Independent film director Matthew Campbell is back in his home territory — Gibsons — to make the first episode in a futuristic, fast-paced web series, Citizen.
“I describe it as Jason Bourne meets 1984,” Campbell said.
He’s always been a fan of the Bourne movies, and he did crazy things when he was a kid, he reports, like jumping through his living room window or playing with chain saws.
“I wanted to create something that has this action element in it,” he added.
Citizen is a high action, sci-fi series about a pair of Canadian agents infiltrating a sinister American military program. The citizens do not know that they have been implanted with chips that feed their thoughts to the Cloud and that their movements can be controlled. The scenario makes for a lot of choreographed fight and flight scenes using top-notch stunt performers and designers.
On a cloudy Sunday morning recently, two professional stunt guys were rehearsing on the outside steps high above an alley behind the former Sita’s Restaurant on Gibsons Way. They planned to hurl themselves off the balcony while the camera recorded their reckless flight.
“It’s perfectly safe,” stunt performer Leif Havdale assures me, “if you know how to do it.”
In fact, the crew built a landing platform with a base of cardboard boxes overlain with mattresses and covered with artificial turf to make it blend into the ground. In bigger budget films, Campbell explains, the stunt person might have a wire attached, invisible on screen, and be moved by an off-set crane to ensure a safe landing.
The day’s stunt filming is only one scene in a longer episode that will be filmed in and around Gibsons on Aug. 25 and 26.
Campbell, an Elphinstone Secondary School graduate who studied at the school’s TV program in Grade 11, later went to Capilano University film school to become an industry professional. He works as a “greensman” on set production, creating forests inside studios or building giant valleys from wood.
His last local gig was working on the set of Charlie St. Cloud, filmed in Gibsons Harbour in 2009. Campbell is fresh off the completion of his Toronto International Film Festival-bound zombie short, To Save One’s Self.
“Some of the best people in Vancouver volunteered their time to help me with that film,” he said. “It was a good job, but now I want to move on to the next project.”
The team is confident that Citizen will continue beyond this initial pilot shoot.
“It’s not so sci fi that others will be turned off,” he notes.
Indie film makers have a difficult route to go, usually funding their films from their own pockets. Campbell’s mom will help (his parents live in Gibsons), his sister will do the catering, and for now, Citizen remains enthusiastically independent.
His company, Mattbox Media, is looking to raise money for production through crowd-funding, offering perks such as having your name in the credits in return for small donations or having dinner with the director in return for larger ones. The range goes from one dollar (they’ll shout your name) up to $5,000 (you’re an executive producer).
Campbell hopes to involve the community as much as possible to fill the production’s many needs. He’s visited with the Gibsons Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Wayne Rowe to gain their support in contacting businesses that could contribute everything from doughnuts to landscaping turf.
Extras and possibly local actors are needed for the crowd scenes, as are drivers of “picture” cars, the vehicles that will be parked on Gower Point Road during the August filming.
An audience is welcome, too, Campbell said, if they just want to watch the cool stunts from a distance. There’s not much time left in their fundraising campaign. You can sign up at savethecitizens.com where no one will implant a chip in your brain. Instead, you’ll find an entertaining video that gives a good sense of the creative abilities of the director and cast.