Code 8 transports the viewer to an alternate reality where superpowers are a reality amongst the people yet are considered potentially dangerous to others and have been outlawed by the government. When Conner (Robbie Amell) discovers that his mother is tragically ill, he turns to a group of criminals, led by Garrett (Stephen Amell) in order to help him get the funding he needs to pay for her medical bills. However, as Connor falls deeper into the underworld, he must decide whether or not his mother’s health is worth losing his soul. Having been involved in the project from the very beginning, star Robbie Amell admits that the film developed out of his interest in working with his close family and friends.
“My cousin [Stephen Amell, Arrow] and I knew we wanted to work together on something,” he begins. “[I was also trying to work with] one of my best friends, Jeff Chan, who directed the movie, and his writing partner, Chris Pare. So, they came up with a concept and we shot the short film just as a proof of concept and hope to make a little bit of money on Indiegogo. It blew up. We front paged on Reddit and then the campaign blew up to way bigger than we [could have] ever imagined. Then, $2.5 million later and 27, 000 backers later, we were able to make a much bigger movie than we had thought possible.”
While it’s becoming increasingly more common for online campaigns to help projects get off the ground, the sheer amount of support that Code 8 received from fans was nothing short of remarkable. Though they had high hopes, Amell also notes that they were nervous about reaching out the public in order to help their film come to life.
“It was scary,” he recalls. “You put yourself out there and you invest money into a short film and you just hope people will be into it. Luckily, they were. We always planned on just using it as kind of a launch pad to work with Canada, Telefilm and tax credits [but] we were really able to do that on a much larger level because of the success of the Indiegogo campaign.”
Featuring a cast of both newcomers and veterans, Code 8 is filled with engaging performances from its cast. While the increased budget may have allowed for better special effects and sequences, Amell also understands and appreciates the importance of having quality actors that offer great performances in order to bring the film to life.
“We got really lucky with our cast,” Amell beams. “Greg Bryk was fantastic. Kary Matchett was so good as my mom. Laysla [De Oliviera] is a friend of ours that just came in… We got so lucky. Peter Outerbridge did us a favor because, it was down to him and Greg Bryk for the Sutcliffe roll [but] we leaned more towards the disheveled kind of ‘losing it’ version of the character with Greg. When Peter came in, we asked him if he would still come on in the smaller role in the hopes that if we do a sequel, the next step [would be] that he could be involved. He was gracious enough to be a part of it.“
Of course, one of the key draws to the film for Robbie was the opportunity to work more extensively with his cousin, Stephen Amell. Best known for his role as Oliver Queen in CW’s Arrow series, Stephen has shared a brief amount of screen time with his younger cousin before. However, in the development of Code 8, both Amells finally had the opportunity to truly work together for the first time.
Says Amell, “We had a little team-up fight on The Flash but we didn’t say anything to each other. So, it was great to spend six weeks creating our own movie, being our own boss and kind of molding and finding these scenes. The only reason we were able to do that was because this movie was made by friends and family and the Indiegogo backers and Telefilm. It’s a very unique way to be able to create a project. We had a blast. We got to see how the other one works in their process and feed off each other. It was great.”
Given his experience in the genre over the course of his career, Amell believes that the science fiction atmosphere continues to draw him in due to its opportunity to both entertain and challenge at the same time.
“I think it gives you an entertaining way to tell interesting stories,” he explains. “For instance, our movie is a crime drama about how far [my character will] go to save his mom. The nice thing is you get the sci-fi package to kind of make it a little more entertaining and hit a broader audience. Sometimes, if you’re making a character drama, it’s tough to really make it marketable. So, for us, we felt that the grounded sci-fi genre was our wheel house. We knew it well and were fans of it. So, we wanted to try and make something with a little more substance but above all else we wanted to entertain.”
With this in mind, the film’s grounded tone and gritty feel allow for it feel both futuristic and contemporary at the same time. For Amell, maintaining this balance was essential because their goal for the film was to offer something different from more typical science fiction films at the box office.
“Part of it was that everyone has seen the big citywide fight scenes,” Amell argues. “It’s not to say I don’t enjoy those. I go see every big Marvel and DC movie but we knew that that wasn’t the story we wanted to tell. We wanted to tell this grounded character-driven crime thriller. (We used Heat as an example.) We wanted it to feel relatable and it wasn’t ever going to take place in a world of right and wrong or black and white. It was always going to be these gray areas that I think exist more in real life. People make decisions and other people don’t always agree with them. So, we wanted to tell this real story and we thought it would be more relatable. At its core, I feel like everyone can relate to doing the wrong things for the right reasons when you’re trying to save a loved one… Above all else, he just wants to make her happy, make her proud and take care of her, even if it means losing her.“
Despite existing in a world where superhuman abilities are a reality, Code 8 grapples with larger real-world problems such as racial profiling and poverty issues. While Amell feels that the film isn’t directly trying to make a particular social commentary, they did allow themselves to ground the story within a world of marginalization and oppression.
“The many outweigh the few,” Amell clarifies. “So, even though there are [people with] powers, they’re only 4% [of the population] and, of those 4%, the powers range from class one to five. Ones and twos aren’t very dangerous but you’ve got a militarized police force [and] a marginalization of people with powers. We weren’t trying to preach anything but we always wanted to draw from inspiration from real life and things that are going on around the world.”
Having said this, it begs the question of whether the film is purely a standalone venture or if the intent is there to continue the story. Asked if he hopes for a Code 9, Amell remains hopeful but knows that it depends entirely on the audience response to this film.
“We hope so. We’re definitely not done telling our story but we’ll see how it goes.”
For full audio of our interview with Robbie Amell, click here.
Code 8 rolls into theatres across the US and VOD on December 13th, 2019.