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This hand is all Aces

Thursday, June 1, 2006

  • Top from L-R: James Poirier, Derek Montalbetti and Thomas Gofton. Bottom: Casey Dutfield and Michael Chudnovsky

    Top from L-R: James Poirier, Derek Montalbetti and Thomas Gofton. Bottom: Casey Dutfield and Michael Chudnovsky

Written by Adam A. Donaldson

The sight of film crews shooting a movie has recently become a relatively frequent sight in and around the city of Guelph. Now another homegrown production company is taking a stab at shooting an indie film here in our own backyard. Last week, filming got underway on the romantic comedy Four Aces, written by U of G student Thomas Gofton and directed by U of G alum Michael Chudnovsky.

Unlike past films though where the Royal City stands in for another, more expensive locations, this tale of a free spirited girl who comes into the lives of four best friends is taking place against the backdrop of the U of G campus and the greater city of Guelph.

The Cannon recently got the chance to sit down with Gofton, Chudnovsky, leading lady Casey Dutfield, director of photography Derek Montalbetti and co-producer James Poirier to talk about the joys and challenges in getting the cameras rolling for Four Aces.

“I got a concept and I started talking about it with friends and over winter break I actually sat down and wrote a very rough and edgy preliminary script,” says Gofton. With a rough script in hand, Gofton began searching out the means to turn it into a full fledge film. He approached Chudnovsky in the hopes he'd co-produce, but instead found a director. Then, through connections in the Drama department, they put together a cast. They found a cinematographer in Gofton's old friend Montalbetti, who had recently returned from film school in New York. Finally, Poirier came on to co-produce the enterprise.

Getting this team together was only natural; after all they had worked together before last summer on Elnino Cinema's latest opus Kill. Elnino of course is the production house that rose to local legend in the wake of their first film Desperate Souls, which a few members of the Four Aces team had also been a part of.

The collective started their own production company called Lynnvander Productions, they've already filmed a commercial for Eaton Electrical and a music video for The Johnstones, both of which can be viewed on the company's website.

But right now, the focus is on Four Aces; a film that goes where so many stories have gone before: the age-old tale of how the love for one particular girl affects the friendship of two or more guys who are smitten with her. How does one put anew spin on this classic story?

“I can't take all the credit,” says Gofton. “Mike here did a lot of work on the screenplay, helping with the flow of the script, making sure it was strong.

“It is very archetypal, but we made the four guys strangely unique,” he continues. “One guy has a girl friend already so that creates a kind of love triangle. Another character's very much a coward to ask a girl out so that creates a kind of cutesy scenario. Another character is gay, so he doesn't actually go for her, but it creates an interesting dynamic on how a male and a female can be friends. And then the last character is a broken heart and shows the aspect of what a broken heart can do. I think it's a collaboration of all the romantic ideals you see in movies as opposed to just one.”

“One of the big ways it's different, without getting to much into it, is that it doesn't have a particularly happy ending,” offers Chudnovsky. “It ends well I would say, I don't think you're meant to be disappointed in the end, but certainly there's no wedding scene in the end. No doubt about it; it's a love story, but it's a love story about four guys falling in love with one girl and more importantly, about one girl falling in love with the four guys as a group.”

The producers managed to raise a pretty hefty budget it terms of local independent film, Gofton attributes that to the age-old method of asking friends and family to invest in the project. According to Chudnovsky, raising funds will be ongoing process because every stage of making the film comes with it’s own special monetary requirements, from renting equipment to editing in post-production.

“The other thing is we managed to keep our projected budget really low,” adds Chudnovsky. “Ideally, the outcome will be that people will think that the budget is a lot higher than it was, a lot of people, even if it’s not money that they’re giving us, are really opening their doors.”

This has come in the form of business offering to let the crew use them as locations like Van Gogh’s downtown, donating the use of props, or in the case of Ambiance Catering, volunteering to feed the cast and crew during the duration of the shoot. “Even though it’s not physical dollars, they end up saving us a lot of money when it comes down to it and that’s how we’ve been able to keep that ideal number,” says Chudnovsky.

Overall, the team praises the reception they’ve received from the university and the greater Guelph community. They’ve been truly overwhelmed by the offers of support they’ve received and credit that to the fact that Guelph itself is featured prominently in the film. Gofton says that his phone has been ringing off the hook with offers lately.

The plan with Four Aces right now is to complete principle photography through till the end of June and then jump right into the editing process. “Were pretty ambitious when it comes to this film,” enthuses Gofton. “If it goes according to plan, we want to have a premiere of it here, locally, in January or February.”

According to Gofton, they have already have some contacts with a major Canadian film distribution firm that has expressed an interest in shopping Four Aces around for an eventual direct-to-video release much like Desperate Souls deal through Lions Gate.

“From that point were going to try and get it in a few film festivals and try and get it anywhere for sale and try and make our money back and generate some profits so that we can make the next film. I have the next two in my head,” says Gofton.

“There’s definitely a plan,” adds Chudnovsky. “But whether or not that plan comes to fruition because the plan for this one has changed so much in the last three months that we aren’t planning for the next one till this one’s released.”

Right now, everybody’s focus is filming this thing. Earlier this month they held heir Ace of Clubs show at Van Gogh’s to recruit extras for the film. Coming up on June 8th is the Ace of Diamonds show, which the crew will utilize to film background for the movie. Anyone coming to the show will get a chance to interact with the cast in character as camera crews capture the night’s festivities.

Eventually, the Lynnvander crew hopes to hold two more Ace of… shows to raise money and awareness as they continue through post-production, including, at some point, the unveiling of a teaser trailer.

The excitement generated by this latest homegrown production has once more added fuel to the fire of Guelph’s burgeoning reputation as a film friendly destination.

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