First-time filmmakers shoot crime thriller In Plain View at shuttered Shamrock Hotel
By: Eric Volmers
Date: October 27, 2016
Source: Calgary Herald
There are clearly some notable differences between the luxurious Overlook Hotel and the not-so-luxurious Shamrock Hotel.
But the mountainous and isolated setting of Stephen King’s horror-classic the Shining and Ramsay’s recently shuttered tavern do share a certain vibe when devoid of people.
The Shamrock has been closed for nearly a year but was briefly resurrected as the main setting of the darkly comic crime thriller In Plainview, which wrapped production earlier this week in Calgary.
“It’s weird,” says actor Aaron Douglas, sitting in one of Shamrock’s many empty rooms on a chilly morning last week. “You leave a building for this long and it loses all its life and its energy. People haven’t been in here to infuse it with that energy. It’s very The Shining.”
That may be true. But for the producers of In Plainview, the latest Calgary-based team to receive funding from Telefilm Canada’s Micro-Budget Production Program, finding an empty hotel to shoot in was a godsend.
As with most movies shot on a shoestring, the needs of the script overwhelmed the realities of the budget. Producers needed a hotel with a bar and a restaurant and needed it for cheap.
So there was a big sigh of relief when the resourceful Murray Ord, a veteran locations manager, quickly landed the boarded-up Shamrock.
“A lot of the movie is a bit of a shell game of characters near missing each other,” says producer Scott Westby. “It all happens in a hotel in a small town in Alberta called Plainview. This place just fell into our lap. It’s in town, an empty hotel and has all that stuff. That just doesn’t happen. We were extremely lucky.”
In Plainview is the directorial debut of Matt Watterworth, who is partners with Westby in the Calgary-based video production company Full Swing Productions. The thriller tells the story of a corrupt cop named Penner (Douglas) who is released from prison and seeks revenge on the man who put him there, his equally corrupt ex-partner Rand (played by Calgary theatre actor Stafford Perry). Rand is also being pursued by his jilted ex-wife Wynter (Chantal Perron). It’s based on a screenplay by Kevin Doree, a Calgarian who reportedly watches at least one movie a day. What results is a bloody, Coen-esque film with hints of Tarantino and a dash of David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence.
“It has a lot of dark comedy and it gets pretty violent,” says Westby. “It sort of rides that line. The Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men is tonally what it’s a lot like, but it has a lot of funny moments in it too.”
Ord isn’t the only film veteran involved. Calgary director Robert Cuffley signed on as a mentor and executive producer. Heartland’s Shaun Johnston shot his scenes on weekends, playing a “voice of reason” named Reverend Rickman. Theatre actor and dialect coach David LeReaney also has a role. But there are also a good number of newcomers involved, including students from Watterworth and Westby’s alma mater SAIT.
Douglas, a busy TV veteran known for roles in Battlestar Galactica and the Bridge, admits there are pros and cons to shooting micro-budgeted fare with a green director and largely novice crew. But he said In Plainview has a lot of the elements he was looking for.
“My agent has a standing order to look for festival films, indie type stuff that is cool and up-and-coming producers, writers and directors and that sort of thing,” he said. “You get a lot that come across the desk and some are good and some not so much. I really liked this one.”
“I liked the idea of dudes picking up a gun and wandering around and seeing if they can do bad things,” he adds. “I’m not super artsy. I’m not a really artsy actor, I’m not an actorly actor. I like the real kind of stuff.”
For Watterworth, who is also developing a sci-fi film with Westby, the main draw of In Plainview was its practicality. The fact that it could be shot with a green crew, small cast and only a handful of locations made it a perfect debut.
“We knew we wouldn’t be able to put together a ton of cash for our first feature film,” he said. “Part of what was attractive about it was ‘Hey, this is something we can probably shoot for $250,000.’ Part of it is just a learning experience for me to figure out how you shoot a full-length feature-length film. There’s a huge SAIT alumni presence and a pretty big SAIT practicum presence as well. That’s, in the best way, slowing us down because learning has to happen and that’s a good thing.”