The Journey to Final Cut starts with an idea. A Story. A Script. A Movie. ‘Road to Tophet’ is a mystery movie and action crime thriller that takes an audience on an epic journey with twists, turns and tremendous cinematography. Sweeping shots of rugged northern ontario landscapes and terrain draws a person into the majesty and gritty side of life, as told through the story ‘Road to Tophet’. On Saturday, June 13th, 2015 it was screened at The Grand Theatre on Queen St. E, Sault Ste. Marie. In Fall 2014, ‘Road to Tophet’, Kharisma Pictures, won a major award at TIFF (Toronto Independent Film Festival).
“I love mysteries. As a kid, I loved to read Agatha Christie, and other authors in the mystery genre.” shared Steve Schmidt, Director and co-writer with Jeremy Beal, of Road to Tophet. Steve is also a resident of Chapleau. This 100 % made in Canada collaboration takes a person on a thrill ride over and through rugged terrain. Snowmobiles and dirt bikes play a vital role in moving the goods, as the crime drama and mystery unfolds in and around Chapleau and Sudbury, Ontario. There are numerous references to N. Ontario, including highways and bi-ways to Thessalon, where some of the story intersects geography with plot.
The story as described by Steve Schmidt, takes the audience into a mystery where Bootlegging, and ne’er do-well characters wrapped up in historical tales, are brought forward to this time and place into a mystery and crime drama. “We updated bootleggers into drug runners”. said Steve. “We really wanted to make a Winter movie. Something authentically and intrinsically Canadian. We decided that drug running over the American border, into areas like Thessalon or Echo Bay heading north to Chapleau would make a great story. Where bootlegging meets drug running.”
“We started our casting process in Chapleau. We brought in as many local people as we could. From there, the team went to Sudbury, and and then on to a casting session in Toronto. We still didn’t have everyone we wanted at that point. We had an idea in mind for one of the leads. We actually found Matt Connors during a casting session on Skype. When we auditioned Matt, we knew we had our guy.” adding “It was a very 21st Century experience in hiring a lead actor.” Matt Connors is local to The Sault, and is the owner of Trout Lake Marina. In July, 2015, Matt is heading to New York. After the screening of ‘Road to Tophet’, Matt announced that he has been cast as part of a movie shooting in New York starring Malcolm McDowell.
Reflecting on the entirety of bringing ‘Road to Tophet’ to an audience, Steve Schmidt said “The journey has been five years from the time we started talking about ideas. We spent a couple of years writing stories, writing treatments. We shot in 2012, and began the long process of cutting the movie, showing it to folks, getting responses, cutting some more.”
Last Fall, Road to Tophet premiered at the Toronto Independent Film Festival where it won ‘ Best Microbudget Feature’.
A ‘microbudget’ describes a movie shot somewhere in the neighbourhood of $125,000 – $250,000. “The people of Chapleau have supported us so much. Scenes were shot at local establishments with many of the folks from the community.” shared Steve. At the end of March 2012, mother nature intervened with the story as it was laid down in the script. Part of the story had to be rewritten to accommodate for a rapid loss of snow. “People in Chapleau were helping to move snow and assist us in working around an unexpected melt. This shift from snow to sudden melt created an interesting challenge as the intensity of the story revved up.” shared Steve.
The movie begins with an homage to Cree First Nations culture, French Canadian culture, and the sacred land where the story unfolds. Adam Beach, well known Canadian film and television actor, narrates at times throughout the movie. Cree legend and oral story-telling weave strands of images where ‘The Top of the World’, Chapleau, and ‘The Road to Tophet’ meet. Adam Beach’s narration is one of the sublime surprises unearthed along ‘The Road to Tophet’, where the dark power of ‘Windigo’ casts a spell.
Axel Green who was the Producer and one of the stars in the movie, was also at the screening, as well as Brian Edwards who co-wrote The Windigo Story, featured as part of the narration by Adam Beach.
Spoiler Alert. The movie is awesome. The soundtrack is mesmerizing. The acting is superb. The writing is wickedly clever. ‘The Road to Topher’ is an exhilarating journey to The Top of the World.
Part of the screening event on Saturday evening also featured ‘Lockwood’, a 10 minute short film directed by Media Arts graduate (of 2 weeks) from Sheridan College. Christopher Greef, who co-wrote ‘Lockwood’ with Adam Griffith, shared the award winning film as an opener to the evening. At a recent Media Arts Festival, showcased at The Bell Lightbox and home of TIFF, ‘Lockwood’ won 5 awards. Peoples’ Choice, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Direction, and Best Production Management. It also happens to star Matt Connors. “When I wrote Lockwood, I had Matt Connors in mind for the lead character. He was perfect for this role, and we knew that it absolutely had to be him to play the lead. We kept at him (requesting he take the role) until he said yes.” shared Chris Greef, who has started a production company called Moonage Studios. Chris is from Waterdown Ontario.
‘Lockwood’ draws the audience in from the very first scene, and doesn’t let go until the end, where forgiveness and the power of family resolve into a sort of calm. ‘Lockwood’ starts out with a fright, ending with a powerful act of humility and love for a daughter and grandson. After seeing ‘Lockwood’, it is impossible to imagine anyone other than Matt Connors playing the lead as a rough-around-the-edges Butcher, father and grandfather, where a seething anger takes hold of him, brought about by a ruthless and dangerous neighbour. Events escalate and threaten to explode into a violent confrontation.
Chris Greefe will be taking the short film ‘Lockwood’ to festivals across Ontario and Canada, as the summer unfolds. His next stop is Oakville, Ontario’s Oakville Festivals of Film & Art 2015(OFFA) June 26–28.To learn more about Moonage Studios, and the short film ‘Lockwood’, visit http://moonage.ca/