Skidmark. The word has a couple of meanings, one involving highways the other involving underwear. We will explain no further. Hate to ruin a movie’s ending. This one won’t be opening at a Silver City near you, but Skidmark is still a film local audiences will be interested in. It is the latest flick to be shot on-location in Prince George, using Prince George people as extras, crew, behind-the-scenes workers, heck even the stars, director, producers and writers are from right here in PG.
Mick Harper has been involved in the film medium ever since he arrived in Prince George. He works for PGTV. He used to work for the Prince George Film Commission. Now he can add the title of independent filmmaker. He funded, wrote, story-boarded, co-produced, directed and in all ways organized the filming of Skidmark. The filming wrapped this week after a long day of shooting on a bus ride to Smithers and back.
The story is based loosely on a story he heard from a friend about a guy who may or may not have had a little accident, of the personal hygiene variety, while on a bus trip to meet his girlfriend’s parents. It’s a simple story, the film will only be 15 minutes long at most, but to get that recorded is no easy matter and Mick knew this from the start. He had a bus and driver arranged, a crane for some shots at Spruceland, catering for the cast and crew, digital camera and editing suite, and most importantly the volunteers who made it all happen. Actors, sound technicians, camera operators, make-up people, costumers, set decorators, extras, continuity advisors, all stood by him to make the film happen.
“I basically hand-picked people from the community who I knew had their own specialties and I knew I could count on,” Mick says. “Were it not for those people it would not have happened.”
The budget for the film was about $3,000 not counting the digital camera and editing suite Mick purchased for this and future projects. The script was nine pages long, took three re-writes, two days of very carefully planned shooting and “I spent $400 just for catering the two days; my theory is a fed crew is a happy crew.” Two trips to Smithers, one in the bus with a follow-car, were required. They borrowed Spruceland Fields store and parking lot, the CNC cafeteria and they totally gutted actor Wayne Empey’s house, re-decorated it, did some interior shooting and put it all back exactly the way it was before Wayne got home.
A lot of people saw the filming going on and couldn’t help staring. Mick says “I think people were excited by the nature of the project. Filmmaking, after Reindeer Games and Double Jeopardy, has a higher profile in town. People have had some exposure to it and I could see people were interested in the process.”
Mick got a strong education in the film industry during his stint with the PG Film Commission. “The whole reason the film commission exists is to develop a local, indigenous film industry,” he says and reports he received a lot of help from the PGFC office. “Working there gave me a lot of inspiration. I was trying to help other people find locations so it changed the way I looked at the local landscape. I really like the north and that is why I made sure this was a story based in the north, using as much local talent as I could. And it worked.”
Mick is now exploring distribution possibilities. There are some film festivals that favour independent Canadian short films. The film is also the ideal length for internet downloading. The B.C. Festival of the Arts is also a possible venue for the flick. He has plenty of time to market it, since “this project was largely self-financed and I won’t be in a position to do that again for a while.”