Oak Bay will soon have a new police officer on duty, but you won’t find Laura Mennell’s name on the district’s payroll or wearing its police department uniforms.
When the Surrey-born actor starts cruising the streets of Oak Bay Village, she’ll be doing it as the star of Police Mom, a made-for-TV movie that begins a 14-day shoot in the capital region today.
“It’s a woman-in-jeopardy project,” says producer Amar Balaggan, whose crime drama is being produced by Police Productions Inc. and Odyssey Media Inc. for Lifetime.
Mennell, best known for her work on the SyFy shows Alphas and Haven and movies including Flight 93 and Watchmen, plays an officer who cares for the daughter of a murder witness because the witness is hospitalized after being shot by the killer. While the police hunt down the drug dealer who pulled the trigger, he is hellbent on finding and eliminating the eyewitness.
“There will be shootouts, but no big car chases,” said production manager Rob Willey, the local musician and filmmaker whose own wilderness thriller, Dark Cove, has just been released on platforms including iTunes.
Police Mom has a supporting cast including Aaron Pearl (Bates Motel, The Killing), Marcus Rosner (Mistresses, Infidelity in Suburbia) and Naomi Simpson.
Greater Victoria will be passed off as Portland, Oregon, and other locales in the Pacific Northwest and California.
“Victoria has such beautiful locations that are hard to find elsewhere,” said Balaggan, whose producing credits include Justice Unleashed, Campus Caller and the teen vampire movie Forever 16.
The Vancouver-based filmmaker was also line producer on Suddenly, Uwe Boll’s 2013 thriller starring Ray Liotta, Erin Karpluk and Michael Paré about assassins who pose as U.S. Secret Service agents.
“We’d like to hire more people and train them because we hope to do other projects here,” said Balaggan, whose other potential local films would be produced through his own company.
Festival buzz: A hot topic at Tuesday night’s Victoria Film Festival launch party at 10 Acres/Commons was the addition of one of Cineplex’s SilverCity theatres as a venue.
“I think it’s going to give access to people who don’t necessarily want to come downtown,” said festival director Kathy Kay. “It might even open up a new audience for us.”
Organizers hope patrons from the West Shore will be tempted to catch some festival fare at the Tillicum multiplex, just as Saanich Peninsula audiences have at another satellite venue, Sidney’s Star Cinema.
“I remember when they built SilverCity [in 1999] and it was shiny and new, and me thinking: ‘There’s no way we’re ever going to get in there,’ ” recalled Kay with a laugh.
Cineplex Entertainment suggested it, said Kay, who was concerned when capacity dropped downtown last fall so Cineplex Odeon could replace its standard seating with new luxury recliners.
“The landscape downtown has changed significantly,” said Kay, also grateful to Andrew Golin, owner of the Capitol 6, which recently reopened with luxury seating, for providing one its theatres as a venue.
She says she was relieved when Cineplex Odeon, which traditionally shows festival films in its smallest theatres, No. 1 and No. 2, made its biggest theatre, the No. 5 upstairs, available instead.
The 400-seat theatre is the only one in the seven-plex that hasn’t converted to recliners, largely because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, had been booked over the holidays.
A Cineplex Entertainment spokesman confirmed the luxury-seating makeover for the theatre will begin after the festival.
Meanwhile, moviegoers who attend a festival film at the Capitol 6 can buy advance tickets, but they won’t be able to reserve specific seats, as with commercial releases at the theatre.
“Generally, they give us the theatre and we run it as we see fit,” said Kay, whose policy is to make a limited number of tickets available to patrons who take their chances in pre-show lineups.
Rushes: Despite Kay’s efforts, one film you won’t see at this year’s festival is Leslie Caron: The Reluctant Star, Larry Weinstein’s documentary about the legendary French actor.
Kay learned how much the screen idol of An American in Paris and Gigi fame lived up to the film’s title when she tried to persuade her to come.
“I’m too tired to travel,” Caron told Kay, who has been down this road before with horror-meister George A. Romero and Canadian film producer Robert Lantos, when they pulled out at the last minute.
At least Caron, 85, bowed out before the festival guides went to press, factoring into Kay’s decision not to screen the documentary despite her fondness for festival favourite Weinstein.
And the irony of having a digital glitch shut down a showing of Zero Days about 30 minutes after it began at the Vic Theatre last Monday wasn’t lost on staff or filmgoers, who were offered refunds.
What an eerie coincidence it was that Alex Gibney’s documentary happens to focus on the potentially catastrophic consequences of malware, and how cyber-attacks can disable high-tech things we take for granted.