‘Nothing stops this train’


U of R students start relentless filmmaking machine, Split the Bill Film Troupe

Paul Bogdan
A&C Editor

While the reduction of the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit has caused many filmmakers to leave the province, some are sticking around. Three U of R students have started their own film troupe, called Split the Bill, and they’re having their first screening at Creative City Centre on Nov. 30.

The troupe is centred around fourth-year acting major, Gabrielle Dufresne, fourth-year acting major, Tyler Toppings, and fourth-year film major, Eric Kanius. They then pull from their pool of friends from school and elsewhere, such as Regina Little Theatre or the Fringe Festival for other roles in the films.

Split the Bill is something these three started for fun, but it is also more than just a way to kill time.

“It’s kind of the first big step for our careers. We’re going to be done school soon, and we didn’t want to do something school related; we want this to be real, and important, and professional – as in the start of something really big,” said Dufresne.

In September, Kanius pitched the idea to Dufresne and Toppings, who have all worked with one another in school, and “all of a sudden we had a film screening available on Nov. 30 at Creative City Centre, so I took that as the impetus to start making works,” said Kanius.

The screening at the end of November will feature all predominantly comedic shorts, which have been coming along “really great.”

“Our motto is: nothing stops this train,” said Kanius.

Kanius made the distinction of Split the Bill from something like a production company though.

“It’s not like a production company or production group. That puts it into a corner or box. A film troupe is more malleable or able to do anything it wants.”

“When I think of ‘troupe’,” said Toppings, “I think of way back when people rode in carts, and they had all of their stuff in this one cart and would go from town to town, and it would fold out, and there’d be a stage … that’s kind of what we do. We don’t have a cart yet.”

“I believe there’s no such thing as writers block; you just have to write through it, and if you write a bad script, it’s called a shitty first draft … keep writing until it’s good” – Eric Kanius

Kanius did have some difficulty describing the group’s endeavours, however.

“I don’t know if insane is the right word,” said Kanius.

“No, no,” Toppings objected. “What we’re doing is trying out things – not experimental, but playing with different ideas and not doing the same thing over and over.”

Some of these different ideas Toppings mentioned include “trying to make a neat story for this one, or this one is centred around characters … and then trying things with the actual filmmaking, some of them are against a green screen”.

“One was only lit by flashlight,” added Kanius.

Toppings did object to Kanius’ branding of the group as insane, but the rate at which this group can churn out a film suggests he may have been on to something.

“Right now we’re on about a four-day turnaround from writing the scripts to filming it.  That’s the time crunch we have,” said Kanius.

Kanius nonchalantly remarked that making a film in four days is “not so bad”, and that he actually likes it “because I get my scripts shot right away, and I don’t just sit on them”.

“I believe there’s no such thing as writers block; you just have to write through it, and if you write a bad script, it’s called a shitty first draft … keep writing until it’s good,” said Kanius.

“Nothing stops this train,” added Toppings.

This fact also helps when the others you’re working with are passionate about the group’s efforts.

“The people who we’ve spoken to are really interested, so we just book the one day, eight-hour shot,” said Dufresne.

Split the Bill has no schedule for further screenings as the group is looking to take more time with their work.

“Then we can put more time into filming something bigger or different,” said Dufresne.

“Since we’re doing so many shorts right now, and that’s probably going to add up to about an hour of original footage in a month and a half, I don’t see it as being impossible to shoot a feature,” added Kanius.

Split the Bill’s screening is Nov. 30 at Creative City Centre. It starts at 8 p.m., and it’s $10 to get in.

Arts Radar Nov. 22-29

November 22
Jeremy Fisher w/Peter Katz & Keifer McLean
The Artful Dodger
$10 advance tickets
Show at 7:30

The Club
$12 at the door
Show at 8

Diamond Rings
The Exchange
$13 advance tickets
Doors at 8:00

November 24
Andino Suns
The Exchange
$5 at the door
Doors at 8

November 25
The Wooden Sky
The Artesian
$15 advance & door tickets
Doors at 7:30

Tim Vaughan
The Artful Dodger
$10 advance/$15 door
Doors at 7:30

November 27
Tim Chaisson w/Poor Young Things
The Artful Dodger
$5 advance/$10 door
Doors at 7

November 29
Jeff Stuart & The Hearts w/Black Drink Crier
The Exchange
$10 advance tickets
Doors at 8

Photo courtesy Split the Bill

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