It wasn’t quite minus 40 when I sat down with Edmonton-based filmmaker Dylan Pearce to discuss his latest feature film “Forty Below and Falling,” a romantic comedy set in the vast winter landscape of a northern community. Pearce told me that he felt very fortunate that, during the 30-day, January-February shoot in the Edmonton area, the cast and crew did not have to brave the film’s titular temperature.
“We actually had some warmer weather than expected,” Pearce said, and joked, “I thought about changing the title of the movie, but ‘20 Below and Falling’ doesn’t sound as good.”
Dylan Pearce, director, “40 Below and Falling” (Tom Gunia)
Some might think it unusual that Pearce has chosen Edmonton to be the hub from which he is building his directing career. For many, the goal of establishing oneself as a filmmaker in Canada is only viable if you are willing to live in Vancouver or Toronto and ready to struggle amidst the throngs of other aspiring directors and producers. But Pearce, who started making movies in high school in his hometown of Windsor, chased his dream to Alberta to attend Red Deer College film school. For him, the challenge of convincing people that “you can make movies [in Edmonton]” is one well worth tackling. In fact, Festival City has not only turned out to be the place where he has found a supportive community to aid him in pursuing his craft but, with this latest project, also a creative partner who is equally inspired to make a mark on the Edmonton film scene.
Joined by Dylan Reade, the stereographer on the film, it quickly became apparent that the two men share more than a passion for filmmaking. Both have great admiration and respect for everyone who made a contribution to getting “40 Below and Falling” made.
Dylan Reade, stereographer, “40 Below and Falling” (Tom Gunia)
“This really was a team effort,” Reade told me. “Many of the crew members had to don more than one hat in the process of making the movie.”
For Pearce (known on set as “Dylan 1.0”), the journey of “40 Below and Falling” began over two years ago when the script, by Calgary writer Aaron Sorensen, made its way into his lap.
The story follows Kate Carter (Jewel Staite of “Firefly” fame), a teacher who leaves her job in a remote Northern Canadian town and is struggling to get back to the big city in time for her wedding. Along the way she meets a gruff, handsome stranger, Redford (Shawn Roberts, “Resident Evil” film series) who reluctantly helps her. In true romantic comedy fashion, it doesn’t take long for hijinks to ensue. Our determined heroine stumbles into a host of adventures, from snowmobile chases to a grizzly-bear encounter, all the while just trying to get to the church on time.
Much like Kate is undaunted in her desire to get to her fiancé, Pearce was determined to make “40 Degrees and Falling” and to break new ground by doing it in 3-D. It was through this vision that he met Reade (“Dylan 3.0”), the man who has happily joined Dylan 1.0 in his dream to one day make Edmonton the centre of 3-D filmmaking in Western Canada.
Pearce acknowledged, however, that a 3-D romantic comedy was a hard sell at first. Stereoscopy is normally reserved for action films. More difficult still was that his budget for the movie was built using a 2-D financing structure. As a result, he met his fair share of doubters during the development process.
Pearce, though, is not one to shy away from a challenge. Although forced to make a “3-D film on a 2-D budget,” he remained resolute in his belief that his romantic comedy could help 3-D transcend convention by using the technique as a “storytelling tool.”
When I asked the two Dylans why they chose Edmonton as their base, it was Reade, a world-class expert in 3-D and IMAX systems, who quickly jumped in to espouse the rich history that the craft has in the area. And he would know. In 1985, Reade worked as a production assistant on the first 3-D IMAX film to shoot in the city (“Transitions”) and hasn’t looked back since. His career has spanned the globe. Among the many far-reaching and remote locations to which his IMAX work has taken him – Antarctica for “Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure” and the jungles of Sumatra for “Born to be Wild,” where he discovered the perils of labouring in the heat and the joy of working with orangutans. While Reade considers the latter his greatest filmmaking adventure, he is ready for his next important journey as a groundbreaking innovator in Alberta film.
Filming “40 Below and Falling” (Tom Gunia)
“I’m motivated to create a pool of specialization (in Edmonton) and facilitate projects in whatever way I can,” Reade told me.
While this fearless stereographer would go anywhere to work with orangutans again, he said that “40 Below and Falling” provided its own exciting challenges, including the grizzly bear, fighting the elements in below zero temperatures and working with a new 3-D camera system that was specifically built for the making the film.
So what comes next for Dylans 1.0 and 3.0? On many productions, when the cameras stop rolling, the crew disbands like merry circus performers, but together Pearce and Reade are in for the long haul on their 3-D rom-com. Already in the midst of the editing process, Pearce will continue his directing duties in the cutting room and Reade will slip on another hat to become the post-production supervisor. The film is already sold in some markets and set to be delivered as early as April, so both men have their work cut out for them in getting “40 Below and Falling” on to the big screen. And, as one would expect from these Dylans, there’s no long break on the horizon.
Pearce and Reade are already collaborating on their next project, a documentary called “Building Edmonton,” which explores the city’s architectural history. It’s no surprise, of course, that it will be filmed in 3-D, as these two intrepid pioneers continue to blaze a trail for both Alberta film and 3-D storytelling.
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