Joanna’s friends, Edgar Allen Poe-bot (photo: Jason Hargrove)

Department of Writing alumni Jeremy Lutter and Ben Rollo premiered their short film Joanna Makes a Friend on December 3 at the 2011 Whistler Film Festival. Starring Fred Ewanuick (Corner Gas, Dan for Mayor) and Dalila Bela, Joanna Makes a Friend was adapted by Rollo from his own short story; when Joanna, a lonely nine-year-old girl, is ostracized by the other kids at school due to her love of the macabre and a fascination with Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, she ends up making a robot friend out of spare VCR parts in her father’s garage.

The film’s genesis lies in last year’s Whistler Film Festival, where Lutter successfully pitched the idea to the highly competitive Motion Picture Production Industry Association. Not only did Lutter then win the Short Film Award—netting him a $115,000 prize ($10,000 cash plus in-kind services)—but he went on to crowd-fund the remaining budget needed to shoot the movie through IndieGoGo, the world’s leading global funding platform.

The very big Jeremy Lutter with the very small Dalila Bella

Lutter recently talked to Jason Whyte of about the highs and lows of shooting Joanna Makes a Friend. “The most difficult part of this film turned out to be the most rewarding. At film school they will tell you that the two hardest things you can have in a film are children actors and animals. But there’s a third thing that should be on the list: Child actors, animals and robots,” says Lutter of robotic co-star Edgar Allan Poe-bot. “He took three months to design and build . . . we have a series of behind-the-scene videos on our website that show the progress of the robot at different points. But all the hard work of building this robot paid off. The first day on set was magical. Just watching the character come to life and interact in the scenes was amazing.” (You can read the rest of Lutter’s interview with Whyte here.)

And if you’d like to track back over the history of the project, catch Lutter’s interview with Natalie North of the Victoria News from May 2011, and his chat with Michael Reid of the Times Colonist back in June 2011.