Willisville Mountain stars in feature film ‘Entangled’

Canadian Technical Services crew members prepare an SUV for its simulated plunge off the mountain. photos by Michael Erskine

WiLLISVILLE—Willisville Mountain and its surrounding vistas have played starring roles in the works of Canada’s famed Group of Seven and Manitoulin Island’s own Ivan Wheale, as well as countless other less lionized artists of the canvas, but now the mountain will be playing a major role on the big screen as well.

Scenes that include a car chase and a cliff tumbling SUV are part of the Indie sci-fi feature film ‘Entangled’ shot on the road leading to Willisville. The SUV took a tumble off the Willisville Road lookout point, a couple of times actually, last Thursday evening.

‘Entangled’ is a sci-fi thriller starring starring Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin as Deirdre, the mother of a student named Amy. Actress Sandra Mae Frank plays Amy and Paloma Kwiatkowski stars as Loretta, Munro Chambers as Gerry and Robert Naylor as Danny.

The basic story of ‘Entangled’ follows four university students whose experiments with quantum physics cause them to come face-to-face with their doppelgangers from a parallel universe.

The film budget of $1.8 million may be modest by Hollywood blockbuster standards, but with a careful eye on expenses, a tight cast and a lot of ingenuity a little can go a long way, especially in these days of digital film equipment.

“We are shooting with five actors, four of whom are onscreen for most of the time,” said location manager Wiliam Andrews.

Camera gurneys await their equipment as a stunt shot is set up on the side of Lookout Point.

“Willisville presents one of the most beautiful vistas in Northern Ontario,” said producer Jason Jallet. “We were delighted when we discovered the location.” Auditioning for the part wasn’t a cakewalk, however. “We started our search within 30 minutes of Sudbury, then expanded it to 45 minutes, then an hour,” he said. “When we expanded the search to an hour-and-a-half it was ‘Oh wow! We found the perfect fit for our storyline’.”

Even better was the warm reception the film company received from the Willisville community. “They were really great,” said Mr. Andrews. The feeling was mutual.

“The film company was very polite and easy to work with,” agreed Willisville council pointman Wayne Gertzen. “They made sure they made the least interruption and were sure to explain what was involved very carefully.” Mr. Gertzen and his son watched some of the filming take place, including the feature shot of the car going over the hill. “It was pretty exciting, they pushed it over once, and then they hauled it back up and pushed it off again,” he said. The car was carefully modified to remove the engine and any parts containing oil or other fluids to ensure safety of all involved, including the mountain.

“That is an important part of my job,” said Mr. Jallet. “I don’t just keep an eye on the finances, I make sure that everyone gets home safely.”

Mr. Jallet and his business partner moved to the Sudbury area 10 years ago, “just as the film industry in the community was getting started,” he said. It is a decision he does regret.

Meticulous planning by an experienced crew make magic happen.

The filming itself took place on Wednesday, August 22 and Thursday, August 23 between the hours of 4 pm and 4 am. The Wednesday filming included stunt driving (under the supervision of experienced stunt coordinators and drivers) and Thursday’s shoot included the simulation of a vehicle going over the edge of Lookout Point and plummeting out of sight.

“This was a simulation only and we maintain control of the vehicle at all times,” said Mr. Andrews. On both days the site was under the supervision of paid duty OPP officers, who controlled traffic and to ensure the safety of both the crew and residents of Willisville.

‘Entangled’ is a remarkable film in that it features two deaf actors and will be presented with closed captioning to enable it to be accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The movie is being directed by Gaurav Seth and was written by Doug Taylor and Michael MacKenzie. The film is being shot at locations in Sudbury and North Bay as well as Willisville. Providence Bay beach auditioned for the role of the ocean side scenes in the movie, but lost out to a rocky shore in North Bay.

“As it turned out the North Bay location was a better match with the story line,” admitted Mr. Jallet.

Boxes of equipment lie ready for the call to action.

The actual location of where the story takes place is not yet written in stone, noted Mr. Jallet. The story itself is not all that location dependant and a lot in that regard will be settled taking marketing and distribution into account.

But whether it is playing itself or standing in for another location in the world, Willisville’s incredible vistas and accessible location have added dramatically to the film according to all involved.

The filming is expected to finish up this week, with only three days of filming left (two in Sudbury and one in North Bay), but the release of the film, and Willisville’s sci-fi film debut, remains a year off.