Whoever says high school is the best time of your life obviously never went to high school in Arva. The small town—population 1,000—outside of London, Ontario, inspired first-time director Michael Goldbach to write the drama Daydream Nation. “I think that it was the craziest time of my life,” the 33-year-old says today of growing up there. “I just really feel lucky that I lived through high school. I just thought it was a very bizarre place. I don’t look back on it with any kind of nostalgia. But high school was so insane that it offers great material.”
That material translated into the ominous and shadowy world of Hargrove County, a small town where a serial killer is on the loose, an industrial fire is burning and too-cool-for-her-new-school Caroline Wexter, played with adolescent authenticity by Kat Dennings, is struggling to identify with her new classmates. She gives up and sparks an affair with her teacher played by Josh Lucas.
This may be Goldbach’s first TIFF, but not likely his last—Daydream Nation was received warmly. “I’m a Torontonian, so it’s particularly thrilling to premiere my film at TIFF,” he says. “TIFF has been a catalyst for a lot of great careers. A lot of people have launched themselves off of TIFF.” Until next September, Goldbach will be commuting between his home in Toronto’s west end (he likes to hangout at Ella’s Uncle and the Black Hoof) and L.A., where he is developing a script for Mean Girls director Mark Waters. Goldbach calls himself a “young snowbird” (“I’m brushing up on my shuffleboard skills,” he jokes) and notes it’s not the best time to be a Los Angeleno.
“I’ve seen the American indie world fall apart with the economic recession and it’s really, really tough down there,” he says. “And then you come back to Canada and a tonne of small films are being made and we have a lot of creative freedom up here as well. I think we have to really appreciate it and use our freedom wisely.”