author: kaitlynn nordal | staff writer
Looks cold / 775 Media Corp/Chris Large
This film ain’t no game of slow pitch.
As a winter storm sets in, Henry, who is alone on his grandpa’s isolated farm, must fight to stay alive if he is going to survive not only the storm, but also the neighbor.
This is the storyline for the new film Knuckleball directed by Michael Peterson.
Peterson said his new film, on the surface, “is about a child in peril who has to protect himself from someone who wants to hurt him” but also believes it’s about more than that. “It’s about the absence of love and what that can do to someone. It’s about the secrets that a family hides and (how) they tend to come back up when you don’t want them to, and (how) they can be very destructive when they do.”
For those who have seen Peterson’s work before, this is a divergent from his usual films.“I hadn’t directed that kind of movie before, so I was in a territory other people may not be familiar with me working in,” he said. “I wanted a challenge to show people I could do something like this where there is a bit more of an overtly authorial voice in the film making style.”
Over the last few months, Knuckleball has done the film festival circuit and received approval from critics. As a director, Peterson is grateful his work has done so well. “You never know how people are going to take stuff so it’s always flattering when it connects with people,” he said. “You want to leave a little room for interpretative space that fits within the sandbox that you have created so there have been some pretty cool and interesting interpretations which are in the ballpark of what was intended or are a slightly different look at it which are based on what the audience member is bringing to it.”
Producer Julian Black Antelope describes the film in the same way. “Take Home Alone and add a dash of The Shining mixed in with a smidgen of the dark side and you got yourself a nicely paced thriller that’s every parent and child’s worst nightmare.”
Black Antelope and Peterson are both producing partners and company directors of 775 Media Corp. “This was our second feature endeavor through our company,” he explained. He picked this particular project to be involved with because “as an Aboriginal key creative who likes to rattle the walls of stereotyping, I felt it fitting to produce on a project that has nothing to do with Native based themes.”
For Black Antelope, who has spent the last 14 years in entertainment, this particular project stood out for him because, “It’s an elevated genre (and I) haven’t done that one before.”
The protagonist of the film, Luca Villacis, describes his character, Henry, as “a typical 12-year-old boy. He is also very bright curious and resourceful.”
Villacis first heard about the movie from a call his dad received and was immediately hooked because of the Home Alone aspect of it.
He ultimately took the part because he “respect[s] how brave, resourceful, and smart Henry is,” he said.
This movie was a big stepping-stone for Villacis because he got to learn how to do his own stunts. “So, stunts you see me doing in the movie are actually me,” he said.
When asked which scene was the scariest to film, Villacis said it is the one where his character lights another character on fire. “I was worried about it going wrong” he confessed.
Since he was working with big names, Villacis took this time to learn from them. “Munro (Chambers) and Michael (Ironside) have such amazing insight,” he said. “Munro took time to teach me how to make stunts bigger and more believable.” He explained, “Working alongside Michael was such an amazing experience. He has many years of experience and was an honour to work alongside him. He was always willing to answer questions I had and overall a great mentor on set.”
Knuckleball has a cast many people will recognize. Henry’s grandpa Jacob, played by Michael Ironside (Top Gun, Scanners), is described by Peterson as “set in his ways and not openly or verbally expressive with his feelings, he has his own code and lives his life according to it. Stubborn with the capacity to be extremely harsh and very warm but others don’t always know what he is thinking.”Munro Chambers (Degrassi, Turbo Kid) plays Dixon the antagonist of the film. “He’s been treated like a stray dog, never allowed to be fully accepted into Jacob’s life and treated as an outsider, and harshly by Jacob, who has somewhat taken him in over the years. He has always felt outside and wants to be in inside.”
Since this film wrapped, Peterson hasn’t had much time off. “There’s a film in post-production that I’m a producer on, which I’m looking forward to,” Peterson said. “As a director, I’ve got a couple cool projects, one being sort of a revenge exploitation film that does some stuff I have never seen before, so I’m very excited about it. Then another script by a local Calgary writer that’s a sci-fi murder mystery that’s also really cool. So, all very different stuff, but all genre films, but [also] moving across the spectrum of genre.”
Black Antelope has also been very busy. “775 has taken a bit of a breather as we haven’t really had a break since we hit the ground running back in June of 2016. We have a few projects in development which my producing partner Mike Peterson is looking after. As for myself, I have a few other things within my own personal company HERD OF 1 MEDIA, which are in development along with a TV series which is moving into production soon. Aside from juggling acting roles here in Canada and overseas too, just writing, creating great Canadian content.”
Knuckleball is now in theatres and on Video on Demand.