Movie-making: They're ba-ack! Look for the big film trucks around town this week! Deep-freeze or not, filmmaking season has begun in Winnipeg with The Choking Game. It's a day-and-night shoot for two weeks on a very touchy topic. Says executive producer and director Lane Shefter Bishop, working with Winnipeg film guru Juliette Hagopian (My Awkward Sexual Adventure): "It's about a girl who's trying to find herself and her place in the world, and unfortunately she hooks up with another girl in high school who introduces her to the 'choking game.' That brings her into the world of kids who cut off oxygen by pressing on carotid arteries and getting a high from passing out."
Lead actors are flying in from Los Angeles for this Lifetime women's network telepic, including Peri Gilpin -- who played Roz on Frazier -- as the upset mother in the film. Her troubled onscreen daughter, Taryn, is played by Freya Tingley (Hemlock Grove) and her "breath sister" friend is Alex Steele (Tori on Degrassi). Canadian actors include Mitch Ainley, Beverly Ndukwu, Julia Arkos, Kristen Harris, Ferron Guerreiro, and extras from Extras Casting here in the city. Filming sites include iconic Tech Voc High School, Corrientes Pizza on Bannatyne Avenue and the picturesque Woodhaven area.
This film is based on the Diana Lopez novel Choke. Very young kids have got involved in this dangerous activity, says Shefter Bishop: "As opposed to alcohol or drugs, it's immediate, free, you don't need people to get it for you and you don't act like a drunk person. Little do they know it can cause brain damage or death, or a bathroom pass-out and fall."
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YOUR HOLLYWOOD SHOT: Want to be a star yourself? The only problem is that pesky audition. On Saturday, March 15 and Sunday, March 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, and for only $75, you can train with Lori Stefaniuk of Next casting, who has chosen actors for roles in filmed-in-Winnipeg hockey movie Goon, TV series Cashing In and award-winning film Passionflower. This event happens at the Actors Training Centre of Manitoba, 502- 62 Albert St. Call 204-989-9669 weekdays or drop in between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays to register. They don't accept email applications and need to give you a script to study.
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SHIVER BALL GALA: The Delta Winnipeg hotel was filled with warmth and fun at its Children's Wish fundraiser for 340 big-hearted people, held last Friday night. Decorative snowflakes hung everywhere, as real-life snowflakes fell outside and temperatures plummeted. Philanthropist Regan Archambault happily jumped up to sing at bandleader Danny Kramer's invitation to the crowd for guest performers. She belted out a truly terrific rendition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot. A little harder to persuade were Joe Aiello, the evening's host from 102.3 Clear FM, and sidekick Chris Cvetkovic, former member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
They became the backup boy band, doing loud "Na, na-na-na nas" for Land of a Thousand Dances. Spotted at the event: Elsie Tellier, this year's Children's Wish spokeswoman, who received a rousing Happy Birthday song from the crowd as she turned 17 that night. The Vincent Massey student went to Disney World in 2011 to fulfil her wish. Other celebrants in the crowd who helped raise $135,000 that night included Jim and Glori Slater from K9 Storm, Tim Muys from Green Blade, Brad Mason from Derksen Mechanical, Charlene Snowdon from Even-Spray & Chemicals Ltd., Giselle Merke from Manitoba Blue Cross, Helen Halliday, general manager of the Delta hotel, Wade and Ryan Garriock of Garriock Insurance and event chairwoman Judith Chambers from TD Wealth Management.
The Winnipeg Free Press table included breaking-news editor Jason Bell and wife, Allyson, advertising manager Aaron Newnham and wife, Kelly, reporter Kevin Rollason and wife, Gail MacAulay, with their daughter, Sarah. The three of them are taking youngest daughter Mary to Oahu, Hawaii this year, courtesy of Children's Wish. Mary has multiple cardiac problems and Down syndrome.
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TOUGH WINNIPEGGERS: "Fifty-one degrees below zero and we were still open!" says J.R. Razos, owner of famous Greek hamburger stand V.J's Drive In on Main Street near Broadway. Strangely enough, they still pull the crowds all day and late into the night. V.J.'s attained international fame with a mention in travel book series Lonely Planet, so they get some crazy winter tourists as well as regulars driving from all over Winnipeg. To shield customers from the elements, they have a covered porch with a little heater blowing from above, but it's cold enough staff members wear long johns and sweaters under their white uniforms with pirate bandanas.
Winter weather brings with it one big advantage. "We get big tips -- because people feel sorry for us!" says Razos, breaking into howls of laughter.
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CIRQUE FOR LUNCH? Aerial dancer Talia Pura, a local Cirque de Soleil-style dancer, offers a little-known 45-minute drop-in class at Panthers Gym, teaching people how to climb 'the silks" that dangle nine metres down and puddle on the floor -- and do tricks high in the air when you get some experience. For $10 she takes anybody at any level, and gets them started on this unusual art/sport.
The five-foot gymnast started at age 50 herself and has done aerial dance for nine years. Pura, a playwright, actress, and teacher looks 40 and is supremely fit and strong. "If you never stop using it, you never lose it!" she laughs. Drop-in must show up at 11:45 a.m. at 1016 Marion St., in relaxed clothing.
Got tips, events, sightings, unusual things going on? Call Maureen's tip line at 204-474-1116, email Maureen.Scurfield@Winnipegfreepress.com, or send letters to Maureen Scurfield c/o The Insider, 1355 Mountain Ave., R2X 3B6