Where does one start but at the beginning. I’m always amazed that no matter how bleak and dark situations seem to be at the beginning of a film (whether it is a big budget or no budget) everything seems to work out in the end. We are fortunate here in Canada to have government funding agencies that support the arts. And there are definitely more artists going to the well with innovative ideas, so to be accepted for financing is like winning a lottery. Therefore, I want and need to thank Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for their support for this project, because without their foresight this project would simple not be made.
This has been quite a journey for me. I original came across the story when the author Murray Logan, was doing some script editing with me on a feature length script I was writing back in 1998. Murray handed me a copy of his book of short stories titled “The King of Siam”. I read the titled story and knew instantly that I wanted to make it into a short film. Seven years later I was able to see it through, but not without trials and tribulation.
When I had received the news that the “The King of Siam” was granted funding I was excited and knee deep working as a Second Unit Location Manager for the feature film ‘Silent Hill’. So my first concern was “when would I find the time to focus on making the film” and second most important problem to solve was “Where was I going to film the horse racing scenes”.
This is the part that kinda freaks me out. In between working on ‘Silent Hill’ we took a small hiatus for about a week, to shoot pickup shots for the film ‘Lucky Number Slevin’ starring Bruce Willis and Josh Harnett. The scene to shoot was the stunt where the race horse falls down dead during the race. The Fort Erie Race Track (near Buffalo) allowed us to film on their track for five (5) days in July. I was the ALM (Assistant Location Manager) on the shoot and I got to know the track Liaison quite well since we worked together closely for five days. Everything went smoothly and at the end everyone was quite pleased with the experience. I returned to work on ‘Silent Hill’ and was back to wading in s**t for the next month. ‘Silent Hill’ wrapped at the end of August and I was set free. It was time to focus of the project.
I decided I wanted hire professional actors and crew to shoot the project. Once again is it luck or fate? While filming a one day re-shoot of a re-shoot for ‘Lucky Number Slevin’ I met my DOP John Holosko. Up to this time I didn’t know John. Actually I didn’t know any DOP’s because I had only been working in Ontario for approximately a year. I moved from British Columbia where I spent twelve (12) years in film. Anyways, John was the DOP on the re-shoot. On set he was quite friendly ~ speaking with everyone, helpful, approachable. Very unusual for a DOP in the film industry. So, I told him that I was looking for a DOP for my project and would he be interested in shooting it. Without missing a beat he said, “Sure. Send me the script and let’s talk.” The rest is history and the product of the experience is a friendship that has been casted in stone.
It was important to go to ACTRA to sign up for the TIP (Toronto Independent Production) program. Let’s just say “They don’t make it easy” and leave it at that. But, with the help of a very talented and gracious Casting Director by the name of Millie Tom ~ she set up the meetings with David Keeley, Kristopher Turner, Shannon Lawson and Anna-Maria Sutherland. I wouldn’t have the superb cast that I do if it wasn't for her. Next was a race track. I wanted a working track so that I could shoot during race days to take advantage of filming actual races. Woodbine Race Track wouldn’t even talk to me. Flamboro Downs operates 7 days a week. Maybe? Maybe Fort Erie Race Track would let me. I know Daryl Wells the liaison, we got along great! Fort Erie is about two (2) hour drive from Toronto but it’s a race track. So, I called Daryl and he was like “Sure you can Byron! You know the drill about filming around horses. When would you like to do it? You know the season closes on November 1st?”
In September I was hired to be the re-shoot Location Manager for ‘Silent Hill’. Let’s just say the experience was ‘hell like’ I was basically prepping two shows at once.
The re-shoots for ‘Silent Hill’ was going to be the first two weeks in October with the first half of the shoot on location and the second half in the studio. It’s all working to plan. Until… (to be continued)