June 2014 Issue

June 2014

Canada’s Call Sheet

By Judith Klassen

The Devil is in the Details

June 2014Writer/director Joseph O’Brien and producing-partner Mark Opausky took a methodical approach when structuring O’Brien’s feature-length directorial debut, The Devil’s Mile. Yes, they talked to distributors and did their market research, but the big question they asked themselves was: when you don’t have mega stars and a blow ’em up budget, what makes your film stand out? The answer: a good script with a compelling story that attracts great actors. And it doesn’t hurt to cast against type.

Back in 2000 when he was a writer on the SPACE miniseries RoboCop: Prime Directives, O’Brien worked with award-winning Canadian actress Maria Del Mar (Blue Murder). Based on this introduction he approached her with an early draft of The Devil’s Mile. Says O’Brien, “I marched the script up to her house myself. She was the first person to sign on.”

Next they contacted writer and world famous voice actor David Hayter (Metal Gear). Says O’Brien, “In the 90s Hayter went to LA to be an actor and ended up becoming an A-list screenwriter – he wrote the first two X-Men movies! We heard he still had that original urge to act onscreen, so we reached out. His response was, ‘When someone asks me to be in their movie I have two questions, when does it start and where do you need me to be?’”

Casting Frank Moore (The Long Kiss Goodnight) as the Devil (Mr. Arkadi) was also a clear choice. O’Brien recalls Moore’s audition, “He didn’t move. He just quietly did his part and then left the room abruptly. He was terrifying.”

When it came to casting the fearless female protagonist Jacinta, Casey Hudecki was the only person they considered. Says O’Brien, “With an independent movie, you can make riskier choices. Casey’s also a stunt performer, has the real chops – and she happily hung upside down for an entire day.”

With elements of Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects, and even a dash of Groundhog Day, The Devil’s Mile has many archetypal alt influences, but as O’Brien is quick to point out, it’s not a direct homage to anything. “It’s a classic crime thriller that edges slowly towards horror.”

Presented by Phase 4 Films and Swim Pictures/Groversmill. Exec Producer: Colin Geddes. Also stars: Amanda Joy Lim and Samantha Wan.

You Can Do That on Film!

June 2014For his first feature film, Guidance, writer, director, and lead actor Pat Mills taps into his child-actor days when he was one of the stars of YTV’s You Can’t Do That on Television. Add to that his long-running obsession with those messy, painful high school years and you have a never-coming-of-age story that is also a kind of never- coming-out story. Like Mills, the main character, David Gore, doesn’t identify with either sex, and posits, “Can’t we be neither?”

Based on his contention that well-adjusted “normal” people are of absolutely no use to those of us in trouble, Mills created a heightened, darkly hilarious version of himself and unleashed him on a fictional high school as an openly substance-abusing guidance counselor. A quick trip through his Telefilm trailer hooks you. Mills is hilarious, outrageous, and his style smacks of the authentic and the surreal – think Welcome to the Doll House with a fresh slap of WTF? Gore drinks while riding his bicycle, shuns dire warnings from his doctor, and in desperate need of a paying gig literally fakes his way into the position of guidance councilor. Says Mills, “I wanted to play with the irony of someone employed by the self-help industry who is about as psychologically damaged as it gets.”

Co producers: Mike MacMillan, and Alyson Richards (The Tom Green Show).

Sex and the Set

June 2014In an usual move, writer/director Jeremy Lalonde cast his film Sex After Kids before he went from outline to script. With hefty Canadian star power onboard like Gordon Pinsent and Peter Keleghan, Lalonde had a good reason to wait and write to the talent. Sex After Kids is a multi-generational ensemble comedy that involves a lot of funny Canadian actors – often in multi-dimensional sex scenes.

June 2014Says Keleghan, “Sex scenes are awkward. Nice to meet you, I’m going to rub your breasts now. It’s always very by the numbers, nothing remotely sexy about it. But they can be very funny – the sound Amanda (Brugel) made when she had that orgasm, it was like a possessed goat. I couldn’t stop laughing.” Ennis Esmer (The Listener), who plays Shannon Beckner’s sexually frustrated husband, jokes that if needed he can simply employ the following line in his own defense: “My body doesn’t know this isn’t real.”

Ensembles can be unwieldy, but the chemistry in this Canuck comedy for grown-ups crackles. Playing dysfunctional British siblings, Lost Girl’s Zoie Palmer and Paul Amos have a kind of Withnail and I banter worthy of a film unto itself. Like most of today’s indie flicks, SAK owes much to crowd-funding. Says Keleghan, who is down with helping creditable new filmmakers by lending his draw power, “The money for filmmaking has become so fragmented that crowd sourcing is the new normal. That also means that the distance between the creative and the screen is much shorter than it’s ever been, and I think that part is terrific.” With a large but effective cast and moments of brilliance from all involved, SAK also stars: Jay Brazeau, Kristin Booth, Katie Boland, Kate Hewlett, Kris Holden-Ried (Lost Girl), Christine Horne (Lost Girl), Mary Kronert (An Amish Murder), and Mimi Kuzyk (The Walking Dead).

Judith Klassen is a Toronto-based writer, comedian, filmmaker, and host of the celeb talk show Judecast.

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