Goner tells the bizarre tale of a young woman (played by Camilla Purdy) who mysteriously vanishes and reappears in random locations every time she falls asleep. Haunted by a shadowy figure (Cedric Keka Shako), she must enlist the help of a random traveler (Paul Burke) and do everything she can to find her way home.
Writer-director Trey Martis says his love for mystery, drama and fantasy inspired the original idea for the strange phenomenon behind the film nearly ten years ago.
“I daydream a lot. In my imagination, I often put myself in different crazy ‘what if?’-type scenarios like, what would my reaction be if I went to sleep and I suddenly woke up in a totally different city or in a different country?” Martis says. “The idea stuck in my head. A few weeks later, I wrote the first draft of the script, but I didn’t touch it again until years later.”
Martis relocated to Quebec from the United States in 2018, at which point he says he decided to revisit the concept as a way to challenge himself as a filmmaker and storyteller.
“I treat every short film I make like an assignment to prepare for the ‘big exam’ – my first feature film,” he says. “Each project is a way to practice my storytelling skills and to prepare myself for more important projects.”
“I treat every short film I make like an assignment to prepare for the ‘big exam’ – my first feature film.”
After connecting with cinematographer Claude Précourt, Martis says he began reworking his idea with an eye on finally bringing the story to the screen.
“As soon as the script was ready, I spoke with Claude – who is also a close friend of mine – about how I wanted the overall cinematography of the film to be,” he explains. “I wanted almost all the shots to be static, which also made the shooting process less difficult.”
The self-funded project was filmed in Montreal and nearby Kahnawake in late-2022 on a budget of roughly $5,000 (CAD), with additional footage shot in February 2023. Working through the wintertime, however, brought numerous difficulties, especially when it came to shooting a key scene in a snowy field in sub-zero temperatures.
“We were all freezing and the whole crew had to walk two miles carrying all the equipment in the heavy snow,” Martis recalls. “Camilla had to wear nothing but a tank top for the scene in order to preserve continuity. The follow focus also stopped working due to the extreme cold. But, in the end, we still made it work and we had tons of fun.”
“There’s always some new knowledge that you can unlock when doing these kinds of projects.”
He adds that, despite the challenges, he is grateful for the opportunity he had to collaborate with everyone who helped make the film possible, and for the lessons he has taken away from the experience.
“Even if the result isn’t what you expected, but at least you achieved something, there’s always some new knowledge that you can unlock when doing these kinds of projects,” he says.
Goner is currently preparing its festival run, with a wider released planned for summer 2024. Despite the temptation to pursue a feature-length version, however, Martis says he is focused on the present and finding opportunities to share the short with a bigger audience.
“After seeing this film, I want people to ask themselves what they would do if this situation happened to them,” he says. “Other than that, I just hope that they will enjoy the film.”
Connect with Trey Martis on Instagram here (@i_am_tremas).