Calgary filmmaker Cameron Macgowan ready to provoke with his feature-length debut Red Letter Day screening at CUFF

How is it that Cameron Macgowan has just became a feature film director now? It seems like something he probably accomplished ages ago, without breaking a sweat. What with programming for the Calgary Underground Film Festival, executive directing the New University Television Society, and making award-winning short films like Liebe (Love) (2013) and Luxure (Lust) (2016), it seems almost startling that we get to be here for his very first full-length feature film Red Letter Day, premiering at 7 p.m., April 26 at CUFF, with Macgowan in attendance.

He also greenlit some kind of ridiculous TV show about cult cinema, called Video Vulture, appearing on NUTV, and featuring … let’s see here … oh, yeah, me. He’s the reason I have a show. Hang on, is this some kind of conflict of interest, here? Am I even allowed to interview this guy?

What’s that? It’s fine? Cool!

Anyways, my first question for Cameron was, “How did you get started?” because I’m a hack.

“I have been obsessed with films since I was a child, and luckily I was able to convince my parents to co-sign on a loan to help me purchase my first video camera in high school. Inspired by the CKY videos (porto-Jackass), my friends and I would record ourselves skateboarding with the occasional prank or skit thrown in. They were rarely good, but were always fun.”

Sound pretty mild, compared to the outrageous, daring, and/or profane material CUFF (and Macgowan himself) would become famous for.

“The hardcore CUFF fans seem to appreciate anything outside of the norm and often these films contain imagery and themes that you don’t see anywhere else. We try to sprinkle in some sugar with the salt, and not all films end up being outrageous, daring and profane. However, my favourites usually include one (if not all) of those descriptors.”

That certainly explains Macgowan’s taboo-defying short film Liebe (Love) which is about “a ghastly love triangle between a man, a maiden and a monster.” That short made a big splash at a lot of international film festivals, and Red Letter Day is starting to do the same.

The feature, which is a horror-thriller about “a recently divorced mother of two (who) receives mysterious letters instructing her and her teenage children to kill the people in their letters before they kill them” in the new suburban community they’ve just moved to, was an official selection at Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival 2019, Cinequest 2019 and the Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival 2019.

I had to ask about the experience of listening to an audience react to your work.

“Watching your work with a group of strangers can be one of the most anxiety inducing experiences of a filmmaker’s career. It is impossible to predict how an audience will react to your film, so it is best to embrace the chaos and just be happy that someone deems your art worth presenting. This is easier said than done and I am lucky to have supportive people in my life who remind me that I’m being ridiculous when having full blown panic attacks before a public presentation.

“I’ve had the privilege of watching Red Letter Daywith an audience in California and an audience in Brussels. In California there was a group of older ladies behind us that were extremely disgusted during certain moments and I must admit that this brought me a strange sense of satisfaction. These same scenes played to loud applause with the audience in Brussels. With this film, we aim to provoke the viewer and I am happy to hear the various reactions from different audience members.”

Making the leap from directing short films to directing features is a feat few filmmakers can pull off. I asked Cameron about this new challenge.

“I made many short films before the production of my first feature film Red Letter Day, and with each of them, I challenged myself to improve upon the previous work in one way or another. I’ve had the privilege of working with close friends on all of those projects, so when it came time for the production of Red Letter Day, I not only knew who I wanted on my team, but I knew that they would have my back. It feels strange to say, but the production of my feature film felt the same as the production of my short films, only longer and more expensive. I spent the majority of my life working toward this goal and treated every day on set like the privilege that it was.”

Nice! Any tips for would-be filmmakers, trying to get started?

“Would-be filmmakers should know that there is not any money to be made in independent filmmaking, so your goal should be the creation of good art and fond memories. Those making films for glory, riches and/or fame would be better off channelling that energy into a more lucrative profession.”

What’s next for Cameron Macgowan? Well, the next two episodes of Video Vultureare in post production, meaning we’ll soon get to see me and my fellow film nerds babble on about Lady Terminatorand Luchador cinema, but Cameron also hints at a “very special release” planned for mid-June 2019.

“We are also working our little butts off to ensure that Red Letter Day is seen by as many people as possible in hopes that we can gain enough traction to make another feature film.”

Sounds good to me. I’ve got my ticket. See you all on the 26th.

Red Letter Day screens Friday, April 26 at the Globe Cinema as part of the Calgary Underground Film Festival with the director and crew in attendance. For tickets please go to

John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his website, Facebook, Twitter and through episodes of a program he’s doing with NUTV.