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Matt Grue transfers his original stage musical to the big screen

After a 30-day shoot in three cities involving 200 extras, $200,000 of raised financing, and then five months of post-production, Matt Grue summarizes his feelings about making an independent feature-length movie musical as “great.”

“But that’s only been recent,” said Grue, with a wry smile.

The Red Deer resident added that transferring his original stage musical, Year After Year, to the big screen on a shoe string has until lately been “very stressful,” even overwhelming.

“It’s been hard for me to have any kind of perspective on it . . . but I felt great as soon as I saw the rough cut.

“That was the litmus test,” Grue admitted.

“Before that I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a sack of s--t or really good. I’m not going to say I was surprised, but I thought I had realistic expectations, and they were exceeded . . . It’s actually something I would watch.”

Although the film about an under-achieving writer and his friends navigating personal relationships and professional ambitions in their late 20s won’t be finished until June, the rest of the world can make up its mind when the official trailer is released on Saturday, March 23, at

Grue said this four-minute trailer should give everyone a good idea of the production values and what the story is about.

The movie, the first written and produced by Grue, is based on his stage production that premiered in Red Deer in 2010.

The lyrics are by Stephanie Ridge and Spenser Pasman, while the music is by Curtis Labelle. Dustin Clark directed and edited the film and created new musical arrangements for it.

Grue said getting to work with Clark, a Red Deer College graduate who was nominated for his previous work by the Alberta motion picture industry and Yorkton Film Festival, is one of the reasons he went against advice to sell the story to a film company that could invest $3 million to $4 million in the project.

With Clark, you get a director, editor, composer and writer, said Grue, “You get everything when you get him.”

Another reason is that Grue didn’t want to surrender his creative vision for the film, which he believes will expand on the inner lives and motivations of the characters in the stage musical.

He decided to shoot Year After Year independently with the belief that, in this YouTube age, the means are now more available than ever.

All it took was raising a budget of $200,000 of which $25,000 was cash, raised through the indiegogo website and various fundraisers and sponsorships, and the rest was gifts in kind.

Grue said he learned about the generosity of the Red Deer community when asking for big favours for the project.

They were all granted: From the camera borrowed from Red Deer College, to the local Earls restaurant giving midnight to 8 a.m. access to the cast and crew over two nights, to a local couple who allowed their condo to be used — and repainted — for the film’s main set.

One of the toughest lessons learned was “you shouldn’t try to shoot a movie in 30 days,” said Grue who recalled the month of August as a blur of location shots in Red Deer, Innisfail, Edmonton and Vancouver.

“I am not exaggerating when I say that every day we worked 16 to 20 hours straight — with not one day off” for the cast of nine principal and 10 featured actors and crew of 15.

He hopes to have a limited local premiere for the film in June, although a public screening won’t be possible at that time.

Grue said a criteria for entering film festivals is that movies not be publicly shown.

He hopes to enter Year After Year in Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival as well smaller festivals in Vancouver, Halifax and Edmonton.

“I’m not sure we’ll get into any of them,” Grue said, but he’s hoping to get a small distribution deal for theatrical showings, followed by an extended life for the film on DVD.



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