After I first met noted Montreal playwright Vittorio Rossi last winter when he visited his old high school, James Lyng in St. Henri, we spoke about his then upcoming play at the Centaur Theatre called The Envelope. I was very intrigued and made a point of going to see it. Needless to say, it was a great piece of work lambasting the Canadian film industry. In fact, my first thought was "Why can't this be turned into a motion picture?"
Rossi, who has a small role as a police officer in the upcoming Montreal shot motion picture The Walk, is indeed thinking big about The Envelope. He wants to bring it to the big screen, but after depicting government funding for such projects as somewhat of a sham he plans to raise his own funds. As of October 1,he will launched a 40-day Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise $140,000, a sizeable amount but a meagre sum, even by indie film standards.
Rossi says he ispassionate about The Envelope’s universal theme of artistic integrity versus financial gain, which he’s filtered through the circumstance of a writer/director trying to make a Canadian film within the current landscape. “At one time or another, we’ve all discussed why we don’t care about or watch Canadian-filmed entertainment," he states. “The general public definitely has an opinion on the subject but what it may not know is why the state of the industry is the way it is. That’s why the making of this film is so important. If things are to improve, if we are to gain the recognition Canadian artists deserve, the system needs a major overhaul. Like the saying goes, ‘the same old thinking gets the same old results.’ Nothing will change if we keep hiding from the current state of affairs that this screenplay exposes.”
Kickstarter awards Rossi the money only if he meets his goal. He expanded on his choice to take this risky route. “As an artist I have to think big or go home! If I chose a crowdfunding campaign that gave me whatever I managed to raise, and it was only half or even three quarters of my goal, I’d have to make the movie with insufficient funds. My supporters wouldn’t see the film I envisioned and it would have little or no impact. I’ve taken the budget down to the bare minimum so if I can raise this amount, I can deliver what I imagine.”
Rossi already has an all-Canadian cast in mind. They would include: Mark Camacho (X-Men: Days of Future Past, ACTRA Award for Outstanding Performance as President Nixon), Howard Rosenstein (well-known face to theatre audiences across Canada, most recently in Scotland, where he reprised his role of Red Peter in Kafka’s Ape at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival), and Brett Watson (a Ryerson performing arts grad with over 20 years of experience in film, TV, stage and voiceover). Stand-up comedian, Guido Cocomello, who blew Montreal audiences away revealing his dramatic chops in the stage version of The Envelope, would reprise his role as Marcello.
Relative newcomer, Vladimir Philogene is Rossi’s first choice for cinematographer. Simon Webb (Being Human and Mohawk Girls), who worked on Rossi’s first short film, Little Blood Brother, and is a 25-year film and television veteran, would be film editor. Sound goes to Gabor Vadnay, a two-time Gemini award-winner with over sixty film, TV and documentary credits to his name. Patrizia Pino (The Hunger and Further Tales of the City), another long-time teammate of Rossi’s, is coordinating the post production process.
Rossi is calling in as many favours as he can to keep costs down and in addition to the feature film, he’s producing a companion documentary about the making of the film and the Canadian film industry. Donors at a certain level will have an opportunity to voice their opinions about the industry, whether they coincide with Rossi’s views or not. “Making a donation to my campaign”, stated Rossi, “tells me you think the Canadian film industry is broken too; that talented, experienced artists, not bureaucrats, should decide which film projects merit financial support; that funds need to be funneled into the promotion of our own Canadian stars; that pandering to the lowest common denominator does not a film make … all these elements currently in play only further damage our reputation as filmmakers at both the national and international levels.”
On Thursday, October 1 between 5 and 7 pm, Rossi will celebrate the launch of his Kickstarter campaign at Old Montreal’s Ristorante Da Franco’s (233, rue Notre-Dame Ouest), a favourite Rossi hangout and the backdrop of the film’s story. Everyone is welcome: meet the cast, discuss filmmaking with Rossi and his team, and learn more about The Envelope and the crowdfunding campaign. Live Kickstarter donation stations will be at the ready for eager contributors. “Three K a day …” Rossi quipped, “… seems doable to me.”
For more on The Envelope on Kickstarter, go to www.kickstarter.com; enter The Envelope in the Search Projects line.