Hey, that’s me, on the tiny screen
Red Deer College’s Motion Picture Arts instructor Larry Reese is once again trouncing the idiom: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” by appearing in three movies in the past year.
Reese got to share with his students his cutting-edge experience as one of the first actors to appear in a film strictly designed as a phone app.
He also brought the whole classroom into another of his professional projects.
In the TV-bound movie, I Think I Do, Reese plays the consoling father of three daughters, played by The Vampire Diaries actors Sara Canning and Mia Kirshner and Jenny Levine from the Fox series 24.
The film also involved first-year RDC student Andrew McKenzie, who plays a love interest of one of the sisters, as well as the technical skills of about a dozen of his MPA classmates.
The fledgling filmmakers got some professional experience by working as background actors on the project, as well as with sound and camera crews and as assistant directors.
Reese praised the three MPA graduates at the helm of I Think I Do — the film’s producer Darren Arsenault, director Dylan Pearce, and director of photography Andrew Scholotiuk — for their commitment to their alma mater.
“They are very loyal. They said, ‘We learned here and it’s time that we gave back to help the current MPA students get some experience,’” said Reese.
He added the hands-on work was invaluable to his students, as is the resume credit they will receive.
“The professional credit is a big deal.”
I Think I Do was shot in Edmonton in January and February, while Reese filmed Diary of a Haunting in Calgary last month.
The film was made strictly for viewing on a smartphone — which is such a new concept that the actor’s union hadn’t even created a pay scale for it yet, said Reese.
He plays a psychotic character stalking the female lead (Kassia Warshawski) in the horror flick.
“He’s possessed by the devil, gets flesh-eating disease, and winds up in an insane asylum,” said a chuckling Reese, who described the evil role as a complete change from the nice-guy dad he played in the previous movie.
The biggest thing he learned about a film destined for tiny phone screens is that many more medium and close-up shots are required.
All the documentary-style scenes in Diary of a Haunting, produced by Mulholland Dr. and The Ring producer Neal Edelstein, are supposedly shot by the lead character with her iPhone, or caught by a security camera or the lens in the back of a police cruiser.
This required using one immobile camera for every shot, which meant no zooms, and much longer scenes than the standard 30 seconds.
Reese said film actors are generally told not to worry about camera positioning. “The camera will find you,” but in this case, all the actors had to be very aware of where the camera was at all times.
These are the kinds of experiences and tidbits he likes to bring back to the classroom. “That’s one of the important things that my film work allows me to do,” said Reese — stay current for his students.
His third project, Drawing Home, is another made-for-TV movie — this time about Banff artist Peter Whyte, who also built a reputation in the U.S.
The film recounts his career and enthusiasm for the outdoors. After Whyte and his artist wife open the remote Skoki Lodge near Banff, a guest and friend is killed in an avalanche. Although the Whytes were cleared of wrong-doing, Peter takes the death very hard, leading to alcoholism.
Reese has a small role in this movie, featuring actors Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) and Shawn Wallace (The Princess Bride). He plays the head of the Boston School of Fine Arts, where Whyte studies.
But another area actor, John Trelevyn, of Sylvan Lake, has a larger role — as Whyte’s father.
The film was mostly shot last November in Calgary.
Reese said all three of his latest projects are slated to be screened this fall.
But his greatest claims to posterity are still likely small parts in the Oscar-winning films, The Unforgiven and Brokeback Mountain.