Calgary International Film Festival: Darker Calgary to star in violent crime comedy Jonesin ‘

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The initial premise of the first script of the Calgary thriller Jonesin ‘was pretty straightforward. Screenwriter Kevin Doree wanted to put his protagonist, a fish out of water, a good boy named Deke, through the wringer.

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“He wanted to put his character in an impossible situation and get him out,” says director Scott Westby, who shot the film in Calgary in 2018. “So he had this scene where this guy is in a warehouse taped to a chair. and these two buffoons are unable to kill him and must go and get new bullets. He started in that warehouse scene and kind of wrote from there. This is how the film was born.

The plot has evolved to some extent, but the general premise has remained. The dark and comedic thriller, which marks Westby’s directorial debut, is about a handsome sad sack named Deke Jones (played by American actor Brandon Sklenar) who makes an unhappy stop at a dodgy Calgary bar for relief her bladder on her coming home from her grandmother’s funeral. In the event of mistaken identity, he finds himself hopelessly embroiled in a drug conflict between two warring but equally inept criminal gangs. Deke, who seems to have some secrets of his own, is unable to escape his predicament and the many blows that come with it, even with the help of a mysterious beauty named Gina (Kristen Gutoskie from Handmaid’s Tale), who is also tangled with local UL crime boss (Edmonton’s Jesse Lipscombe) and may have her own agenda.

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Actor Brandon Sklenar in a scene from Jonesin '.  Photo by Benjamin Laird.
Actor Brandon Sklenar in a scene from Jonesin ‘. Photo by Benjamin Laird. Photo by Benjamin Laird /jpg

Filmed with support from the Calgary Film Center’s Project Lab program, Jonesin ‘is Full Swing Productions’ second feature film. Directors Westby and Matt Watterworth met while studying filmmaking at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in the mid-2000s. Their first film, In Plainview, was also a dark and comedic detective film filled with fire and not-so-bright criminals. Watterworth directed and Westby produced this film, which began airing on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV in January. For Jonesin ‘the two roles swapped but it certainly looks like it could have come from the same filmmaker. Both were based on Doree’s storylines. The two mix sudden jolts of violence with lively dialogue and dark comedy. Both show Calgary’s underused belly as a location rather than the mountainous vistas that are typically featured in Alberta productions. The two seem inspired by the tone of the violent but darkly funny detective films of Joel and Ethan Coen.

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“I never thought of myself as an auteur filmmaker,” says Westby, who will take part in a question-and-answer session at the film’s world premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival on September 30 at the Globe Cinema. “Art films are really not the kind of thing I want to do. I like the escape and the entertainment. This is what I grew up watching, this is what I want to do and put in front of people. Kevin’s sensitivity has always been very interesting to me. He always writes in an unexpected way. The dialogue is so awesome. Every time I read one of his scripts, I want to do it.

Calgary plays Calgary in the movie, which is a rarity. Admittedly, the city isn’t mentioned much beyond a quick reference to a few neighborhoods. The team stayed away from the glittering offices of downtown Calgary. There are also no mountains in sight. Much like in Plainview, which was shot largely in the dilapidated, closed, and about to be demolished Shamrock Hotel, in the southeast of town, Jonesin ‘called for “the darker side of it.” Calgary, ”Westby says.

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Cinematographer Nick Thomas and director Scott Westby on the set of Jonesin '.  Photo by Benjamin Laird.
Cinematographer Nick Thomas and director Scott Westby on the set of Jonesin ‘. Photo by Benjamin Laird. Photo by Benjamin Laird /jpg

“I was really excited for it,” he says. “I wanted to show a side of Calgary that we don’t normally see. It was actually pretty hard to find crappy, run down, and filthy places. This is the look we were looking for. We shot a lot of it in industrial areas around town. We shot a bit in Inglewood, at the Inglewood Food Mart in one of the shooting scenes. Then we shot a whole third of it at the Calgary Film Center.

It’s quite rare for a movie on a budget to shoot so much on a professional soundstage with bespoke sets. But filmmakers have a habit of hitting above their weight when it comes to attracting resources and talent behind the scenes. As with In Plainview, veteran Calgary director Robert Cuffley is one of the executive producers. Murray Ord, whose long list of credits includes Legends of the Fall, Tomorrowland and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, once again acted as stage manager. Frank Laratta, who won an Emmy for his work on the television series Fargo and Klondike, was recruited as sound supervisor and Gail Kennedy, who won an Emmy for Bury My Heart in 2007 at Wounded Knee, held the makeup artist job.

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As with many dark, comedic crime films, Jonesin ‘is full of comedic support players who give several local actors the chance to shine. That includes Collin Sutton as a serious, mustached cycling cop in short pants and local veteran Peter Skagen as a laconic bartender who has seen it all. Lipscombe is particularly good as a meticulous crime boss who spends most of the film becoming increasingly infuriated by the idiots who work for him. Mikaela Cochrane, who is perhaps best known in those areas as the lead singer of the post-punks Future Womb, is a chronic stage thief as one of those aforementioned idiots, a cranky lackey prone to fits of rage. . The same goes for Reamonn Joshee, who stars as an aspiring golden-toothed gangbanger named Twitch.

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They all conspire to make Deke’s life hell, an unlucky country boy who just wants to go home.

“I think what I liked the most was that he didn’t deserve any of this,” Westby says. “There is a tone in there that is really delicate. We call it a black crime comedy and we worked really hard to get you to feel sympathy for him, but it never took your pleasure from it. It’s good to see him sink into chaos.

Jonesin ‘will screen on September 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Globe Cinema and on October 3 at 11:30 a.m. at Contemporary Calgary and will be shown on video on demand from October 1 at 9 a.m. to October 3 at 11:59 a.m. as part of the Calgary International Film Festival. . The festival runs from September 23 to October 3. For more information, visit ciffcalgary.ca.

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Darcy J. Skinner

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