Canada (2001): Psychological thriller
Also known as: Snowbound
Produced by: Snowball Productions Inc. and Nomadic Pictures
Filmed on location: Whitehorse, CA and Calgary, CA
Release date: September 29, 2001
93 min, Color, Budget: $2 million, TV film, available on VHS
Producers: Chad Oakes, Mike Frislev
Director: Ruben Preuss
MARSH LAKE – Outside the Inn on the Lake on Thursday evening, cameras are shuffled around, snow is shovelled and placed in the appropriate spots then raked for the right look as actors rehearse their lines for Snowbound.Nomadic Pictures of Calgary is producing the film in and around the Whitehorse area.
The plot is one with murder, betrayal and theft. Liz Garnett, played by Monika Schnarre, brings her friend, Barbara Kates, played by Erika Eleniak, to an isolated cabin. Garnett believes that her ex-husband is after her. Peter Dobson stars as Kate’s boyfriend, Gunner Davis. Chad Oakes is the movie’s executive producer.
“It’s a thriller,” explained director Ruben Preuss, as the actors and crew took a lunch break from the shoot at the Inn. Within that thriller is some comic relief presented by Jann Arden, the Canadian singer who is perhaps better known for her award-winning music. Arden plays Sarah Hotchkiss, a realtor who rents the cabin to the two women from the city.
“I think she’s comic relief in this movie,” said Arden of her character as Eleniak and Dobson rehearsed nearby. Her character is really honest and very straightforward, she said. Although Arden is internationally-known for her music, she has also appeared on some television programs. “I think it’s important to try new things,” she commented. This presented her with the opportunity to meet new people. Although she had originally thought the movie would be shot in Calgary, where she lives, when the location was changed, it gave her the chance to visit the Yukon for five days.
The decision to bring the movie to the Yukon stemmed from the lack of snow available in the Calgary area. However, by the time production began on April 2, there wasn’t as much snow as was planned for the movie. Ironically, southern Alberta has experienced a number of snowstorms since production began in the Yukon. Some of the snow has even had to be trucked onto the set, Preuss said. On the set, as snow would turn to slush, workers continued to dump wheelbarrows-full of fresh snow on the areas that were to be used for the scene. They would then rake it, spreading it out for the scene.
Despite the lack of snow, Preuss commented that he would not want to change the location for the $2-million project. As he described it, the area has the “right vibe”. Oakes also commented on the benefits of the area. “We’re here for two reasons,” he explained. He noted that the panoramic views and scenery of the area were the first reason. The second was the Yukon Film Incentive Program. Without the tax rebate program, the company would not have produced the film in the Yukon.
About two thirds of the project is scheduled to be filmed in the area with the remaining portion being filmed in the Calgary area. Some scenes have had a change of scenery simply based on the weather conditions and the time of year. Preuss explained that while the story was to take place during a blizzard, the weather condition had to be taken out of the film. There were also some night scenes that have been changed into daytime scenes because of the increased daylight.
Asked if that would be an issue had the film been entirely shot in Calgary, he said that it would likely be just a little less of a problem. That being said, Preuss also commented on the positive aspects of the work in the Yukon.“People have been very friendly and helpful,” he said, noting specifically the support from the Yukon Film Commission. Preuss has directed everything from commercials to documentaries to features such as Snowbound, with this being his 10th or 11th feature.
For Schnarre, the chance to play Garnett allowed her to do something a little different than the television work she regularly does. She spoke during an interview inside the Inn. Schnarre, based in Vancouver, has worked on The Bold and the Beautiful, Andromeda, and Beastmaster, a program she is currently working on among a number of others. In addition to giving her the opportunity to work on a film, she also liked the script and knew Oakes from her former work as a model, and noted his good work as a producer. She also felt Garnett’s character was “interesting”. “Liz (Garnett) has a kind of a dark side,” she said.
Asked how she felt about working in film rather than television, she commented, “It’s a lot more waiting around.” In filming a television program, there will be fewer takes of a scene because of the limited time available to shoot the program. On The Bold and the Beautiful, for example, a show was shot each day. Other programs may have a week to shoot an episode. Movies, however, have a number of weeks where scenes can be taken and retaken a number of times. She commented that in television, there are often only about two shots of a scene that may be filmed. “I like the pace of TV,” Schnarre said.
For both Dobson and Eleniak, Snowbound gave the two Los Angeles-area friends a chance to work together. Like Schnarre, Dobson also found his character interesting. “It was the complexity of playing a very deceiving character,” he said of his role in the film. Dobson has worked in numerous films including (among others) Forrest Gump, Drowning Mona and Cover Me.
Eleniak saw the movie as a chance to work on a psychological thriller, which happens to be one of her favourite types of movies to watch. “She’s a strong character,” she said of Kates. Her work in film has ranged from movies like E.T. and The Blob to The Beverley Hillbillies, among a long list of titles. Her favourite work is in The Opponent, in which she appeared alongside her boyfriend, James Colby.
Oakes estimates that the film will bring between $500,000 and $750,000 into the territory. When asked how many Yukoners are employed on the film, he said that although he didn’t have exact numbers available, a rough estimate is about half the crew. Production will be wrapping up early next week, as Oakes and others working on the film from Outside are scheduled to leave on Tuesday.
Snowbound has already been pre-sold within Canada, and Oakes is hoping to arrange a film premiere in Whitehorse sometime in September. He said although some of the actors may not be able to attend such a premiere, he would like to come up if it goes ahead. After its release, it will be able to be viewed on video, and television on a number of channels such as The Movie Network.