Modern Family Productions

Pre-production for Why the Anderson Children Didn’t Come to Dinner began in the fall of 2002.

Jamie Travis, Amy Belling and A.J. Bond made the film as their graduating project from the University of British Columbia’s Film Programme.

Travis wanted to make a film with children and cats; he wanted the story to be contained within a single day; and he wanted to create a world in which flocked wallpaper and mounted deer heads incited not even a glimmer of a blink in the eyes of the characters. And so came the sixteen page script for Anderson Children.

behind the scenes

The three served as Co-producers under the banner Modern Family Productions. A.J. Bond would serve as Editor. Amy Belling would serve as Director of Photography and Sound Designer.

On a $10 000 budget, many favours needed to be called in to make the slick product the filmmakers intended. Friends, family members, colleagues, equipment houses—all volunteered their valuable hours and resources.

The Dutch Colonial mansion which served as the sole location for principal photography was a donation of sorts as well. The only cost was the casting of the homeowner’s daughter (Katherine Eaton) as young Eliza—a strange deal which worked out very well in the end.

Vancouver casting directors Carole Tarlington and Dorothy Szymanska helped fill the other principal roles. No one could quite relish the line “Tonight we’ll be having a very special dinner” the way Patti Wotherspoon could. And so she won the role of Maud Anderson. Colton Boreen was the obvious choice for the role of Godfrey: his only prior acting experience a school play, he showed not the slightest hint of affectation. Michael Kurliak, similarly unaffected, bestowed the character of Chester with a charming insolence.

behind the scenes

Principal photography began on November 28, 2003 after months of colour coordinating and test shooting. The original eight scheduled days became twelve once the filmmakers learned of the great difficulties involved when children, cats, pigs’ heads and Vancouver weather come together.

Fly infestation, the foul smell of rotting meat, the hijinks of warring cats and the fluctuating sugar levels of eight year-olds—these all posed quite the challenge for the three student filmmakers and their twenty to thirty person crew. The budget was soaring. The film stock was disappearing. And Christmas was coming.

The outdoor shots were necessarily postponed until the first non-rainy weekend in the new year. Well into February, dryness finally arrived. Godfrey’s exterior scenes were shot in A.J. Bond’s Vancouver backyard. And the climactic swingset scene was shot commando-style in between bouts of showers in Vancouver’s Kitsilano area.

Editing spanned from January to March 2003 at the UBC editing facilities. The original assembly was twenty five minutes long and needed major cuts. A.J. Bond tried out countless variations, and finally, in March, the 16.5 minute final cut was ready for Amy Belling’s sound treatment.

Dave Webber, a Vancouver musician and graphic designer, was brought on board as Composer. His klezmer-inspired, pizzicato strings-heavy score made the Andersons seem only weirder.

The film premiered at the UBC Student Film Festival on May 2, 2003. Awards received include Outstanding Film, Outstanding Direction and Art Direction for Jamie Travis, Outstanding Cinematography for Amy Belling, an honourable mention in editing for A.J. Bond, the People’s Choice Award and a special commendation to Courtenay Webber and Jeff Khonsary for excellence in cat wrangling.

behind the scenes