A local film shot just days before the 2020 pandemic lockdown, is airing this month on Telus Optik.
The 18-minute Western Cheater, Robbers and Outlaws, written and directed by Jason Steele and starring 14 local actors, was filmed in the log schoolhouse Heritage Park in March 2020.
Steele recalled he had a choice of two weekends for filming. Fortunately, he chose the first one, which meant most scenes got shot before public gatherings were prohibited to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
(The opening scene, in which Billy the Kid, played by Anakin Suerink, gets ejected from a saloon, was filmed later in June, when society began reopening for the summer.)
Steele received a $20,000 Storyhive grant from Telus to finance a film project. He submitted a proposal for a Western because this genre seldom gets made anymore, and the money would allow him to hire a sizable cast.
He admitted he also had a more personal reason: Steele had previously made a previous short Western with Alex McWilliam, a client of the now shutdown The Hub on Ross. McWilliam died from an illness some months before Cheaters. Robbers and Outlaws was made, “so I made this as a kind of homage to him.”
Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws features a sheriff named Alex, instead of a mounted policeman, as well as a female mayor — two anachronisms.
The comedy centres on a saloon bartender (played by Yvette VandenHeuvel) who has a heightened sensitivity to noise. She has to endure all manner of discord — from guns going off, to bottles smashing against heads, to tables and chairs being knocked over — due to her rowdy clientele, including the Wild Brothers outlaw gang.
When the bartender suddenly loses her husband, a strange stipulation in his will acts as incentive to get everyone to try shutting up for 24 hours.
Steele, who has made about half a dozen short films and some music videos, came up with this plot line because he knows someone with misophonia — a neurological disorder that makes a person more sensitive to certain noises — even chewing, breathing or tapping a pencil.
The short, co-produced with Casssandra Hinnegan and shot by a crew from Red Deer’s Hot Shoe Studio, contains some realistic stunts carried out by local actors Shiv Shanks (who has professional wrestler training), and Trysten Luck.
Steele hopes to take viewers on a humorous ride: “It’s just a fun Western, but it’s integrated with (actors) with and without disabilities… I will be looking for more projects that are inclusive.”
Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws will be available on the Telus Optik Channel from June 29. It will also be available on Steele’s Porcupinefilmproductions.com website and on the Telus YouTube channel.