Top 10 2023

Ava’s quiet date night out at the cinema turns into a nightmare when she’s trapped in a toilet stall during an active shooting attack.

With only a thin door separating her from the gunman, she is forced to confront him and try to find a way to survive. ’10-33′ will most likely be one of the most terrifying films you will see this year, if not ever. Not because of a blood-curdling creature lurking a home, but rather from the brutal reality of facing a ruthless and despaired gunman in what might be potentially your final moments. Director Alexander Maxim Seltzer looked into his personal fears, covering an issue that is very often considered an American issue. But being Canadian, Alexander says “these types of attacks are sadly not uncommon in Canada, see the attacks at Dawson College, Montreal, Polytechnique, Montreal, and other attacks in Toronto and Nova Scotia just to name the most recent.” This genesis of 10-33 came from experiences surrounding the countless horrific attacks perpetrated more often than not by men against women. We had the chance to talk with Alexander who told us a little more about his film.

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

A lot of my work deals with themes around toxic masculinity and its effects on men and women. With 10-33, I really wanted to explore this theme through a horror and suspense genre lens. The sad reality is that we live in a society where these types of attacks on cinemas, schools, workplaces, places of worship, grocery stores, nightclubs, and pretty much everywhere else are seemingly neverending. So, I’m sure like a lot of people I often find myself very wary and anxious in big crowds or out in public. After attending a film festival where I couldn’t help but keep turning around nervously every few minutes as someone entered or exited the screenings I realized I had to channel my anxiety into something else, into 10-33.

How did you go about casting for Ava and the gunman?

Casting Ava was super easy – I went to my friend Alison Louder right after writing the script. I wanted her opinion on it and after we chatted for a few hours I knew immediately that I wanted her to play the part. She brought so much depth to the role and really threw herself into it. I’m so grateful for that. As for finding Andrew Chown for the role of the gunman. I was afraid that was going to be really tricky but I had the great fortune and luck of working with Jesse Griffiths in Toronto. He and his team put together a bunch of auditions for me and Andrew stood out immediately. He got the nuance in the character, the dread, the self-loathing, and the perverse self-righteousness. We had him come in for a chemistry read with Alison and we all knew right away, he was our guy. He was wonderful in rehearsal with lots of challenging questions and on set he really came prepared which was a godsend since we could only afford to have him for one day.

As a writer/director are you open to changes or suggestions when you start shooting or do you like to stick to what has been written?

I’m absolutely open to changes during production, I’m a firm believer that I might not have the best ideas and really love the collaborative aspect of filmmaking, whether its character action, lines, set design, camera moves, and framing to lighting I’m always leaning on my collaborators for different ideas. Anything that can make the final film better and more effective is what I’m after.

What was the most challenging element for you in this film?

Great question, as my first short there was a lot that was challenging in terms of the production. Especially since I shot this in a town about an hour outside of Toronto, when I was living in Montreal at the time. So there were all the logistical challenges to sort out. Thankfully my incredible line producer Jimmy Bellemere came through for me and really took a lot off my plate. But probably the biggest challenge was the tight filming location. Since most of the film takes place inside a bathroom stall, which by the way was a real location as we didn’t have money to build a set with movable walls (that would have been way easier!) we had to constantly remove walls and put them back in throughout our shoot. Shout out to the wonderful James Hankin who took it all in stride as my one-man art department band. They always say to film a contained one-location short, well I wouldn’t recommend doing it in quite such a “contained” location. From moving around, finding camera angles, and trying to squeeze everyone into such a small place… it was a big challenge.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

10-33 taught me a lot about filmmaking, from production, the importance of collaboration and keeping cast and crews happy and fed, to post, and the workflow of sound design, foley, and mix (shout out to Eugenio Battaglia who did an incredible job) and working with a composer (the supremely talented Nick Storring). But the film also taught me a lot about the festival circuit as it let me attend so many amazing festivals where I got to meet talented filmmakers, see their work and really learn from everyone’s passions as well as see what audiences react to in terms of shorts. It was eye-opening to me every step of the way. I think the biggest thing I learned was just to get stuck in, and keep making stuff, even if it isn’t perfect. Make something as earnestly as you can and people will respond.

What do you hope people will take away from 10-33?

That’s a great question, I hope people will come away scared, and terrified cause that’s how it makes me feel but more importantly I hope they can empathize with Ava and her story. I’m a firm believer that we’re really lacking a lot of empathy in the world these days and so I hope that my film can engender just a bit more of it and maybe lead to some real change down the road.

What are your favorite short films?

Oh, there are so many. Nacho Vigalondo’s “7:35 in the morning” is definitely up there as a film that’s stuck with me ever since I saw it. I also have to shout out some recent ones I saw this past year or so on the festival circuit which really made an impression on me.

The Tenant” by Lucas Paulino and Ángel Torres, is a really great horror short. Tipper Newton’s “The Dangerous Type”, is such a unique vision and feels so effortlessly crafted and well just damn cool. “Grummy” by R.H. Norman and Micheline Pitt, it’s got beautiful set and creature work, a great lead performance and is a really sensitive story told through a fantastical genre lens, what more could you want in a short?

Which films you can say directly inspired this film?

Regarding subject matter, characterization, and nuance pov, I’d say Denis Villeneuve’s film Polytechnique and Justin (the DOP) and I talked about Buried during the pre-production phase a lot with regards to filming something compelling and visually interesting while in an enclosed space.