After being forced to go online-only in 2020, the Forest City Film Festival (FCFF) is finally back in-person with more than 90 offerings for cinephiles in London, Ont.
On Wednesday, the FCFF put the reels in motion with an opening night media conference featuring Gemini-winning actor and Stratford Festival veteran Colm Feore, Gemini-nominated director Brad Turner, veteran producer Jessica Petelle and FCFF executive director Dorothy Downs.
Feore, Turner and Petelle all lent their talents to Trigger Point, one of the 92 films being featured at the FCFF from now until Oct. 30.
The action-thriller follows an elite operative, played by Barry Pepper, who lives in anonymity following the assassination of his team members.
He is then pulled back into the life he tried to leave behind when his former boss, played by Feore, recruits the operative to help him search for his missing daughter.
Directed by Turner and filmed in late 2020, Trigger Point was the first major motion picture to be shot in Bayfield.
Turner says he and Petelle settled on filming in Bayfield, which is also Turner’s hometown, when the script required a small town in northern U.S. to serve as the main character’s hideout.
“We decided that come hell or high water, we’re going to do the film in Bayfield,” Turner said.
Turner says the filming, which took place from October to December of 2020, provided a source of income for the small town north of London during a time when many local businesses were dealing with fresh wounds from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
“All the businesses did well, all the hotels were full, so a lot of economic benefit, but mostly, people loved that we were there and we were focusing on the community,” Turner said.
Feore added that “from the artist’s point of view,” it was remarkable that Turner and Petelle found a way to make movies during the pandemic.
“Everybody that they hired, and they were all experts in their field, was willing to play ball,” Feore said.
“Yeah we’ll test two, three times a week, yes we’ll wear the mask, whatever you need, we’ll do that. It’s goofy, it’s a pain in the backside, but we’ll do it if we can make a movie.”
The three also boasted southwestern Ontario’s potential of becoming a hub for making movies, with Turner referring to the region as “fertile land for filming.”
“People and producers are starting to think about places outside of the traditional zones and a lot of it is that towns are open to it and that we get to see different things … and expose people to different places,” said Petelle.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a show and being like, ‘oh, I know that bar. I’ve seen it in this and this.'”
“It also helps if governments back us up,” added Feore.
“If you look at Murdoch Mysteries, it’s a caravan of showing up in different places, and there are regional incentives to do that kind of stuff. The more that that happens and the more welcoming communities become, when they realize it’s not going to be invasive or destructive and actually could be a lot of fun, then we’ll see more of this.”
As for the festival, Downs, the FCFF’s executive director, says it’s a relief to see things going the way she “had a hunch they were going to go.”
On top of Ontario’s usual protocols for theatres, which include masking and requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination, Downs says they’re only selling tickets to fill half of their capacity, despite being able to sell at full capacity.
“We just want people to still feel safe and be able to be physically distanced from the next group and still have good seats,” Downs said.
Downs adds that’s impossible to choose what she’s most looking forward to, but says she’s excited for the FCFF’s spotlight on Indigenous programming as well as seeing the audience reactions that were absent during last year’s virtual event.
The festival will also feature the Ontario Screen Creator’s Conference, which contains a series of live events that aim to educate, entertain and inspire emerging filmmakers and film fans alike.
One of the events includes a “behind the scenes” conversation with author, screenwriter and London resident Emma Donoghue, whose novel Room was adapted into the film of the same name which was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Her latest novel-to-film adaptation, The Wonder, is directed by the Academy Award-winning Sebastián Lelio and will star Florence Pugh.
A similar conversation will also be held with award-winning television writer David Shore, who created the critically-acclaimed series House. The London-born writer’s more recent work includes creating Battle Creek, Sneaky Pete and The Good Doctor.
The festival runs until Oct. 30 and local cinephiles hoping to catch the lights, camera and action have the option of buying in-person and virtual offerings.
Tickets are available for purchase on the FCFF’s website.