By Lana Michelin
A 20th-anniversary screening of a small-budget, Red Deer College-made movie that was eventually seen in 50 countries around the world will be held Jan. 27 and 28 at the Welikoklad Event Centre.
Naked Frailties was like the mouse that roared, suggested its co-creator, Don Armstrong. “We were initially thinking… we could use it as a teaching tool. We never thought of having a wide public release…”
But the film eventually landed a distribution deal with five television networks and was shown globally.
It started as an academic project conceived two Red Deer College instructors — Armstrong, who had been teaching theatre lighting and sound, and Larry Reese, the theatre acting instructor.
Both had repeatedly heard from grads of their Theatre Studies program that they would have benefitted from more film instruction at the college.
Although Alberta’s movie industry was taking off, only one optional film course was offered as part of RDC’s theatre program. By the mid-1990s, Armstrong and Reese thought the time was ripe to start a new program entirely geared towards teaching students how to work in front of, and behind, the cameras.
Reese, who acted in various films (including a small role in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven), and Armstrong, who had made some shorts after graduating from Ryerson University’s film program, pooled their skills to create a two-hour movie in 1997. Armstrong became its cinematographer, and Reese the director. Local filmmaker Harley Hay came on board an associate producer.
The co-written script was based on Shakespeare’s play, McBeth, and set at a college. The roles were cast with mostly RDC theatre students (and a few older actors, including Paul Boultbee and John Treleaven).
Armstrong said the final film, shot over two months, so impressed one of Reese’s industry friends, Arvi Liimatainen, that he became its executive producer and worked out a distribution deal with Showcase, Bravo, CLT, Access Network, and SCN.
Naked Frailties ended up not only kick starting the career of one of the young actors (Reagan Dale Neis went on to play Malcolm’s girlfriend in Malcolm in the Middle, and the lead in the TV series Maybe It’s Me), it also helped launch RDC’s Motion Picture Arts program in 2001.
“We’ve always been fortunate at the college to have had administrators who understand the importance of the creative arts,” said Armstrong, who now teaches in MPA, along with Reese.
The 7 p.m. screenings on Jan. 27 and 28, are free.