As a filmmaker, making the leap from short films to feature lengths is like walking the Prairies your whole life and then deciding to climb a mountain. It’s a steep learning curve, and not without expense.
This was, however, the exact challenge that local filmmaker Bevan Klassen was willing to take on when it came to realizing his debut feature Of Games and Escapes, and he had a blast putting ideas to screen.
“It has more currency,” Klassen, 46, says of his leap from shorts to feature length. “It’s something that is recognized. It can play in a theatre - short films don’t really play in theatres. But I guess it was the challenge, and to say something maybe a little bit bigger than I had said before.”
Shot in Winnipeg and Victoria Beach in 2010, Of Games and Escapes tells the story of Patrick McBride (played by Lyle Morris), a board game designer and salesman who strives to make and sell meaningful games.
He dreams of making a difference in the world, but feels trapped by his sales job. As a creative outlet, and with moral support from his girlfriend Lisa, Patrick creates a board game that expresses his view of the world.
However, as Patrick isolates himself, he descends into his tormented mind, reaching an unexpected exit.
Klassen compares the film to other dark psychological tales such as Black Swan, though a little more realistic.
“It’s personal, but it’s fictional. It’s about a lot of negativity that I went through, and trying to live up to ideals and the way I think the world should be, and then kind of facing reality. (Patrick) is an intense, driven guy - kind of like I am.”
Like with any medium, creating art often means paying out of pocket for everything from equipment, to costumes and craft services, which definitely adds up.
When he’s not filming, Klassen does contract IT work, as well as teaches a digital video storytelling class at the Canadian Mennonite University.
Instead of waiting on the various funding agencies available to Canadian filmmakers, Klassen found an alternate path for funding: everyone involved with the film entered in as an owner at the same level.
“Probably the biggest expense was the equipment, which we had to purchase, and the food - the catering. My co-producer Frank is Italian, and so his mom made a lot of pasta,” Klassen laughs. “So it’s that kind of teamwork. Everyone’s there because they want to be, and they own their character or their role.”
“I’ve got a number of other projects that are a lot bigger budget that never went to production before, and so that was a big inspiration behind this film,” Klassen says.
“I determined that I wanted to do something on a really low budget and do something collaborative, something maybe a little more where the roles start to tend to blur a bit, through improvisations and those kinds of things. It was a chance to experiment and do something end-to-end, rather than waiting.”
Of Games and Escapes plays Saturday, Jan. 18 to Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at Cinematheque. Visit www.ofgamesandescapes.com.
Published in Volume 66, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 11, 2012)