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Locally produced short film garnering festival awards for High Rise Studios

Tyler Peacock and Jaden Goetz play the two young offenders in The Elmira Case, a short documentary film about the 1974 vandalism spree that led to the first application of restorative justice in Canada. The movie, produced by the Waterloo Region-based Rosco Film company, premiered Mar. 21 at the Peace on Earth Film in Chicago. [Submitted]


Superhero powers, mysterious locations and damaged characters seem to be the winning formula for High Rise Studio’s newest short film, Transference, which has already brought home top prize at two film festivals early in the season.

On set of Transference, winner of best sci-fi film at the Toronto Short Film Festival and best short film at GeekFest Film Fest, in Atlantic City.  [Submitted]
On set of Transference, winner of best sci-fi film at the Toronto Short Film Festival and best short film at GeekFest Film Fest, in Atlantic City. [Submitted]
The producer and director of the Conestogo-based studio, Matthew Ninaber, says the nine-minute-long film is actually a pitch video for a longer feature film they’re planning.

“It follows three characters that all come from broken down homes and they have kind of superpowers, but it’s more of a coming of age story and find your place in the world,” Ninaber said. “It introduces a lot of these characters, it introduces the world. Before we made the feature we wanted to see if people were interested, if we had something that people hadn’t seen before.”

They’ve just begun their film fest circuit for the year. They won best sci-fi at the Toronto Short Film Festival and then best short film at GeekFest Film Fest, which was in Atlantic City.

“So far the response has been amazing and people are really excited for us to keep on developing the story,” Ninaber said.

As with all of his work, Ninaber didn’t go far from home to film the video. They used a farm off Sawmill Road and a house off Bloomingdale Road for their sets.

“It’s a very old house so when you watch the film both locations are kind of terrifying and we haven’t sort of seen that in a superhero movie,” Ninaber said. “We’ve put it in a very dark and creepy world and people are really being drawn to that. It’s been a lot of fun.”

The inspiration for the film came from creative writer Aaron Tomlin. Ninaber said he had been pondering the idea of how do you protect a superhero when you’re not special yourself. The boy in the film, Joshua, is tasked with raising his younger sister.

“He gets to a place where he realizes his sister has something very special about her and he doesn’t know what to do about that,” Ninaber said.

The plans for the film include a few more film festival stops and meeting with different people to get feedback on what works. If audience response continues to be positive and investors come through they’re hoping to shoot the feature-length film after the summer.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to be filming this fall, all in town, locally,” Ninaber said. “It’s very daunting but the response that we keep getting from people keeps encouraging us to keep going with it.”

They’re also busy looking at more locations they can shoot in, while keeping up with promotional material for clients like Blackberry and Kijiji.

He notes the video can’t be viewed online, but it’s worth it to see it in the theatre at upcoming film fests.

“Sound is so important,” Ninaber said. “We love when we get to show our movie in a theatre and really hear the texture and the elements.  I think we spent as much time building the sound score as we did filming the movie.”

For those who may be tired of the typical superhero movie, and think everything’s been overdone in film, Ninaber says think again,

“We’re really mixing up different genres with this movie and I think that’s what makes it special,” Ninaber said. “You get hoodwinked in a really good way and we’re hoping to keep that going through the whole feature.”

If Transference comes to fruition, this will mark the third feature film High Rise has put out since 2012. Last Run came out in 2012, followed by Extraction Day in 2014.

“It’s very competitive. One festival we got in to we asked how many submissions they got, they got 500,” he said. “The fact we got accepted into the festival blows our mind. The fact we’ve won two already is amazing.”

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