It’s a starry start to the school year for Red Deer College Motion Picture Arts instructor and local actor Lori Ravensborg.
A red-carpet experience at the Toronto International Film Festival awaits Ravensborg, who co-stars in the Alberta-made movie The Valley Below that premieres Sunday night at the renowned festival.
“It’s very exciting,” said Ravensborg, who auditioned for the film as a side project from her part-time acting instructor job at the college.
Although she’s selective about taking on roles that take her away from her husband and two young kids in Red Deer, Ravensborg said she jumped at the chance to be part of this independent movie because its story of life in Alberta’s badlands rang so true.
Now she’s thrilled The Valley Below, written and directed by Calgarian Kyle Thomas, will be spotlighted at TIFF.
“It’s a beautifully shot movie,” said Ravensborg, who feels “they did a fantastic job of capturing all the beautiful landscape and used natural lighting in the exterior shots. It’s just magnificent.”
Getting exposure at the world’s third-biggest film festival “is the yummy icing on the cake,” she added.
Ravensborg recalled the close-knit cast and crew shared high expectations for the project throughout filming in Drumheller in the latter part of 2013. When they finally saw a pre-screening, she said “it felt really great” that Thomas’s original vision for the project had survived the editing process “and come out the other side.”
The Valley Below is a drama that chronicles the lives of eight people in a small town over a year.
Ravensborg plays Susan, who’s married to a taxidermist named Gordon (Stephen Bogaert). Their plot line is “about marriage, loneliness and separation — emotionally speaking,” said Ravensborg, who added the emotional rift between the couple becomes apparent as their children start getting older and leaving home.
Like many long-wedded people, Susan and Gordon began disconnecting from each other at some point and don’t know how to get back what they once shared. “There’s a lot of weight and distance and walls between them.”
The coldness in their relationship is mirrored by the season in which their story unfolds — winter. But the film, produced by North Country Cinema (and also co-starring Calgary’s poet laureate Kris Demeanor as a hard-drinking musician), has different plot lines that unfold in the spring, summer and autumn.
Young lovers, a divorced dad and a police officer with a radio show also factor into the various story lines.
The Valley Below is also slated to be screened at film festivals in Calgary and Vancouver, and will hopefully get some kind of public showing at a later date, whether it’s in theatres, TV or through a movie provider such as Netflix. Ravensborg said this hasn’t been decided yet.
Although she revealed “the little girl inside” her will be indulged when she gets all glammed up for the red carpet at TIFF, this isn’t Ravensborg’s first film festival experience.
The Red Deer resident wrote, directed and produced her own half-hour film, The Long Road, about a family’s response to a dying matriarch. It won an AMPIA Award in 2013, as well as a Rising Star Award from the Canadian International Film Festival in Vancouver.