Old-school filmmaking on a budget

Conestogo’s High Rise Studio, in Elmira shooting this week, is getting good buzz on its latest outing

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Elmira’s one and only laundromat, Scrubbles, will make its film debut next year as the setting for three scenes in High Rise Studio’s latest feature film, Transference.

A crew from the Conestogo-based company spent three nights filming at Scrubbles this week. The supernatural thriller was written by Aaron Tomlin, Jennifer Lloyd and studio producer and director Matthew Ninaber.

“It’s kind of a throwback to the movies from the ‘80s and the ‘90s. Being an independent film we don’t have a huge budget to use a lot of special effects, so we’ve been really focusing on story,” Tomlin said.

The tale follows a brother and sister who are connected in a unique way. Without giving too much away, Tomlin says the audience watches as they discover exactly what that connection is. Child actors also get involved with flashbacks to the characters’ childhood.

Production officially got rolling on Labour Day weekend. They spent four nights in the forest filming.

“The forest stuff we shot last weekend looks amazing. The footage from last night in Elmira looks amazing. We’re really excited by what we have,” Tomlin said.

They’ll also be filming at the Wellington County Museum, some roads in Waterloo and on a set they’re creating out of a garage to act as a psych ward.

“That’s what we’ve been really trying to do, connect with the local community. Again, being an independent film you’re always relying on people around you to help out in any way possible,” Tomlin said.

Conestogo-based film company High Rise Studio filmed scenes for three nights this week at Scrubbles in Elmira for their upcoming film, Transference. It’s described as a supernatural thriller and is being filmed all over Waterloo Region.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Conestogo-based film company High Rise Studio filmed scenes for three nights this week at Scrubbles in Elmira for their upcoming film, Transference. It’s described as a supernatural thriller and is being filmed all over Waterloo Region. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
With three writers working on the story all with different ideas of what they want to movie to be he said the result was a unique script. There have been close to 20 different versions of it and they’ve been working on this for roughly two and a half years.

“Now we’re confident we have the best version possible and we’re pretty excited about it,” Tomlin said.

He explains they first created a short film, sort of their perfect concept, to show investors. They realized they had something good and submitted it to film festivals last year. The film was accepted into more than 15 festivals, winning a few, and also getting them on a ComicCon tour.

“We went to some of the biggest ComicCons, which is kind of our audience. So that whole process led us to again open some more doors in terms of getting the necessary funding,” Tomlin said.

He said the exposure helped them establish a good audience for when the full film comes out.

The vast majority of their filming is going to be completed by mid-November. They have to wait to shoot two scenes when snow arrives, likely in January.

They’ve been editing a bit as they go to create a rough cut and they’re planning to get a limited release in Waterloo Region next spring.

“From there then it goes through the distribution process where it goes through the festival circuit again, but then there’s different film conventions, like American Film Market, where it’ll go and then hopefully somebody picks it up,” Tomlin said.

The male lead is local, Jeremy Ninaber, who’s the director’s brother. Tomlin notes he definitely looks the part. Tomlin plays a part in the film, but the rest of the actors are from the Toronto area.

Their last movie, Extraction Day, was a B-type action movie and was distributed worldwide. They went through the same process they’re doing with Transference, piggybacking off the success of that movie.

“Our goal going into this is to secure a limited theatre release in Canada. That’s sort of the goal for all independent films to make it to that point. We’re confident that we can get the same deal we had for Extraction Day where in Canada you’ll be able to buy it at Walmart or HMV or find it online on Netflix or some sort of streaming service,” Tomlin said.

The filming hasn’t been without challenges. They’re relying on practical effects rather than computer effects to make fights and the like look realistic. They’ve found ways to rig the actors and work with stunt coordinators to ensure it’s visually appealing.

“Now every film you go see is just like ‘okay that’s a computer, that’s digitally done.’ And so finding ways to make everything look as realistic and grounded as possible is a challenge. Obviously the outdoor shoots, weather poses a challenge. The overnight shoots pose a challenge. But it’s a fun challenge,” Tomlin said.

He commends the crew for their hard work and helping push the visuals forward.

“I think the story’s so good, people are excited about the story. They’re fine with working those long hours because they know we have something special here.”

To see updates of the film visit www.highrisestudio.ca.