As a child, there was always something about the former Foodland grocery store in St. Norbert that intrigued Adam Smoluk.
"Living in the south end, we would drive past the Foodland," recalled Smoluk, who was raised and continues to live in St. Vital.
"I always thought it was very unusual, an independent grocery store — you don’t see many of those."
Years later, the young filmmaker took his childhood fascination and turned it into a film script, FOODLAND.
The completed film — written and directed by Smoluk — will have its world premiere on Thurs., Dec. 9 at the IMAX Cinema at Portage Place.
"It’s about a naive grocery store clerk who inadvertently robs his own store," Smoluk explained, adding filming took place around Winnipeg in January of 2009 — including inside the actual grocery store, which is now called The Marketplace in St. Norbert.
Smoluk described the feature film as a "caper comedy," and said the setting really dictated the tone of the script.
"You couldn’t have a horror movie called Foodland," he chuckled. "It just seemed like a right fit."
A week before his film’s premiere, Smoluk acknowledged he had a lot of help along the way.
A big boost came when he was accepted into the National Screen Institute’s Features First program in 2005 — a professional development program for budding writers, producers and directors working on a first or second feature film.
Smoluk, who was the youngest filmmaker ever to be selected for the program, already had one feature film under his belt at the time —Horse Thieves, for which Smoluk won the Audience Choice Award at the 2005 Winnipeg International Film Festival.
Still, he said, the guidance offered by the Feature Film training was invaluable to the finished product of FOODLAND.
"I was really luck to be selected," he said.
Smoluk added that producing the film in Winnipeg felt only natural, and that he was lucky to work with the talented actors and crew that call the city home.
While Smoluk’s excitement for made-in-Manitoba films is clearly evident, he said the big-budget Hollywood movies that are filmed in the city are a boon to the entire industry.
"The more experience that you have, and the more skills you acquire, the better it is for the whole community," he said.
James Clayton, who plays the naive clerk in FOODLAND, is an old friend of Smoluk and said working with the writer-director was a blast.
More than that, said Clayton — who grew up in East Kildonan but now lives in Vancouver — the film is going to "legitimatize" the made-in-Manitoba film industry.
While stressing there are other great Manitoban filmmakers out there, he said Smoluk is something special.
"He’s so fresh, it’s going to take everybody by surprise," said Clayton, adding that his friend has a "100% chance" at a bright future.
And while Smoluk’s FOODLAND has yet to be released to the rest of the world, he’s already working on his next script, this time with a writing partner — a feature length suspense film.
Smoluk said he’s optimistic about the project.
"I always felt with my first two films that they were going to get made," he said, adding in both cases his intuition proved correct.
"I certainly feel that way about this (script) too."
FOODLAND premieres Dec. 9 at the Portage Place IMAX Cinema. The film will also have limited runs in the new year at Cinematheque (Jan. 5 to 8 and 12 to 13) and the Evans Theatre in Brandon (Jan. 7 to 9).
For more information or to view the trailer, visit www.foodlandthemovie.com.