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Winnipeg brothers turn filmmaking into all-in-the-family affair

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There was just too much talent in the Kushnier family not to take advantage of a collaboration.

Apparently, that's the reasoning behind a short film coming from writer-director-actor Serge Kushnier.

Like his brother Jeremy Kushnier, a musical-theatre vet, Serge left Winnipeg for a stage career in a move that eventually landed him on the Broadway stage in the musical Hairspray.

Some years earlier, Jeremy made the same journey, which culminated in his playing the lead role of Ren in the Broadway production of Footloose and scoring further credits in productions of Rent, Jersey Boys and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Serge, 30, now lives in Toronto and says he has since given up acting to concentrate on a writing career. Two years ago, he sold a script for a TV movie, A Holiday Heist, which was shot with stars Lacey Chabert and Vivica A. Fox. He also went behind the camera to write and direct a short film, The Boyle Effect, back in his Winnipeg hometown with local talent Robb Patterson and Jan Skene. (That film screened last summer at the Gimli Film Festival.)

"I thought I might as well try that again and utilize my family palette this time," Serge says in a phone interview from Toronto.

"So I contacted Jeremy and told him I'd written something I thought he would be great for."

That film is titled Will. Serge worked around Jeremy's schedule for an intensive two-day shoot in Stratford, Ont., where Jeremy is rehearsing the role of Capt. Walker for a production of The Who's Tommy for the 2013 Stratford season.

"It revolves around two estranged brothers that have to go back to their hometown to bury their loathsome father, a father that they never really connected with," says Serge.

"When they get to the house, the cremated remains are there in the kitchen, forcing them to interact and talk to each other. And they actually find out over discussion and reading over the forms that the inheritance will only go to one of them. They're twin brothers and it goes to the eldest brother.

"But a little bit further into the film, they find out the inheritance isn't really money but a pile of debt, so the tables continuously turn on these brothers."

The project involved a third Kushnier brother, Bryce, a musician and composer who also lives in Toronto and performs electronic music under the name Vitaminsforyou.

"Bryce scored the first short that I shot, The Boyle Effect, so I thought I'd bring him on board for this one again."

The end result is in post-production. Serge says he hopes to shop the finished product at film festivals.

"I'm trying to get people interested so I can potentially move on to features," Serge says.

It's not an unrealistic goal, when your family has your back. Especially this family.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2013 D3

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About Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

His dad was Winnipeg musician Jimmy King, a one-time columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. One of his brothers is a playwright. Another is a singer-songwriter.

Randall has been content to cover the entertainment beat in one capacity or another since 1990.

His beat is film, and the job has placed him in the same room as diverse talents, from Martin Scorsese to Martin Short, from Julie Christie to Julia Styles. He has met three James Bonds (four if you count Woody Allen), and director Russ Meyer once told him: "I like your style."

He really likes his job.


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