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Five Questions for Kyle Thomas and Stephen Bogaert, director and star of The Valley Below

During this past year’s TIFF, we were fortunate to speak to director Kyle Thomas, whose film The Valley Below premiered at the Festival. The film prominently features music, but also divided into four chapters that see many of the characters from previous chapters remerge, or reappear, in surprising ways. In that sense, it was interesting to run into the director a few days later in a very different setting not far away.

The lead actor from the film, Stephen Bogaert was also present for the interview, and we were fascinated to hear this lead actor speak, whose voice sort of resemblances that of Dermot Mulroney. Together, Thomas and Bogaert shared a great passion for The Valley Below, which was quite a welcome experience.

What was the importance of using musicians in the film?

Kyle Thomas: I knew that we wanted different musicians from the beginning, and not a score. We wanted a song that would reflect a season, a mood, maybe content and just the state of the characters that was the intention.

Stephen Bogaert: I had to ask Kyle myself where one musician stopped and another began. It was a perfect complement to the visuals and tone.

Plus the seasons…

In Canada, except in Vancouver Island, we have our seasons, and that’s a big part of who we are and especially in the colder places. It’s drastic and it’s extreme.

Why was each character in the film interconnected?

KT: The point of this was to be subtle and just to let the connections happen. This is a very specific film because we narrow down to Drumheller, with all Albertan actors, except for Stephen. A lot of the secondary roles were cast out of Drumheller.

SB: The beauty of the film is that I recognized these people. Now I’m not from Alberta, I’m Ontarian, but I felt like I could be in that situation. We (italics) know these people, and we want to get to know them a little better.


How do you think that an audience will react to the film?

KT: I think that it’s one of those (movies) where not everything will be processed right away.

SB: I’ve shown three people that are very close to me the film, but there’s been subtle difference in response, that’s been very telling to each person. I think that our film is successful because it touches people in different ways. One woman said “I want to reach out and give you a hug”, and it warmed my heart. Art lives when people see it. The others were male, and it was more a recognition of fixing people, but less about helping them.

Why is “retreat” a major theme of the film?

SB: People retreat to what they’re comfortable with.

We had a lot of unsaid things. And part of the problem is that Gordon couldn’t communicate. And that’s kind of a heartbreaking thing to be drifting away from people yet wanting and needing to hold on them.

KT: All of the main characters are stuck in stagnancy or are on the cusp of change.

The Valley Below opens across Canada this weekend.