Avalon Fast Honeycomb interview

Is Avalon Fast the new face of Canadian genre cinema?

We spoke with the 22-year-old filmmaker about her micro-budget horror film Honeycomb, which recently premiered amid tangible buzz at Fantasia.

Five teenage girls leave their small town and decamp to the forest. The countryside offers a respite from adults, annoying boys and any accountability beyond that which they hold to each other. They set up a list of strict rules. Compliance gnaws away at the dream of freedom. Tears and blood quickly follow. We’ve seen this plot before. And yet, in Avalon Fast’s hands, Honeycomb surprises in its handling of these familiar tropes. She seems excited when we chat ahead of her debut feature’s premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival. Propulsed by growing interest in her work, Avalon Fast is teetering on the verge of becoming a recognizable talent in genre cinema. 

The film was shot over the course of a summer on the British Columbia Island of Cortes for a minuscule budget. “It was never a pre-planned budget,” she says. “It was always just what we had at the time. It was probably $3,000 to $4,000.” Many filmmakers of Fast’s age (she’s just 22 years old) will have a different idea of the requirements to make a feature film, at least the kind that makes a splash in the way that Honeycomb has — a sizeable budget, permits and a cast of professional actors, for starters. Most film schools teach students how to make films within the industry, not outside of it. Once you’ve made a film for such little money, however, a new modus operandi emerges, one with all kinds of possibilities and creative challenges.

When asked how making a film with such a tiny budget would affect her future projects, Fast was adamant about prioritizing fun: “I feel like I want to make something with a bigger budget. Obviously. But what I can take away most from how we shot Honeycomb is that I really enjoyed making it with my friends. Whatever team I have with the next projects I do, I want it to be that kind of closeness. It feels like we’re hanging out, and not taking it as seriously. I’d love to try to do that with a bigger budget.” The bloopers at the end of the film drive home this point. They act like acknowledgements and ‘Thank you’ notes to her closest collaborators.

Avalon Fast interview Fantasia Honeycomb premiere
Avalon Fast

Of course, working with friends isn’t always easy. “There were ups and downs,” she says. “There were moments when I would be hanging out with the girls afterwards where I would be, ‘that was the most fun we’ve ever had’ and then there would be other days where someone would miss the ferry. And it would be me having to give them a call and not as a friend, but as their director.” Fast explained that this tension between intimacy and acrimony seeped into the filmmaking. “There were a lot of shots that we had to do over and over. And I noticed that a lot of the acting is very rigid and sounds rehearsed. And to me, that’s what I wanted. That’s what we were going for. So I think that could’ve been a result.” The uneven performances are perhaps the most jarring. While some actors are unpolished, but ultimately convincing, others appear detached and uncomfortable. According to Fast, this “seriousness in the way the girls spoke to each other” was an intentional contrast to how boys speak to each other. “They’re talking over each other. Very messy. But the way the girls speak is always ‘line,’ ‘answer’ and then another line. More structured. I just thought that would be interesting. It’s kind of a dramatized version of how I see males and females interact.” 

Adapted from a collection by Quadra poet Steve Moore, the girls’ monologues to camera sharpen the film’s reflexivity. These young women are rehearsing a narrative they, like us, have seen before. We watch and wait for the hive to choose its Queen Bee. They film themselves reciting these poems and decorating their cottage, without a clear idea of what they will do with the footage. “We’re going to want to remember,” says a voice behind the camera. But what will they remember? The honey or the hive? ■

Honeycomb, directed by Avalon Fast

Honeycomb recently screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival and is available to stream via the Slamdance Channel.

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