Exile, a dramatic film production, is currently in principal photography in the qathet region, making use of the topography and features the area has to offer.
Producer and director Jason James said Exile is a mystery/thriller about a guy named Ted Evans, who is being released from prison.
James said on the day Evans is being released, the father of a family Evans killed in a drunk driving incident tells him if he goes back to his family, he’ll kill them, if he becomes friends with a waitress, he’ll kill the waitress, if he gets a puppy dog, he’ll kill the dog. The father tells Evans he has taken everything from him and that Evans will have to live in complete solitude, according to James.
“Ted, played by Adam Beach, decides to hide away, isolate himself and disappear from the world,” said James. “It’s the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. He does it as a sacrifice because he believes that the threat is real.
“He’s hiding in this cabin in the middle of the woods, but he comes into town, into Powell River, for supplies every once in a while, and he gets picked up by the police for a small infraction on one visit to town. They realize he’s a missing person, so they contact his wife, Sara [Camille Sullivan], who he left behind.”
James said Sara comes up to see him and he “freaks out” because Evans believes the threat to her is real.
“She decides to leave him alone but tells the police to give him an envelope,” said James. “In the envelope are all of these Christmas, Valentine’s Day and birthday cards. He goes back to his cabin in the middle of nowhere.”
What Evans doesn’t know is Sara has put a tracking device in the package, so she discovers his location. James said Sara goes to the cabin and confronts Evans with information about the character he thinks is going to kill his family. Sara tries to prove it’s not real but when she’s at the cabin she starts to see some suspicious things, said James, so viewers can’t be sure who to believe.
“The movie is really about love, sacrifice, family and perception,” added James. “We oscillate between these two characters and their world views. It’s kind of a beautiful, mysterious, heartbreaking film.”
James said he’s been developing the story for three or four years with a Canadian writer named Mike Beaton.
“It was just a story that really spoke to me,” said James.
Director discovers 'fresh' location
The filmmaker said he started to scout this movie around Vancouver, which is his home, and the production team was also scouting around the Squamish area. However, given the number of productions being shot in the Lower Mainland, James said he felt like everything had been done and that locations had become burned out.
“There was no sense of discovery,” said James. “I had come to Powell River a few years ago to give a talk at the local film school. I had just thought about this place fitting the world of the movie, being a small town on the edge of wilderness. I wanted to discover new and fresh locations that haven’t been seen in film or TV before.”
Transportation has complicated production, according to James, but there is production value to shooting in this region. He said it’s a tiny movie, but it feels like a big budget.
“You point a camera out the window and see this epic backdrop; it has been an amazing place to shoot,” said James. “The City of Powell River has opened its arms and allowed us to block streets, and we’re shooting in city hall as our police station set. They have been warm and welcoming in allowing us to do what we need to do.”
James said when the decision was made to shoot in this region, he rewrote the script to make it more specific to this place.
“We’re shooting at city hall, we’re shooting at the Cran Bar, Black Point Grocery, Skeeter Jacks and the junkyard next door,” said James. “When you go location scouting and start to search and find what’s out there, it starts to inform the story and the world you are going to be shooting in.
“The main location of the story is an old cabin in the woods that’s on the water. We managed to find this beautiful old cabin up in Okeover Inlet that’s owned by Powell River Sea Kayak. We shot seven or eight days there and we’re now starting to get into all of our city stuff.”
Cast and crew include locals
Working in this region has allowed James to bring in local crew who haven’t worked in film before but are interested. He has also cast local actors, trying to give the movie a specific sense of place, adding to its look.
“It’s been a really fun place,” said James. “The weather is very dark and stormy, which is kind of perfect for this project.”
In terms of distribution of the film, James said he expects it will be screened in the film festival circuit, doing a year of film festivals, then he is hoping for a limited theatrical release in major urban centres. Then, it will be available for streaming on networks such as Crave, Netflix and Hulu.
“That’s kind of the lifecycle of independent film,” said James. “That’s what I would expect for this movie as well.”
In terms of a showing at the Patricia Theatre, James said: “I’d love that. I love that theatre. It’s so beautiful and it would be a dream to play a movie there. It would be great to do a special event.”
James said footage that has been captured for the film looks quite beautiful and he’s pleased with the actors’ performances. He added that the local talent used has been awesome. He said there has been some great mentoring going on between the established actors and less experienced locals.
James said he would contemplate shooting here again if the story dictated it.
“It’s a very special place,” he added. “It has really great people, great resources and we are finding everything we need.”
James figures the final production will be ready in time for the 2022 fall festival circuit.
“By the end of the summer, the movie will be done,” said James, “and then we’ll see where the premiere will be from there.”
Principal photography for Exile ends on Saturday, November 20.