A nostalgic film about a life-long love affair is putting Red Deer on the map at international film festivals.
Last September, Red Deer director Randy Kirk and his crew shot the short film The Diner at a West Park restaurant. Now it’s winning accolades and awards around North America.
Rachel Stillings, also of Red Deer, won Best Actress at the Vegas Movie Awards and Best Actress at the Phoenix Shorts Film Festival for her portrayal of the young Audrey.
As well, Stillings and her co-star, Morgan LeBlanc, of Edmonton, picked up the Best Acting Duo award at the Vegas Movie Awards.
And The Diner also won Best Short Drama at The Emerging Artists Festival in Calgary.
The story by Red Deer’s Linda Pidhirney, begins with an older couple — Audrey and Ray — going for a drive in their reconditioned hotrod. They stop off at the restaurant where they first met as teenagers in the 1950s.
Kirk said interior filming was completed in the retro Mom’s Diner in West Park, while exterior shots were captured in front of Queen’s Diner in Burnt Lake Industrial Park.
As the restaurant door swings opens, the 10-minute flick that Kirk co-produced with Ranjit Mullakady and Rueben Tschetter, takes viewers back half a century to show how Audrey and Ray’s relationship first started.
This time shift means Kirk had to double cast the characters, with Stillings and LeBlanc playing younger versions of Audrey and Ray, and Longview’s Rhoda Parnell and Red Deer’s Don Tjart playing the couple when they are older. Joannie Shilling, of Red Deer, plays their waitress.
“Magic happens in The Diner,” said Kirk — and not just through the on-screen time-travel. “It’s a love story. It’s touching and it gives everybody hope,” added the director, who feels these are badly needed qualities during the pandemic. “I am so tired of seeing negative stories every day.”
His self-financed $3,500 film is resonating with audiences “because the story is very relatable,” added Kirk — especially to those who see truth in the saying: While most things change, some things stay the same.
The local filmmaker, whose day job is working in the oilfield in Fort McMurray, directed 12 previous projects either for the Telus Optic channel or for submission to film festivals. The Diner, made by his and Pidhirney’s Whole Village Moving Pictures, is exceeding all expectations.
“It’s a total shock,” said Kirk, that its festival acceptance is riding at 100 per cent, compared to the 30 per cent he’s more used to.
Besides award-winning runs at the Vegas, Phoenix and Calgary film festivals, the short was also accepted by the Golden Age Film Festival in Hollywood, as well as international festivals in Austin, San Francisco, Regina and Niagara Falls, and the New York Independent Cinema Awards.
Kirk looks most forward to sharing The Diner with local audiences.
If COVID-19 restrictions relax, he’s planning a special screening at the Central Alberta Film Festival in Red Deer in October.
Alternatively The Diner will be released for online viewing this fall through Vimeo.