It started as a screenplay.
Then it was a book.
Now it’s a completed full-length feature film that has a lot of local ties.
Co-written by former Saultites Todd Gordon and Lee Chambers, and with featured music composed by Nick Jackson and Craig West of IT, The Pineville Heist is confirmed to screen in Sault Ste. Marie this April.
While Chambers, who also directed and produced the feature, scheduled the film’s world premiere in Thunder Bay on Wednesday, April 6, follow-up screenings will take place in the Sault at Galaxy Cinemas on Thursday, April 14.
Show times are 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and admission is by donation to Cineplex’s Free the Children charity campaign.
Chambers told SooToday The Pineville Heist took approximately eight years to develop from a plot outline to the completed work we’ll see in April.
He explained that most standard films take anywhere from four to seven years to get from script development to camera.
Knowing the film creation process would be lengthy, Chambers decided to release the story as a book in 2011 in order to maintain public interest in the project.
“The book was something that allowed people to know what I was doing and kept me energized and passionate about the project,” Chambers said. “It’s nice having the story out in that format as well.”
The novelization of The Pineville Heist - released as an e-book, in paperback, and as an audio book - has sold more than 42,000 copies world-wide and was an Amazon best seller in a variety of categories throughout 2012.
Gordon came onto the project, Chambers said, when The Pineville Heist screenplay was only a 12-page plot outline.
After 18 days and a number of phone calls and emails later, the pair had a first draft of the screenplay.
“I heard Lee Chambers had a short film showing in the Sault in 2009 or 2010, so sent a congrats email to him,” Gordon told us. “We started chatting and The Pineville Heist was born.”
“We both have a passion for the story and characters, so there is give and take. I am excited to see Lee's directorial vision of the script,” he said.
“He’s a really good writer and the process was a lot of fun,” Chambers said of their collaboration. “But it was a lot of back and forth.”
About 25 drafts later and with the aid of a number of script editors - including development support from Diane Nabatoff (Narc), Tom Craig (former senior VP of production at Universal Pictures) and Dave Trottier (the author of the Screenwriter's Bible) - The Pineville Heist was shot over four weeks in Thunder Bay where Chambers works in the film production program at Confederation College.
After failing to secure any government funding to finance the film, Chambers took a DIY approach, something he feels ultimately benefited the production as a whole.
“Because this project is entirely self-funded and funded by private investors, I didn’t have to take a shitty distribution deal,” Chambers said. “Normally how Canadian government funding works is you can’t get government funding unless you have a distribution deal, and all the distributors know that. So they know that you need them. Because we didn’t get Canadian government funding, I didn’t have to sign a deal. And a lot of those deals aren’t very good.”
Because the film was done without government funding, there were no restrictions on who he could hire for the project.
A perfect example of this creative freedom is The Pineville Heist’s award-winning cinematographer, David Le May, who is originally from the UK.
In addition to a large number of Canadians, the cast also consists of three Australians and two Americans, Chambers told us.
“The movie is closer to my vision because I didn’t have someone telling me I couldn’t do something,” he said.
Once the film was completed, Chambers announced last August that a distribution deal was signed with Black Wolf Media Group.
Even though The Pineville Heist is Chambers’ baby, he admitted to us that he was the weakest part of the production.
His lack of feature film experience contributed to his troubles obtaining funding - potential funders didn’t trust he could handle 90 minutes of drama, he said, something he feels will no longer be an obstacle.
“It was a blast making it. I knew it was going to be a ride and I knew I would be in it for the long term,” he said. “Hopefully the next one doesn’t take seven or eight years.”
The Pineville Heist, featuring Presley Massara (The Book of Truth), Carl Bailey (Django Unchained), Priscilla-Anne Forder (The Reckoning), and Basil Hoffman (The Artist, West Wing, Hill Street Blues), is the story of a teenager who becomes entangled in a harrowing series of events involving murder and money.