By John Swartz
Sean Cisterna will wrap up a three week shoot at the end of this week for his latest movie project. The Path of Totality. It is the fourth movie he’s shot in Orillia since entering the movie business.
“It was 2007 we did a TV movie at Camp Wahanowin called King of the Camp (2008), then I did a movie called Moon Point in Orillia 2010 and then Boy City (in post production),” last summer, Cisterna said.
He went to elementary school at Monsignor Lee. He has 9 movies to his credit, 8 videos and 3 shorts.
“I went to university (York) for film production and screenwriting. From there I got a job on a television series, that just fueled my love for making movies and I thought I could do it myself. No one else would hire me to make a film so I had to go out and do it myself on a credit card. With enough creativity I did sell it and paid back Visa and Master Card – my early investors. It was a gamble and things just paid off,”
Like many who use cameras, much of the things passing into view during a day are sized up for usefulness.
“I’ve been spoiled to live a life where I kind of go through the day and look at the day through a camera lens sort of thing. You can always tell. I just see the world through a camera lens and it’s very difficult to change that way of thinking,” Cisterna said.
For film and video makers that’s half the consideration where to shoot, the other being money.
“First the locations and crews in Toronto are overused and overpriced. It’s a nice break for our cast and crew to come to outside the GTA area. The government of Ontario gives us a tax credit for shooting outside of an 80 kilometer radius of Toronto so it’s a nice bump,” said Sean.
“It’s also the familiarity. I remember all these moments from my youth.” In this case the old Orillia Central School, which he had never been in until he and the crew started building the set days before shooting began, was something that caught his eye last summer when shooting Boy City.
“I recalled when we were filming Boy City this building was all blocked off, so I thought it might be a unique location, easy to access,” he said. When he looked into using the old school, he got a bit of a surprise. It’s owned by the
Mirkopolous brothers, a name which hasn’t been in the news here for a while, but some night recall they own the half of the old Tudhope building that isn’t City Hall. They also, until recently, owned Cinespace Studios in Kleinberg where many big budget movies are shot – including any shot in Canada set in Washington DC. because they had a full scale replica of the White House.
“That was quite a surprise. I don’t know why they own this property. What was great about it was we could speak the language of film location rental to an organization that already knows about that,” Cisterna said.
The current production is a thriller and it takes place almost all in one room, kind of like Cube was a thriller set on one space. The set is in the basement of the old school. And Cisterna started seeing possibilities beyond this movie for the building.
“I hope they don’t touch it because looking around at this building I want to shoot a ghost story here. Every room has so much character, the paint peels off the walls, and it just looks,” like a place to do such a story he said.
He wanted an industrial look for the set, which the basement of the 139-year-old building with its stone walls fit the bill for what he imagined the scriptwriter may have had in mind.
“It’s nice to get a script out of the blue and then have a blank slate to work from. To find locations is kind of like a bit of detective work; the location exists in the mind of the writer (Ian Driscoll, of Ottawa),” Cisterna said. This is a case of the script found him, rather than farming out the writing, or being part of a studio system and handed a project.
“I don’t know much about him, (Driscoll), it was a mutual connection. The distributor who was looking to get the film made knew my background, we worked on Boy City together and that was a pleasurable experience, so they brought me on board for this as well,” Cisterna said.
Most of the story centers on two main characters played by Jonathan Kim (Grayson Lee) and Daniel Park (Dr. Sung Moon), with three other actors in minor roles that were shot in two days.
“Sean and I worked together on a MOW (movie of the week) called Riverfront Romance and he reached out to me and said, “I have a script I want you to read.” I thought it was going to be another MOW, but after reading the script I was like, “Oh, this is definitely like Hallmark kind of script, far from that,”” said Jonathan. “Now we are here.”
Kim sat for a chat in makeup during a lunch break in the shooting day, which explains the red eye in the photo.
“During the movie he (his character) gets elbowed in his face, with no recollection of it. He has no recollection of what has happened beforehand, so it’s him sort of piecing everything together,” Jonathan said. “There’s a lot of tension and drama,”
Kim started acting only five years ago.
“In 2016 I started my first acting class, not really knowing what I wanted to do with it. I was that kid with the expectation from my parents to become one of the big three, doctor, lawyer, business man and I tried it. I went to Guelph, studied poly-sci, potentially wanted to go to law school, didn’t like it, graduated, came back to Ryerson, studied business and got my BComm degree, but while I was doing that was when I started acting classes,” he said.
He’s been working pretty steady, moving up the chain to lead roles.
“I just finished another feature as a lead in Hamilton about a month ago. And I have a few things coming out the next couple months; Station 11, which is an HBO show and (then) Pretty Hard Cases, which is a CBC crime/dramedy, and then Transplant we film in Montreal.”
Speaking of Halmark movies, just in the last few years two of those have been shot in Orillia, and Jake Horowitz shot two of his movies here. For a city the size of Orillia that’s quite a few. We’re developing a cottage industry amidst the cottages.
From a producer’s perspective, Orillia has a lot to offer movie productions, other than location.
“Because Sean shot here we were able to go back to the great hotel. It is easier for us because the catering (by Ciao Chow Ciao), accommodation is the same as his last movie,” said Laurence Gendron. Despite all the planning, and most productions arriving with the bulk of what they need for duration, there’s always things which need to be bought on location; they run out of gaffing tape, the box of wood screws was not as full as it looked, the costume material turned out to be not perfect and etc., so local businesses get some action.
“The locals are very nice, very welcoming. I think everyone is excited about a movie being shot here,” she said. Producing involves mostly the business end of movie making, even if producers also have a hand in the creative side. Time is money and the clock is ticking even if the tape isn’t rolling, so from Gendron’s perspective the old school is also great for the budget.
“It’s all shot in the basement. It is also the reason we are able to shoot in winter. Usually it’s very hard to shoot movies in winter in Canada, unless the movie calls for it,’ said Gendron.
“It’s very bare for us to be able to come in and build our sets, shooting always in one spot, having this whole building for ourselves, and that we can have catering upstairs.” All adds up Gendron said.
A premiere date in 2022 has not been set and both Cisterna and Gendron said whether it will be a theatrical release or something for HBO or Netflix Is up to their distributor to work out.
CORRECTIONS: Transcription errors in quotes attributed to Laurence Gendron and Jonathan Kim have been fixed.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Daniel Park, Sean Cisterna, Jonathan Kim and Laurence Gendron on the set of The Path of Totality in the basement of the Orillia Central School.