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This article was published 23/9/2015 (2032 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Some 1,500 people invited to the red carpet premiere of Paul Gross’s film Hyena Road at the Centennial Concert Hall Wednesday night could be expected to be baffled and amazed that the film, set entirely in the dusty desert environs of Afghanistan, was largely shot in Manitoba.
Writer-producer-director Paul Gross also stars in the film as Pete Mitchell, a veteran intelligence officer attempting to decode the country’s baffling history of allegiances and enmities. Gross shared the secret of the illusion during interviews at the lounge of the Grant Park cinemas Wednesday afternoon: Grey.
The secret of getting a uniformly sandy-grainy look was a function of colour timing, the post-production process of digitally adding colour to a movie for a desired effect.
"What I discovered is that if you have a grey sky and you have a bright blue sky, if you add just a bit of grey, it seems just the same to a viewer," he says. "It’s related to camouflage patterns. The dominant colour in almost every camouflage pattern is grey, but you can’t see it. Isn’t that just about the weirdest thing you ever heard?"
It was important, he says, because the movie was largely shot at CFB Shilo, 205 kms west of Winnipeg and in Jordan, with addition footage shot in Afghanistan by Gross and three cameramen following a Good Will trip Gross took to Afghanistan to visit Canadian Forces troops in 2010.
"The light quality in each place is quite a bit different," he says. "I don’t understand how any of it works, but it all seems to be pretty effective."
Shooting in Manitoba in the fall of 2014 had its share of challenges.
"We had some wet and we had some grey and it was cold as hell," he says. "But it turned out really well."
Working on location at CFB Shilo, Gross says, was "perfect in almost every respect because they had a forward training area where we could build a forward operating base."
The base provided the necessary LAVs (light armoured vehicles) to convince viewers scenes were shot a world away. The base also supplied lots of other military hardware of the type you might expect to see in a command centre, although its placement might be unorthodox for the purposes of the film, Gross laughs.
"It was hysterical because we were just dragging everything we could that was lying in junk piles at CFB Shilo and basically pushing it in there and figuring out where to put it."
The film was Gross’s first experience shooting in Manitoba, but his co-stars proved more familiar with the province.
Christine Horne essentially started her career taking on the role of Hagar Shipley in the 2007 film The Stone Angel.
"I was 24, and it was trial by fire," says Horne, who plays the role of Capt. Jennifer Bowman. "It was a very big way to start your career, because it was a great Canadian novel, and oh, do it like Ellen Burstyn," she says, referring to the Oscar winning actress who played Hagar Shipley in her advanced years.
Rossif Sutherland stars as Ryan Sanders, a sniper who becomes entangled in the moral complexity of the war in Afghanistan. Sutherland, too, filmed in Winnipeg, playing a charismatic junkie in Gary Yates’s 2009 heist comedy High Life. He says he enjoys getting a diversity of roles.
"As an actor, I just show up from one audition to the next," he says. "I’m not sure what Paul saw in me, but I met with him and he pretty much offered me the part in the room and told me to go pack my bags, which is what I did."
Hyena Road opens in Winnipeg theatres Oct. 9.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.