Guest Blog | Jenna Kirouac: No Funding? No Actors? No Problem. Canadian Filmmakers Overcome Big Obstacles

Guest Blogger Jenna Kirouac is Avant-Guardian Musings Vancouver Arts Correspondent. To see her previous posts, please click here.

Play With Fire (2009) A local independent film
featuring life in small town B.C. 
Watching a film where the actors play roles that are reflective of their “real life identities” (whatever that means) and who have no previous experience acting is pretty interesting. It’s hard to tell how much the actors are pretending to be their character, or if they are really just being themselves.

In the independent Canadian film Play With Fire (2009), a story about going nowhere in small town Canada, budget constraints caused the British Columbia born director Soren Johnstone to use people who had no previous acting experience from the communities of Trail and Castlegar. There is an authentic and intimate bond connecting the story’s characters and the people portraying them. And although the delivery of some lines in the film appear a bit forced, I was really impressed by the end result of the non-actor’s acting skills! When I asked the film’s producer Michael Babiarz about the casting decisions, his response was this: “We didn’t have the budget to pay people for their time and effort, it was all voluntary. In the end, it took a hell of a lot longer to get what we wanted but it feels more authentic. Shit is real.”

Indeed it is. My good friend and I walked into Pat’s Pub on East Hastings here in Vancouver during the first local screening of the film. I soon abandoned my initial plan of turning around and walking out the door after catching sight of a bar filled with silent and mesmerized spectators. The graphic language and all too familiar depiction of blue-collar town masculinity drew me in and I was compelled to stay and watch.

Winning a well-deserved award at the ReelHeART Film Festival in Toronto for best cinematography in 2009, the film’s portrayal of the community of Trail, British Columbia looks both breathtaking and heartbreaking with its juxtaposition of majestic mountains and omnipresent smokestacks. The backdrop to the story serves as a constant rhetoric: the vast potential of the wild suppressed by the insulating quality of the small town. The fact that this film was made without any financial aid, grants, or outside funding, and was shot over the course of thirteen months also makes Play With Fire an amazing feat in Canadian filmmaking. The film is currently touring the province, and I would highly recommend checking it out when it comes back to town on December 5th and screens at the Rickshaw Theatre

Official "Teaser" Trailer for Play With Fire found on the movie producer's YouTube Channel