C.B.N. has a role in new film
Director goes for a gritty tale with first feature-length effort
Newfoundland filmmaker Justin Oakey is once again getting help from the Conception Bay North area to see his ideas come to life on the big screen.
Two years ago, he shot a short film called “Flankers” in Ochre Pit Cove and Northern Bay, using the setting to help tell a dark tale.
Now Oakey is just about finished shooting his first feature-length effort. “Riverhead” is a story about a blood feud that divides a fictional town.
While most filming has taken place in Bauline and the surrounding area, the crew has also filmed scenes in Harbour Grace, where the second unit is scheduled to set up this week for the last day of shooting. Oakey is a director, writer, editor and coproducer on the project.
“If I had the money, I would have shot the whole thing in Harbour Grace, just because it’s such a unique location. But this one we shot, I’m basically using Harbour Grace as the backdrop, but then for the nitty-grtty stuff, like insides of houses and streets, we used Bauline and a couple of other smaller communities on this side of the shore.”
With the 30-person crew mostly living in the St. John’s area, Oakey said it was ultimately more feasible to work in Bauline.
Beyond utilizing Harbour Grace as a backdrop for filming, “Riverhead” also features a couple of actors from the Conception Bay North area in featured roles. Evan Mercer is from Shearstown and Stephen Oates hails from Carbonear. The film also stars Lawrence Barry, Steve Lush, Des Walsh and Allison Kelly.
With the project almost ready for editing, Oakey is pleased to have in the can a story that’s atypical from what’s normally produced in the province.
“There’s a lot of cultural stuff that I’ve always been interested in — the CatholicProtestant clashes in Newfoundland and things that are just rarely talked about or explored in films in Newfoundland. People are so interested in doing that tourism commercial or comedic version of Newfoundland that I feel like they forget there’s a lot of pretty interesting dark streaks around the bay.”
Tonally it may share characteristic with “Flankers,” which won a People’s Choice Award at last year’s Nick Independent Film Festival in St. John’s, but “Riverhead” is not a feature-length version of that movie. He even took some inspiration from conversations with his grandmother about the North Shore, where his family has roots.
“I think with the original short film ‘Flankers,’ I thought that it was fun to explore people not liking each other from different sides of the shore, different communities. And then in this one, because it’s a much longer time, I’m able to throw in a bit of why they might not like each other. It sort of takes the tone of a blood feud. The first one, while it is dark, is lighter than (‘Riverhead’) — let’s put it that way. This one turns into a pretty violent story.”
There will be plenty of foul language in the finished product, and according to Oakey, a lot of that comes from improvisation.
“A lot of characters are played by actual people from around the bay who are very familiar with the types of characters they’re playing. Once they get into that, the language sort of flies off the rails. There’s definitely no way to keep it light, language-wise.”
Oakey hopes to have the film ready to screen this fall for Canadian film festivals. He’ll likely arrange for a private screening in Newfoundland as well, and would even consider setting up a roadshow presentation in multiple communities.
The crew of “Riverhead” filming at night in Bauline.
Evan Mercer of Shearstown and Carbonear’s Stephen Oates are co-stars in a new feature film called “Riverhead.”
Lawrence Barry is the star of “Riverhead,” Justin Oakey’s first feature-length film.