intrigued and asked for a script! The rest is history!
Geeks of Doom: How do you guys work on set as a trio of directors?
RKSS: We’ve been working as a trio of writers/directors for over 10 years, so we have a very structured dynamic. We developed a kind of a hive mind and can communicate through brain waves – haha. But seriously, for us it’s really important to avoid chaos on set, and so we come in super prepared (everything is thought through, everything is storyboarded) so we know where we’re going.
Geeks of Doom: While we’re talking about being on set, can you talk about the visual effects of Turbo Kid and what went into all the stunts, blood and prosthetics, and computer-generated imagery in the film?
RKSS: Having practical effects was really important for us – it makes everything more tangible and real, it’s also part of the aesthetics of the genre and we wanted to stay true to it. We think CGI should mainly be there to assist practical effects, or when it’s absolutely impossible to do otherwise – like the Turbo Glove blasts. So yeah, we had corpses, limbs, and about 90 gallons of fake blood on set with which to play with! We also always had a stunt coordinator on set and a bike specialist!
Geeks of Doom: Moving forward, what’s next for RKSS? More Turbo Kid? A short for ABCs of Death 3? I’d love to see a V/H/S segment from you guys…
RKSS: That could be really cool! If ever there’s an ABCs of Death 3, we’d love to! Also, for now we’re writing a crazy revenge movie, we have a horror story cooking and of course we’d definitely love to make a Turbo Kid 2!
There you go! It was so awesome to sit down with the RKSS and talk about their bad-ass movie. The South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival unveiled the Audience Award winners on Saturday, March 21st, and Turbo Kid won the Midnighters Audience Award! Keep your eye out for the movie as it makes its way around the festival circuit and into your home on VOD!