The news of Hollywood stars hiding somewhere in the North Okanagan filming the giant Disney film production of Tomorrowland was on just about everyone’s radar.
No doubt, considering George Clooney was one of those stars.
However, seeing the camera, sets, lights and bustle of filmmaking is really nothing new to the Okanagan, considering how many independent filmmakers there are that call this area home.
The only difference is that most of them do it for the sheer love of the craft, and unlike Hollywood, they don’t get much compensation for what they put out.
Randy Kirk can relate.
The Vernon resident, who works by day as a computer technician at Kal Tire, has always had a passion for film and writing, and he has been indulging in those pursuits for the past six years.
“I love this community of filmmakers in the Valley. There is less red tape and bureaucracy in getting projects done and this year I have worked with great, enthusiastic people,” he said.
Kirk’s foray into filmmaking came at a catalyst in his life.
“I had been writing screenplays and always had ideas for movies in my head, but had nothing published yet,” he said. “I had put my writing on the back burner while I was married and my son was young, but in 2007 I had a heart procedure, so I made a bucket list. The first thing was to be an extra on a major motion picture.”
Kirk crossed that item off his list when he worked on the 2008 TV mini series of Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Stain, filmed in Savona west of Kamloops.
The second thing on the list was to finish a screenplay.
Kirk has recently ticked that one off by writing a TV pilot, titled Justice Park, that he is currently filming in and around Vernon.
The storyline revolves around a down-and-out police officer who stumbles across a crime, which brings him out of his depression.
The film features an all-local cast and crew, including Brian Taylor of En Queue Film.
Taylor, who is also one of The Morning Star’s film reviewers, has used Kirk as a crew member on two of his film projects, Garf Garf and Battle at Beaver Creek, and in turn has been operating one of the cameras on Justice Park, which Kirk says he hopes to shop to TV networks, or try to get funding for a web series.
“I wanted to shoot it in Vernon and showcase the town. I love it here and grew up here. Kelowna is already on the map for film, and I want to show those in the industry that we have incredible talent to do it here,” he said.
Kirk has also started his own production company, One Inch Punch Productions, which he runs with his son, Ryan, a business school graduate.
“He is the producer and is more media savvy than me. He also connects better with young people,” said Kirk, adding he got the name for the company from the movies he used to sneak into at Vernon’s old Skyway Drive-in theatre.
“I used to sneak to the back of the fence to watch the Bruce Lee films. It was him that came up with the one-inch punch, meaning that you can do anything if you focus enough energy on one thing; you can accomplish so much.”
Kirk also credits his former W.L. Seaton Secondary School science and physical education teacher Peter Bossons, who died in August, as being a mentor to him.
“He was someone that made a difference in my life and helped make me the person I am today,” said Kirk.
That influence is evident as Kirk continues to fight for what he is passionate about.
In April, he sold his truck to invest in film equipment and bought a camera, microphones, and cables. Kirk also built his own camera crane, which has already been used on a number of projects.
“The only thing is that I now need people to drive me around,” he laughed.
The camera crane came in handy earlier this summer when Kirk worked on a winning video entered into a contest called “Dewmocracy,” held by Mountain Dew Canada to advertise its new product, Voltage.
The video, called Rise of the Storm, was the brainchild of teenage Lake Country filmmakers Erik Madsen and Wynden Danylowich, who asked Kirk and Ryan to help them on the project.
The video shows a young man driving a “beater” along a road, who transforms after a bolt of lightning brings him the beverage.
“His clothes change, his car changes and he drives off with the girl,” said Kirk, who besides operating the crane with Ryan and another volunteer, Jason Kimble, helped with framing some of the shots.
The video caught the attention of the company and viewers, and earned Madsen and Danylowich one percent of Voltage net sales over the next two years.
“We had so much fun doing that,” said Kirk, adding he hopes to get more work out of it. “We use it as a demo reel for businesses to see what kind of work we do, and hopefully we will get some sponsorship for future projects.”
And if all goes according to plan, expect to see more lights, cameras and action happening in what Kirk hopes will become “Hollywood, North Okanagan.”