New P.E.I. feature film Still the Water in works
'It's a Prince Edward Island story, but it has universal themes'
For years, Susan Rodgers called the movie percolating in the back of her brain "the hockey film." Now, the P.E.I. author and filmmaker has firmed up plans for the movie, and named her creation Still the Water.
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Now in the development stage, the movie will be Rodgers first feature-length — approximately 90 minutes — drama, with a "very substantial" budget.
"The title refers to stilling the chaos in your heart and in your soul," explained Rodgers. Still water can also be ice, noted Rodgers from her home in Summerside, P.E.I.
There's a lot of interest and a lot of commitment has already been made — enough for us to know we can do this project and do it on a grand scale.— Susan Rodgers, filmmaker
The film is built on the story of two hockey-loving brothers in rural P.E.I., who live under the thumb of an abusive, alcoholic father. The film picks up as a decade later, as one of the brothers returns home to reconnect. A climax is a fishing boat accident — based on a true story — in which one of the brothers must make a difficult choice.
It weaves in the story of a single mother — Rodgers was a single mom for years — whose son is abducted by his father.
"It's a Prince Edward Island story, but it has universal themes — it's not just the hockey and the fishing boat, but the whole story of family and hope and forgiveness and not hanging on to things that can pull you under," she said.
'Nobody's doing this for the money'
The plan is to begin shooting in P.E.I. in April 2018, and is now refining the script and casting the lead roles. Rodgers plans to travel to Toronto and Vancouver in August for call-back auditions.
"We can't afford the A-list stars, at this point — obviously not — but we've got enough of a budget that we can bring YouTube breakout stars on board. People who are hooking other features, who are on their way up," she said.
Rodgers has gathered a team including Rick Gibbs of Montague, who's worked in television and film for nearly 50 years including for CBC P.E.I., as well as businesspeople and a local lawyer. So far no one is getting paid — not unusual in the independent film business, Rodgers said.
"Nobody's doing this for the money … but we all have our eyes on creating a product that will be a viable business, not just a dream," Rodgers said. "We've got a finance plan in place that we are quite certain is going to work," she said.
'Do it on a grand scale'
A combination of private equity investors, government funding and federal tax credits will fund Still the Water, she said.
"With financing anything, it's a puzzle, and components come from all different areas. But the climate has changed here. It's doable now in a way that it wasn't even five years ago … it's just so gratifying to see doors start to open."
Although she doesn't want to share details of the film's business plan, Rodgers is confident the film will get produced.
"There's a lot of interest and a lot of commitment has already been made — enough for us to know we can do this project and do it on a grand scale and make it a very special project for Prince Edward Island."
Music in the film is very important to Rodgers, and she's thrilled that well-known P.E.I. musician Chris Corrigan has come forward, offering to supervise the music, including original songs.
'Frustrated with film'
Rodgers produced her first film drama with Gibbs, Bobby's Peace, in 2003, which aired on CBC. After that, she went to Vancouver Film School and worked in many capacities on sets for film and television and produced documentaries.
Rodgers missed telling her own stories, and turned to writing — penning a successful 15-book series called Drifters.
"I started writing books because I got frustrated with film," she shared. Now, having built storytelling credibility through Drifters, Rodgers said she's been able to find backers for this project.
'We will increase the skill level'
Rodgers would like to plant the seeds for a sustainable film industry on P.E.I., with Still the Water as a training ground.
"Most of the crew will be Islanders, I know there are a lot of people out there hungry for work," she said.
"I'd like to think that once we make this film the next one will be easier, incrementally," she said. "With every film we make, we will increase the skill level of the people who work on the movies."
Rodgers plans to have the film edited by fall 2018 and will submit it to festivals such as the Atlantic Film Festival where she hopes it will attract distribution and sales agents.
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