Movie's guinea pig audience
You couldn't blame Kyle Mann if he looked a bit like an expectant father last Wednesday afternoon as he paced the halls of the University of Victoria's Student Union Building.
The Vancouver film producer and UVic grad returned to his alma mater for the birth of his new cinematic labour of love.
Mann was there to host the test screening of the rough cut of the psychological thriller he filmed in and around Victoria last year - a film that most observers in these parts still call The New Girl, even though that working title is changing.
A small crowd of film lovers showed up at Cinecenta to catch the first glimpse of the suspenser starring Katie Cassidy as a Pacific Northwest university student drawn into a web of murder and deceit spun by her new roommate (Tracy Spiridakos)
The film, which also stars Donal Logue and Victoria native Leah Gibson, was directed by Michael Greenspan.
What the test audience saw was a very lean, raw cut - without colour correction, visual and sound effects or the final score.
"I haven't even seen this version yet," said Mann, who was in the editing room two days earlier discussing changes with Greenspan, who also cowrote. "Michael worked until after midnight last night and this was rendered at 7 this morning."
Mann's "harshest critic" - his wife Lisa Shillington, whose family lives here - accompanied him but left before showtime.
"He's going to advise me when the best time is to come and watch the final product," she said, laughing.
"Lisa walks around the campus with me and talks me down from the ledge," Mann joked. "It's hard to put your heart out there, especially at such an early stage. You like to have the crutches - the music and everything else."
Karen Brelsford came to check out some of her handiwork - literally. She was a photo double for Cassidy's hands.
"I had no idea this was being shown until my parents phoned this morning," she said. "They read about it in the [Times Colonist] today."
Bill and Addie MacDonald, whose home on Craigdarroch Road doubled as Cassidy's place, were also on hand.
"It was a little surreal," admitted Bill, noting the couple stayed in a condo while the filmmakers took over their place.
"We really enjoyed the movie. And they were there for several weeks, so we had some sense of it."
Still, Addie admits she was shocked by at least one scene - when Cassidy comes downstairs holding something familiar.
"Hey, those are my coffee cups!" she said, laughing. "I'm so used to them, but it's strange seeing them up there on screen."
Published on January 8, 2012 Words: Michael D. Reid
Sneak peek at New Girl
It's a sneak preview with a difference. Call it The New Girl Unplugged. That's what Vancouver-based producer Kyle Mann will be unspooling at Cinecenta this afternoon - a snap test screening of a rough cut of the psychological thriller (working title: The New Girl) filmed here late last year.
Admission to the 4: 30 p.m. screening for filmgoers aged 18 and older is free on a first-come, first-served basis.
"It's totally unique," admits Mann, the first producer of a feature film shot here over the past 25 years or so to do what production executives more often do in Los Angeles.
"I want to get an early gauge as we work toward the director's cut."
Katie Cassidy, Tracy Spiridakos and Donal Logue star in the thriller about a popular college student in a Pacific Northwest town whose life takes a dark and potentially deadly turn when her friendship with an enigmatic new roommate intensifies.
Directed by Michael Greenspan from a screenplay he co-wrote with Christopher Dodd, the Independent Edge Films Inc. production was filmed in Chinatown, on Dallas Road, a Cowichan Valley farm, the University of Victoria and other locations.
Filmgoers will see a product in its "very early stages," Mann cautions. And as with preliminary reels shown in early studio screenings, the film's sound, special effects and score won't be finalized.
Don't expect opening and closing credits, either - or pre-show commercials or trailers.
Why bother doing a local test screening of a film slated to be distributed by a major studio late summer or fall?
"UVic obviously has a special place in my heart, so it seems the perfect place," said Mann, who studied there in the mid 1990s.
"We wanted to have an educated audience from the market we're geared to. It's good to show the movie early on with all the blemishes, in its rawest form."
Audience feedback is invaluable, said Mann, who will hand out questionnaires and be available briefly to chat with filmgoers.
"We try to find out what it is they don't like," he said. "Sometimes a movie isn't what they think it is. There might be an underlying problem or a performance issue. We're showing the film where it's very lean."
Modifications might include clarifying potentially confusing narrative issues or "adding some fat," he said.
Published on January 4, 2012 Words: Michael D. Reid