Arts & CultureCultural Affairs

Finding meaning through movies with Zach Proulx

Proulx discusses his influences, his new film Fugacis, and the deeply personal nature of his work

I first met Edmonton filmmaker Zach Proulx when we attended the same elementary school. Even back then, his passion for creating and telling stories was evident. After a friend bit him in an argument in grade six, Zach turned the event into a short horror film in which he cast the guy who bit him as a half-vampire, half-werewolf beast in a gorilla costume. When he later showed the film in class, everyone loved it. It was zany, self-aware and deeply committed. 

When I talk to Zach almost 10 years later, the passion and enjoyment he felt then is still present. After doing two years of film school in Toronto at York University upon graduating high school, Proulx came back to Edmonton and has been working on self-financed projects with his production company Walking Run Productions. His works include the 2016 short film Awake and Fugacis. Fugacis is his first feature-length film, and is about two friends searching for a drug, named Opus, which is rumoured to grant its users the answers to the meaning of life.

“These guys who are trying to find [Opus], one of them wants to understand the truth,” Proulx said, “But [both are] also looking for it as a way to solve their problems, which is also what we do a lot as humans. Maybe not necessarily with drugs, but you’re looking for something.”

Proulx says that his work is deeply personal, and he draws a lot of inspiration from his own life and thoughts. He is deeply interested in world philosophy and hallucinogenic drugs, and both of these interests manifest themselves in his work — Fugacis is a film with a disorienting soundscape, outer space visuals, and colour patterns overlaid on people’s faces. While this defies logic, Proulx believes that it allows the viewer’s mind to be triggered in a visceral manner.

“Someone said that trying to explain an acid trip to someone who’s never done acid is like trying to explain colour to a blind person,” Proulx said. “But what I think a lot of people who haven’t done acid can relate to is looking for some sort of meaning.”

The course of writing, filming, and editing Fugacis took over three years, and Proulx is now ready to move on to other projects. He is also eager to show this film to his friends, family, and everyone who’s worked so hard on it. The whole process has been a learning experience for Proulx, one that he is deeply satisfied with. Proulx believes that while it is one thing to have an idea and write it down, it’s a whole other thing to then have actors and a crew turn that idea into a fully-fledged film. 

“I learned a lot of stuff that is not even related to film too, like the whole process of getting it screened. Back and forth, figuring out all those details,” Proulx said. “It’s independent, so I had to figure all those details by myself.” 

Having written the script at age 17 or 18, filmed it at age 19, and edited it for the last two years, Fugacis has come to mean a lot to Proulx as a person.

“It’s kind of interesting to look at [Fugacis] and be like ‘this is what I thought when I was that age,’ which is funny, because that was only three years ago.” Proulx said. “It’s definitely personal. I think the best movies are personal.”

Thanks to crowdfunding, Fugacis will be playing at the Metro Cinema on January 30 at 7 p.m. While it may have only been made on a budget of $2000, from speaking to Proulx, it’s clear that Fugacis was made in order to entertain, provoke, and astonish.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s a spiritual movie,” Proulx said. “But it’s lightly spiritual. I would say that it’s life-affirming.”

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