Jann Arden on heist film ‘Vandits,’ which had its equipment stolen during production


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Jann Arden has range. In the last several decades, the multiple Juno Award-winning singer, author and actress released 15 albums, found time to write five books, and became the self-deprecating subject of her own CTV television series, “Jann.”

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Jann Arden has range. In the last several decades, the multiple Juno Award-winning singer, author and actress released 15 albums, found time to write five books, and became the self-deprecating subject of her own CTV television series, “Jann.”

It’s why, at 60 years old, she’s primed for more levity.

“It was fun to swear,” says Arden of her new role in the Canadian indie comedy film “Vandits,” in which she plays an unhinged bingo hall receptionist named Blanche.

“I just did a little piece on a Hallmark series but there’s definitely no swearing on Hallmark. And on the ‘Jann’ show, any kind of swearing is beeped out. I think I’ve done a ‘goddamn’ maybe once or twice, so it’s very liberating.”

Directed by Stu Stone and written and produced by Adam Rodness, “Vandits” imagines a chaotic, upbeat heist scenario — under the guise of a Christmas Eve bingo hall break-in — where the four robbers have no idea how to actually pull off a heist.

The film, debuting in theatres on Friday, is indulgently goofy with a side of time loops in the vein of “Groundhog Day.” It’s a curse-throwing, anything-goes tone, which Arden embraces.

“I don’t really consider myself an actor. I certainly don’t have formal training — it’s really challenging and kind of scary,” says Arden of the idea of becoming someone else.

“Music I know sideways, backwards, eyes closed, hands tied behind my back. I’ve done it all my life. I’ve done it professionally for 40 years, so to try other things, there’s a risk of really getting it wrong — you have to just be prepared to fail. I don’t mind it at all.”

To that end, for Arden and the rest of the cast and crew, failure — or the prospect of it — was in the air during production after a trailer and truck containing $250,000 worth of equipment was stolen before filming even started.

Rodness says that the truck was found abandoned shortly after and the perpetrators were never caught. But “90 per cent” of their gear remains missing. Winnipeg police say the investigation remains open.

Shortly after the incident took place, Stone and Rodness filed a police report and posted about the ordeal online, after which it became a news story.

“We started getting calls … blackmailing us saying, ‘send me 300 bucks to this email address and I’ll tell you where your truck is,’” says Rodness. “Then the RCMP got involved because of the blackmail, so now, like, this little Canadian movie is the biggest news piece in the Midwest.”

Rodness says the theft changed the energy on set as they sought to keep disruptions away from cast members, while local Winnipeg production and equipment suppliers stepped in to replace their gear.

“It made everyone come together. Everyone took a step back and saw what really matters,” says Rodness, who hails from the Toronto suburb of Thornhill. “That was probably the greatest part about it.”

What’s more, Rodness was hell-bent on ensuring that the entire experience felt well-suited for Arden, who he says carries a great deal of admiration and respect.

“We actually wrote the movie with her in mind,” adds Rodness when speaking of Arden’s reputation. “She just brings so much credibility to what we’re about. She’s awesome.”

While the singer has enjoyed critical and commercial success in spades, she in part credits her positive image to being unafraid to be her authentic self, on and off the camera, while she’s still among the living.

“I’m gonna drop dead at some point. There’s a time limit here,” says Arden who likens her recent choices to a dialogue she’s consistently having with herself over her passions and speaking out about social issues such as addiction, literacy or animal welfare.

“I take a lot of vitriol on social media for my stance,” says Arden. “I don’t get too involved in politics but I’m certainly not going to sit on my hands and shut up and make other people do the heavy lifting.”

It’s a mindset Arden says she brings to all of her projects, whether it’s “Vandits” or her CTV comedy series, “Jann,” that’s loosely based on her life.

Although CTV has not yet confirmed whether “Jann” will be renewed for a fourth season, the network is expected to air a “Jann” Christmas special in December.

“It would be really great to get the funding to be able to do season 4,” says Arden. “I certainly haven’t lost hope.”

More than anything, though, Arden says she’s thankful to be in the position she’s in, even when things don’t always go as planned.

“I’m very proud to be in an arena where, you know, it’s making people happy. That’s a pretty great legacy I think,” says Arden. “I’m glad that this is what I’ve done with my life.”

“Vandits” will play theatres starting Friday for one week in Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax and be available for VOD on Hollywood Suite as of Dec. 1.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2022.

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