Apr. 28, 2004 - Issue #445: Rolling Up The Rim
The skits just keep on coming
The Morrison Project is a triumph of no-budget comic filmmakingThe fresh-faced cinemanauts of Blacklisted Productions don’t expect everyone to love their new film, The Morrison Project. But, like a certain brand of Canadian beer, they expect the people who like it, will like it a lot. “It’s not for everybody,” explains producer Bree Dreger. “We didn’t want to make a movie for everybody, so I guess it is more of a cult-type movie. There will be big fans and some people just won’t appreciate it, and we’re prepared for that.” “Its playing at the Princess,” adds director/writer/animator/actor Riley Beach, “so you expect ‘different’ movies to play there. While we want to do things for ourselves, this is aimed at an audience.... It’s just not a huge audience.” If making an esoteric movie was their goal, they’ve succeeded. The Morrison Project is odd—often willfully so. It pulls no punches in its pursuit of a very particular brand of humour, and will likely elicit reactions ranging from shock and confusion to laughter and even possibly disgust. It’s a surreal journey that presents itself as a tale spun by the “greatest grandpa in the world,” Earnest Ol’ Pete. But that’s really just a skeleton for a Monty Python/Mr. Show-style collection of sketches examining such unlikely subjects as a modest serial killer, a man’s paranoid defense of his suburban home, an attempt to grow the world’s greatest grandfather and a post-apocalyptic trio trying to repopulate the earth’s plant life. “We decided to make it a bunch of short movies,” Beach says, “or try to make it so it could be sectioned off into pieces and sent in parts, if need be, to festivals. So we could have a multipurpose movie that could debut in Edmonton and be broken up and fired off and make as much use of it as we could.” The various segments all employ the same core performers, all of whom play multiple roles. And if you’ve seen any locally-produced comedy films over the last couple of years, you’ll be familiar with their faces; they’re all part of the Draft Six, whose résumé includes such titles as The Sonic Brooms, Purple Gas and Turnbuckle. “Instead of trying to find 50 different people,” Dreger says, “we talked to [Draft Sixer Kevin Gillese], who approached his friends and they asked to take it on as a group and play various parts and we were game for that. They also had experiences with Turnbuckle and Sonic Brooms and putting on premieres and with grants so they ended up helping us in more ways than just acting.” Hang on here—shouldn’t those be the kind of skills these recent NAIT graduates should have gotten from the radio and television program where they met? “NAIT is a really news-oriented program and they’re constantly trying to make it better,” Dreger says, “because when we left we didn’t feel prepared enough for the producer role. I didn’t know enough about grants or producing or these areas. But I’m happy to say that they are starting to offer more.” Dreger adds that she and fellow Blacklisted member Justin Lachance are happily enrolled in the school’s new 16-month Producers Emergence Program, which is designed to help radio and television graduates or those with some industry experience prep pitches for broadcasters. “NAIT gives you a good base program so that you learn everything you can [about] technical [matters] and writing and stuff,” Lachance says, “but if you want to perfect it and really get it down then you have to go out and do it. That’s how the industry works. As filmmakers you have to do these lower-budget films to get bigger funds from the government to show you have credibility and skills. If you are emerging, though, this is the best way to get into the loop.” And The Morrison Project was certainly a low-budget affair. Like all local productions seem to be, the film was made possible more through the goodwill and hard work of altruistic friends than the presence of deep-pocketed investors (although a $10,000 Alberta Foundation for the Arts grant to cover hard costs like costumes and equipment definitely came in handy). Locations were supplied by friends of the production team and no one got paid. The lack of funds forced the group to be creative, especially when it came time to promote the film—they came up with ideas like distributing trading cards (collect all four!) and importing a troupe of breakdancing grandpas to perform at the premiere. Working against the Morrison Project team is the fact that Alberta is not exactly known as a filmmaking hot spot, but right now they have no plans to seek out greener (and warmer) pastures. “There’s a lot of talent here and we could definitely keep working here for a while,” says Lachance. “I think that Edmonton has a potential for greatness and that everyone who comes to see this will be helping out. I think if we keep on making movies then maybe we’ll get a buzz and the money will come back.” V The Morrison Project Directed by Riley Beach • Written by Riley Beach and Nathan Fleishauer • Starring Kevin Gillese, Ian Rowe, Josh Dean, Chris Connelly, Jana O’Connor and William Minsky • Opens Fri, Apr 30
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