Canmore millennials get their closeup in new homegrown web series
'It's not exactly Canmore. It's a bit of a dark place.'
What's a playwright to do when all the actors in town can't find time to rehearse, because the town's so expensive they all need to work full-time side gigs to afford a place to live?
If you're Melanie DesRoches, the artistic director and founder of Theatre Canmore, you turn your play into a web series.
That's roughly the origin story of Canmoretown, which had its world premiere Tuesday night in Canmore, before going worldwide on YouTube.
"Canmoretown is about a town very similar to Canmore," DesRoches said in an interview with The Homestretch. "But it's not exactly Canmore. It's a bit of a dark place.
"The idea was that I wanted to show the life of the people living in a resort town that the regular tourist or weekenders don't see."
Started as a play
If Canmoretown had come to life the way DesRoches originally envisioned it, it would have been on a stage, performed live, before an audience.
"I originally wrote it as a stage play but what happened was that a lot of the people involved in Theatre Canmore work full time and [as a result], they [can] only act part time," she said.
"One of the actors, Craig — who plays Craig in Canmoretown — suggested we do it as a web series. That way we'd have more flexibility with people's schedules and I thought, why not?"
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Instead of a limited run stage play, Canmoretown became an unlimited running 17 episode web series that features nine local actors, playing characters who must live together in order to keep costs down — think Coronation Street, with the Rocky Mountains as set decorations and no British accents.
And denim jackets.
First time working on web
Neither DesRoches nor the cast or crew had ever shot a web series before.
"We've kind of been learning as we've gone along. We have lots of talent and experience in the cast and crew," she said.
"So we kind of pulled together all our various experiences and hoped for the best."
A casting call posted on Facebook produced a great response, but — just like in the show — the high cost of housing resulted in a cast change, DesRoches said.
"Our person who played Glen the Plumber and was great — he ended up having to move away, because his house came up for rent."
"We had to decide what to do so we thought well since Canmoretown is like Canmore, why don't we put in another character like Glen — and it will be like art reflecting life?"
Transition to digital
While the 17 episodes were culled from DesRoches' original script, it was necessary, by changing media, to change the way the story was told — both physically and as it turns out, verbally.
"I wrote it but did leave it to the cast to make the language their own," she said. "They had to stick to the script as far as things lead through the plot line that had to be retained — but they were pretty much themselves as far as the way they spoke — so all that colourful language, I didn't actually write.
"That's just the way they talk. There was a bit of improvisation as far as the staging, as well … to create a lot of energy in the filming and really make it much more active than a stage play would be."
The pilot and first episode were screened Tuesday night at the Drake Pub in Canmore which was also a location that was frequently used in the web series.
And while there were no paydays involved in the making of Canmoretown to help defray the cost of Canmore housing, the show, as things turned out, did produce some value-added experiences, DesRoches said.
"When we cast people, a lot of them didn't know each other. They met as we were auditioning — and it ended up that there were two sets of characters ended up dating and are now romantically involved — so that was a nice thing to happen."
With files from The Homestretch