Catch 'em all — on camera: Sask. filmmakers' Pokémon live-action short film a celebration
Both filmmakers grew up playing the iconic video game
Luke Halyk and Joel Kereluke hope their new short film is a super-effective tribute to their favourite video game series.
The pair grew up in Saskatchewan small towns not far from each other, Halyk in Foam Lake and Kereluke in Wadena. They bonded over video games, including Pokémon, the long-running game franchise that has players capturing, training and fighting cartoonish monsters.
Now they've turned their mutual love for the games into a live-action short film. The two launched Pokémon: Call to Adventure this month.
"We thought that creating a cinematic short film inspired by Pokémon would be a really good way to pay tribute to one of our favourite series," Halyk said.
Halyk remembers getting Pokémon Crystal for Gameboy Colour and bonding with family and friends over the game. Pokémon is usually based on the archetypal hero's journey, Halyk said, giving it wide appeal.
"Somebody coming from a humble background and pursuing an adventure — having challenges that they need to overcome — that's always kind of been a universal story," he said.
Kereluke said he has a lot of nostalgia for the series.
"I remember as a kid spending a lot of time, a lot of summers at the like just being encompassed by this one little Gameboy game — that charm stayed with me — it still exists as magical," he said.
The idea for a short film came when the two were studying film at the University of Regina. They both convocated this past Spring and decided to have it be their first project outside of school. They co-produced, with Halyk directing and Kereluke doing cinematography.
The pair knew Pokémon has a lot of fans with high expectations for anything to do with the franchise.
"We wanted to get a balance of that original story and new characters — but also make sure that it would be appealing for fans," Halyk said.
There were obstacles when shooting, including the weather conditions. They shot over three days in Saskatchewan with local cast and crew members.
Abby Clifford, a 16-year-old from Regina, played Sophia, the lead role in the film. Clifford grew up playing Pokémon cards with her older brothers and watching them play the games.
"The characters, they were just so intriguing with their powers and how you could play and follow them and just being able to catch them," she said. "It was almost like a fantasy of having one of my own."
The actual filming process was less fantastical. Clifford had to pretend a rock or a puck was a Pokémon. But the final product was worth it, she said.
"It was amazing how much effort they had put into it and how much time it took for such a small project," she said.
The animation for the short film was outsourced from Saskatchewan and done by Giuseppe Morabito, an animator in Italy, Halyk said.
Kereluke hopes the short gives Pokémon fans a new way to celebrate the game, he said.
Halyk and Kereluke hope to do more live action — whether original ideas or from video games — in the future.