Chapleau-based movie gets big boost in iTunes distribution deal

When Director Steve Schmidt began work on his first feature film, he knew he wanted to tell an “authentic northern Ontario” story.

'The Road to Tophet' credits Chapleau Cree First Nation with taking big chance on unknown filmmakers

'The Road to Tophet,' filmed in Chapleau, recently inked a distribution deal with iTunes. (Supplied)

When Director Steve Schmidt began work on his first feature film, he knew he wanted to tell an "authentic northern Ontario" story.

The Road to Tophet is an action movie about a French-Canadian drug dealer, Charlie, who is forced to crossroads when his boss double-crosses him into staying in the drug business.

It was filmed in Chapleau, a community of about 2,900 people 400 kilometers north of Sudbury.

Work on the film was completed in 2014, but Schmidt said they recently inked a deal with iTunes to distribute the film to its wide network of users.

This means an entirely new audience has opened for the film, a group that may not be familiar with northern Ontario's geography, population and culture.

"Part of our intent was to make sure that northern Ontario was authentic," Schmidt told CBC's Up North. "That there were First Nations people and and French Canadian people and English people and that mix that you get in Northern Ontario that you sometimes don't when Northern Ontario is portrayed."

Filming in Chapleau also posed some challenges. During filming, the crew had to deal with unpredictable weather.

"We started shooting in early March and we thought [the snow] was going to last a long time," he said.

"A few days into shooting the snow started to melt like crazy we had like a crazy thaw. So we basically had to like rewrite the movie as we went."

"We started out on snowmobiles and then we ended up on an ATV. And then the next thing you knew we were on motorcycles."

Schmidt said the final result was unexpected, but flowed well with the story they were trying to tell.

"The idea of a little bit of climate change coming into the movie actually really worked with the theme, I think, to the Northern Ontario climate."

Schmidt said he also feels a debt of gratitude to the Chapleau Cree First Nation, who provided the first financial boost to the production.

"It was really challenging raising the money to make the movie," he said. "One of the things we did was we came back to the community of Chapleau. We had a short film called Dead Simple that we had made."

Brian Edwards (left) an early supporter of The Road to Tophet, and director Steven Schmidt at the Berlin Film Festival.

The group showed the short film in Chapleau, and the band administrator Brian Edwards took an interest in the film.

"He really liked the movie so he went back to the band and said we should support these guys," Schmidt said. "The band looked at it, and they came on as a major financial contributor."

"So we're really indebted to them," Schmidt said. "We cannot thank them enough for their support, especially right from the get go …[because] we had no kind of track record."

Road to Tophet will be available on iTunes and VOD on February 26.


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