It's a smoking hot August afternoon on Prospect Lake, with bikini-clad women, bongs and beer igniting one killer party.
"Gunfire on set today!" reads a call sheet. A "huge joint," "freezer bags of weed" and "unlimited booze" are on today's list of fake props - telltale signs that Kid Cannabis, John Stockwell's feature about youthful pot smugglers, is shooting.
And, yes, there will be gunshots, prompting sunbaked party animals to scatter and jump into the lake.
"I guess you could say Code Name: Geronimo prepared me for this," laughs Stockwell, referring to his upcoming feature about the Navy SEALS takedown of Osama bin Laden he filmed in New Mexico and India with Cam Gigandet, Robert Knepper, William Fichtner and others.
"We have just a bit of gunfire in this movie, whereas Geronimo was wall-to-wall. This is more fun. I'd rather have a party than a battle scene."
The easygoing writerdirector, who started out as a model and actor in films such as So Fine, Top Gun, Losin' It, Christine and Eddie and the Cruisers, has good reason to be smiling.
It's been six years since he first adapted the true story of Nate Norman, a chubby pizza delivery boy from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, who, with pal Topher Clark, built a multimillion-dollar empire smuggling pot from B.C. while still living at home.
Stockwell optioned Mark Binelli's 2005 Rolling Stone piece and Kevin Taylor's Pacific Northwest magazine articles. His research for the project he originally wrote for HBO Films included meeting with FBI agents and Norman in prison.
"I'm ecstatic. It's been a passion project," said Stockwell, who, since it was shelved, made Blue Crush, Into the Blue and Turistas while waiting for "the right group of producers, financiers and actors" to bring it to life.
"The best projects are usually the ones that are hardest to get made," he said, adding he realized Victoria would be "perfect" once producer Corey Large sold him on his hometown's locations, crews and economic benefits.
"The only thing missing is northern Idaho's topography, but we're doing a couple of days of second-unit shots in Nelson."
This marks the freshwater debut for the surfer dude best known for his ocean movies shot in Hawaii and the Bahamas.
The Large family's sprawling lakeside home and production
centre is abuzz with activity, albeit with a palpable laid-back vibe.
"Ten seconds to launch," someone announces, making you feel as if you're at Cape Canaveral.
"Lift off!" yells another as one of three multi-propeller drones on standby soars skyward, its tiny onboard camera shadowing Amanda Tapping (Stargate), who plays Nate's mother, as she drives up to the house in a black Range Rover. It's for a scene in which she's stunned to learn her son has bought this lovely lakeview home for the family.
At ground control, an operator wears goggles that provide a helicam's-eyeview. A "spotter" points out potential obstacles.
"It can cost $1,000 an hour or more for a helicopter, pilot and insurance," says Jason Thompson, explaining the popularity of his Vancouver company The Ghost Lab's radio-controlled alternatives that also capture aerial footage of street and water action.
Stockwell's use of such cost-effective gizmos, two high-quality digital cameras, monitoring action on a handheld screen and opting to keep rolling despite flubs to avoid multiple takes are all part of his "git 'er done" style.
"I do move pretty quickly," smiles Stockwell, whose "golden rules" were recently featured in MovieMaker magazine.
They include his belief that continuity is over-rated, you should never call "cut," actors rule the set and be prepared for anything.
If it rains, for instance, Stockwell views it "as a great, free, rainy production value" rather than an obstacle.
An experience with Kirsten Dunst on Crazy/Beautiful (2001) also changed his attitude toward rehearsals.
"We did a rehearsal and she cried and it was stunning," he recalled. "I said, 'OK, let's shoot,' but she never got back to where she was in that first go. So I try to engender as much spontaneity as possible. With digital you can shoot the rehearsal without wasting film. I like to give the actors a lot of latitude."
His stars - Kenny Wormald (Footloose) and Jonathan Daniel Brown (Project X) - aren't complaining.
"John's a very chill guy," says Wormald, who plays Topher. "He gets the job done and doesn't mess around."
On their first day, he recalled, Stockwell instructed crew to remove the boys' makeup.
"Take that off!,' " laughed Wormald, mimicking him. "These dudes are from Idaho. They live in the woods. We don't want them to look pretty. If they have a pimple, we want to see it."
The actor and dancer, who has toured with Justin Timberlake and done music videos with Madonna, Mariah Carey and Nelly Furtado, says Topher, the opposite of Ren, his smalltown dance crusader in Footloose, gave him a welcome chance to stretch.
"I dig Topher," Wormald said. "These guys aren't your typical drug lords, which is the cool irony of the film."
After jumping off a highdiving tower with a girl wearing a hot-pink bikini to a chorus of "Nate! Nate!, Nate!" from partygoers, Brown explains why he's pumped about playing Nate.
"This scene's pretty wild but this movie's an entirely different beast than Project X," he said, referring to the faux-docudrama that chronicles a dangerously chaotic house party his nerdy character J.B. helped plot.
"Project X was fun, but this is the first time showing I can really act," said Brown. "It's smart, clever, funny, a little scary and a cool character study that's very counter-cultural. It's a mindblowing rags-to-riches story that these kids could organize and operate this multimillion-dollar ring under the noses of the border control and the federal governments of both countries."
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