It’s been seven years since Christopher Scott Avery, 28, and his brothers Sean, 29, and David, 23, teamed up to “create experiences that enlighten lives” through Warmland Films, yet it took less than 24 hours for their production company to grab the spotlight when their latest project, Convos With My 2-Year-Old, hit the online jackpot.
“We had it sitting there for awhile and we didn’t really know what we had, so we said, ‘Let’s release this thing,” said Chris, who was “blown away” when the first episode of what they’re now developing as a web series went viral.
Created by actor Matthew Clarke and directed by his pal Darshan Rickhi, a Warmland Films partner who persuaded the Avery brothers to produce it, the wacky video features Clarke re-enacting silly conversations he had with his two-year-old daughter Coco.
That she’s portrayed by a grown man in his underwear — actor David Milchard — gives it an amusingly sinister touch.
The first episode, which has had more than 5.3 million hits since May 28, has been featured on CNN and in Time, Gawker, BuzzFeed and New York Daily News.
“We’ve put our blood, sweat and tears into so many productions and for whatever reason this one took off. It’s been absolutely surreal,” says Chris, who isn’t complaining. Indeed, he doesn’t have time to.
Born and raised on Vancouver Island — Chris and Sean hail from the Cowichan Valley, while David, who attended Mount Doug, was born inVictoria — the brothers have been crazy-busy honing their craft since leaving to attend Vancouver Film School.
While they’re passionately devoted to their company, which produces shorts, music videos, corporate and commercial projects and a feature, all three have day jobs. Sean is an equipment manager at Vancouver Film School, and Chris and David work at Vancouver’s Rainmaker Entertainment, where they’re currently editing animated Barbie movies.
Although a Hollywood-style career might have seemed unattainable growing up in Cowichan, the boys come by it honestly.
Their father Cameron Avery, who founded Warmland Films, brought his sons up backstage at Kaleidoscope Theatre and Cruz Studios. He had extensive experience in set design and construction, worked as Kaleidoscope’s technical director, on films such as Roxanne, with Victoria Arts Collaborative and on Expo 86 shows before opening his film production studio in a former vehicle maintenance facility at CFB Esquimalt’s Work Point Barracks in the late 1990s.
“They loved the theatre and when I went sideways into film, they were all over it,” said Avery, recalling he once took Chris out of high school when he was 16 to work as boom operator on Boon Collins’s thriller Sleepover.
Cruz Studios was used for productions including a Tim Hortons commercial and sequences for the horror film Ripper with Jurgen Prochnow; The Watchtower with Tom Berenger; and Company Man, starring ex-footballer Brian Bosworth as FBI agent.
“I couldn’t afford babysitting so I took my sons everywhere,” said Avery, 60, recalling his years as a single father. “They came and worked lots of times. It was perfect for them, being able to get some experience working with the pros.”
Cruz closed because of heightened security DND had to impose post-9/11, making the site impractical, he recalled.
Their company’s title is meaningful, notes Chris, since it harkens back to their Island upbringing and how it influenced them.
“ ‘Cowichan’ translates to ‘The Warm Land’ in Coast Salish, and the Cowichan Valley is where we grew up and to this day consider home,” he said, recalling it’s where they realized this was something they’d pursue for the rest of their lives.”
“We were throwing Dave off the balcony as a stunt double since he was six,” recalled Chris, who began making movies on VHS with his brothers.
While Chris specializes in directing, Sean focuses on cinematography and David on editing.
One of Warmland’s first projects was Osaka Ben, a docudrama shot in Japan seven years ago.
Made in collaboration with students from Tezukayama Gakuin University without a script or a budget, it chronicled the experiences of Sean’s close friend after he began living in Japan.
Other projects include Life Without Marc, a short documentary about the extradition and persecution of Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery, and Booze, Sex and Communism.
Their next big passion project is The Winds, Chris says.
“It’s a series about a group of young people sailing around the Americas raising awareness of some of the issues our generation is facing, and about to face.”
It will again test something they’re often asked about — how three siblings can get along as creative partners.
“We definitely have a competive edge working side by side as brothers,” acknowledges Chris, noting an upside.
“What takes others a conversation to convey, we can say in a single look. That goes a long way on set when time is valuble.”
While sibling rivalry can’t be ignored, he says it helps that they trust each other.
“Anyone with a sibling knows there’s no fight that escalates quite so quickly and intensely as one with a sibling,” he says. “It’s gotten nasty a few times … but at the end of the day, we’re family.”
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