Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Our Editor-in-Chief Micaela Merryman and Curation Lead Darby Wilson had the privilege of speaking with actor Billy Bryk about his experience on the cast of Night Shift, a short film dir. by Finn Wolfhard, which received the silver Audience Award for Best Canadian film at the Fantasia International Film Festival.
MICAELA: We just wanna ask you a couple questions about your experiences with Night Shift and any insights it brought you as an actor!
BILLY: Yeah, cool!
MICAELA: So tell me about the first moment that you heard about Night Shift. Where were you? What were you doing? What were your immediate thoughts on the project?
BILLY: I think that the first time I ever heard about Night Shift was the first time Finn and I went out to dinner together in Calgary when we were filming Ghost Busters. We were out with the crew and other young cast members, and he was telling me he wanted to write this short about a convenience store robbery. It was a little bit different at that time, but I was like, yeah dude, definitely write it. I guess it was a few months later, he called me saying that he had a draft done, but I was there from I like to think the early stages.
MICAELA: And you thought immediately, yeah, this is it?
BILLY: Yeah, we talked a lot about the short film. Well one of my favorite movies, and one of his, Bottle Rocket, how that was kind of a simple, little robbery-orientated short film. And he was like, “I wanna do something that kind of same space” and I told him yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun. You should do it.
DARBY: I interviewed Artoun a week ago and he told us about the attempted robbery during the shoot. Did you see what was happening at all?
BILLY: I did. During the attempted robbery, the camera was actually on my closeup of when we were being robbed and I saw the entire thing, because I heard the bell ding like in the movie when the guy came in and I turned and there was this man standing there and he was just looking around, obviously very confused and he pulled out what looked like a gun. At the time, maybe in retrospect it probably looked less like a gun, but in the moment I really thought it was a gun. And then Artoun panicked and pointed his fake gun from the movie at the guy. The footage is somewhere but it's me with my hands up, awkwardly looking back and forth at this guy and Artoun with the guns drawn on each other. It was weirdly nothing like the shot in the movie when I got robbed. Maybe that says something about the performance. I was just confused more than anything and kinda wigged out afterwards.
MICAELA: Understandably! I heard it was made of springs.
BILLY: Yeah, it was made of springs. I had no idea what he was thinking or what was going on with that.
MICAELA: So I read that you filmed this at night, quickly over the span of twelve hours. I heard you were even flown out for it. I just wanna know what the energy was on set that night and what it was like filming.
BILLY: I think that especially since we had such a short amount of time the energy was great, everybody there really knew each other, a lot of the crew were people that Finn had grown up with, his good friends and obviously Artoun and I had known each other and Finn. So it was a blast. It was pretty fast paced, but we never felt rushed at all. There weren't too many different setups for shots and everything. A lot of it kinda plays out just between us in our coverage and the shot in the aisle. I felt like we had a good amount of time. We both knew the script pretty well. We had been rehearsing it, but it was great we finished shooting earlier than we were expecting. And then Artoun and I were standing at the casino and we just went and stayed up all night gambling, so it was a nice fun little way to end the shoot and the weekend.
DARBY: So how, if at all, did participating in Night Shift change anything about your approach to acting?
BILLY: Actually, I don’t know if it changed my approach to acting. I'll try to think of a way that it maybe did. I guess doing Night Shift was good just in terms of the speed of it. It really was very quick; we did not have a ton of takes, I guess it really just solidified the idea just to really know the lines inside and out. Since I had read it so long before and had gone through it with Finn so many times, it really was not hard. I was glad there were no problems with the lines, or else we might have not gotten the movie finished, but thankfully we both really knew the lines very well and we were able to just kinda play with the scene. And things changed a bit— there was a joke that I wrote for the movie and that did not play and nobody laughed except for one guy working there and we had to cut it and switch it for something else, but it was alright.
MICAELA: So I bet the dynamic working with Finn— since he is your friend, I would guess it's different. I wanna know what kind of unique insights that he brought to the film that made it what it was, how he was as a director.
BILLY: Finn brought some really unique insights to the film. I would say as an actor himself, he really understands how to work with other actors and I think that is pretty common for people who act first then start filmmaking. And as a young person too; being really excited, had a really excited energy on set and was as in tune with the characters as Artoun and I were. It all felt like an extension of the script, the on-set experience at least. But also just as a friend he, knew us really well. Weirdly, my character in the movie is sort of based off of Artoun’s life, and Artoun’s character is based off of none of us. [Finn] found Artoun’s life more interesting than mine, so he wrote my character as if he was Artoun in real life. So yeah. he knew us very well.
DARBY: Artoun also said the same thing about Finn, that’s interesting. What advice do you have for up and coming actors trying to land their first role, in something like a short film?
BILLY: I would say have friends that want to make movies, that's the easiest way to do it. I always feel weird giving advice since I'm still pretty new and haven't done a ton of stuff, but I would just say really focus on playing a part in a way that only you can play it, don't try being someone else, at least starting out, really focus on what makes you interesting. Maybe that’s bad advice in terms of character acting, I think it's easier though to play a version of yourself.
MICAELA: I feel like that’s good advice, or at least interesting advice. I feel like people on the outside find acting so intimidating and so unapproachable, so I think that's a great way of explaining it.
BILLY: Yeah, but it definitely helps if your friend wants to make a short film and names the character after you, then it's a little bit easier.
You can keep up with everything Billy is up to by following him on his Instagram.
Watch Night Shifts dir. by Finn Wolfhard here!
Graphic by Darby Wilson!