When Jason Bourque was a little boy, his parents moved the whole family from Saint John, New Brunswick to the sparsely populated Kingston Peninsula in order to revel in the peace and tranquility of rural life.
But the move put the family right in the path of a serial killer – or, at least, in the general vicinity of one.
“Down the road from us happened to be this guy, Noel Winters,” says Bourque, now a Vancouver-based writer-director who’s directed dozens of television movies, music videos and commercials. “He was very charismatic. We always saw from him a distance, at the local store or driving around with his girlfriend. It turned out he was a serial killer.”
Winters killed and dismembered four people, and possibly more. He was outed as a serial killer when a group of local kids (not Bourque) stumbled across a couple of garbage bags containing human remains.
“Suddenly this whole nightmarish story emerged about this predator who was in our community,” says Bourque. “In the US, they would have made a television series about the guy, but in New Brunswick, this Noel Winters character exists as a legend.”
And now, a version of Noel Winters also exists as a character in Bourque’s first independent feature, Black Fly.
The thriller – which will have its world premiere at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival – centers on a pair of estranged brothers who reunite on an isolated island years after their father died in a hunting accident and their mother committed suicide.
The brothers’ reunion is happy at first, and then – well, we won’t give too much away. Let’s just say that, at some point in Black Fly, more than a little blood flows.
Black Fly isn’t a strict dramatization of the Noel Winters case, but it’s unapologetically inspired by it, from the name of the older brother (Noel Henson) to the manner in which the victims are killed and dismembered.
It’s a script Bourque’s been working on for nearly eighteen years, ever since he was a bright-eyed movie-loving student at the Vancouver Film School.
Had he made the film back in 1996, Bourque suspects it would have contained a lot more gore and violence and packed less of an emotional punch. “As I’ve matured as a filmmaker, I’ve become more aware of cinematic restraint,” he says. “Instead of stylizing the violence, it’s more interesting to look at the aftermath of violence. A lot is left up to the imagination.”
Black Fly was filmed over fourteen days this past spring. Filming locations included Pitt Meadows and Denman Island.
It was a grueling, highly emotional shoot for Black Fly stars Matthew MacCaull (who plays Noel), Dakota Daulby (who portrays Jake), and Christie Burke (Noel’s girlfriend, Paula).
“I think they saw it as an opportunity to go past these characters’ breaking points, and to get into some raw work that they don’t normally get to do,” says Bourque. “There are moments in this film that I think will take each of them to the next levels of their careers.”
How does Bourque want audiences to feel at the end of Black Fly? “Uncomfortable is good. When I look at what I wanted to portray at the outset, I wanted to go for a realistic feel, and I wanted it to be messy and unglamorous,” he says. “I would love for an audience to be haunted by it. Making a mark is wonderful. ”
Black Fly screens September 27 at the Rio Theatre and September 30 at Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas. For showtimes and ticket information, visit the VIFF website.
On October 4, Bourque will speak as part of VIFF Industry’s Totally Indie Day. He’ll discuss the essentials of TV directing as part of a panel that also includes Gary Harvey (Arctic Air), Lynne Stopkewich (Rookie Blue), Anthony Hemingway (Shameless), and Scott Smith (Call Me Fitz). More info here.