In the movie business, oftentimes it's the accidents that occur on camera that produce the most honest and evocative moments, and create cinematic gold.
Laurentian University professor Benjamin Paquette is a proponent of this ideology, spoken far more eloquently by one of his directorial inspirations, Orson Welles.
During a Sept. 16 class at Thorneloe University, Paquette showed a short clip to his class of Welles speaking about the accidents or failings by actors that happen on camera. The professor then showed sections of his film “Your Name Here” that will be screened at Cinéfest Sudbury on Sept. 21.
Paquette agrees that in a way, his entire film could be viewed as a happy accident as the circumstance that led to the film actually being made was never intially intended to turn into a 103-minute docudrama that is both an homage to Sudbury and one of Paquette's favourite films, the 1937 classic and Oscar-winning, “A Star is Born.”
“In 2013, the Sudbury Theatre Centre asked me to teach an acting course, that was kind of strangely titled, adult film acting,” said Paquette. “I went into the STC and was expecting they would be giving me the stage as the work area, but they took me to the main foyer and pretty much said, 'Here's where you'll be working.' ”
Paquette knew from that point that if was going to take on the task, he wanted to do it the right way, so he footed the bill for the equipment, including a new projector, and reached out to some of his colleagues at Laurentian and was able to assemble a team to work on the class with him.
Some 35 people enrolled in the class, and Paquette was able to secure a spot at the Rainbow Theatre inside the Rainbow Centre, as it had been shut down.
The intial structure of the class was to be that the students would perform scenes for screen testing and would leave with professionally directed and edited material for their demo reel. The material compiled by Paquette would also be used as promotional material for the STC to put out a short advertisement promoting the acting class.
Paquette had the students watch the film, “A Star is Born” and choose their three favourite scenes to perform, but with the twist of rewriting the dialogue to suit their style.
For three straight Sundays for 12 hours a day, the students performed their scenes, while also providing their personal background stories on camera, shedding light on what their lives in Sudbury are like.
At the end of the session, Paquette found himself with 90 hours of footage to scan through and edit, which became “Your Name Here."
“It was a bigger endeavour than I had ever thought it would be,” said Paquette. “When we were shooting, I wasn't really there, but when I had a chance to sit down and really watch it I started to enjoy it more and more.”
The docudrama is roughly one-third portraits or snapshots of the people who appear in the film, one-third “A Star is Born” and one-third the students acting out their favourite scenes, which are then interspersed with the original picture.
The end product is a unique “mash up” that the students didn't even know was being made.
“I was expecting this to be a learning experience and when I went through the class I thought I sucked — I was convinced that I had blown it,” said Larry Schaffer, one of the students who appears in the film.
“It's so cool that this is a movie now, we had no idea that this was going on.”
Marie Whitehead was another one of the 35 students who thought she had just signed up for an acting class.
“I think it's a brilliant idea, it was such a great experience,” said Whitehead. “I had no idea that this would become a movie.”
The reaction was unanimous when Paquette first showed it to them, after a year of editing.
“I invited them all in for a private screening at Thornloe and when the film came on it was like all of their jaws dropped at the same time to see themselves on the screen,” said Paquette. “These were people that didn't really know each other coming in and when the film was on they were all laughing together.”
The film will be screened on Sept. 21 at SilverCity on Barrydowne Road at 3 p.m. and will be free to all who wish to attend.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Paquette.