Mercury Falling film a first for acting program

The UBC theatre and film department is premiering its first feature film created by the BFA acting program titled Mercury Falling, right here on campus at the Norm Theatre.

“Normally we do a season of four plays that our BFA actors are in and this was the first year that instead of one of the plays in the season we decided to make a feature film,” said director Tom Scholte.

Scholte and MFA production alumnus Bruce Sweeney began working together over 20 years ago, when they made a film together called Live Bait, which was the surprise winner of the Best Film Award of the Toronto International Film Festival in 1995.

The movie is about Jerry, played by BFA actor Nathan Cottell, who comes into ownership of a bar. The ensemble comedy portrays Jerry and the host of characters who come into his life -- the characters themselves playing a prominent role in both the film and the production process.

“Tom asked us to bring in characters based on real people that we knew, and inevitably the most interesting people were people that were pieces of work, so I think that’s what’s really fun about this film,” said Cottell.

The film took approximately five months to complete, with rehearsals beginning in early September, 11 days of filming back in November and sound and colour corrections being done just in time for the premiere.

Normally, you would expect a film to have had a script ready so the actors can just memorize their lines and shoot. However, Scholte had a different method for developing this film. He instead goes through the process of improvisation. During the writing process the actors would show up for rehearsals, choose a character and improvise different scenarios. These sessions were videotaped and used to create the dialogue of the scenes.

“It was unlike anything I’ve ever done. I got my first taste of film last year when we did film with Tom and we worked with scripts, but then he came to us with this idea of doing a fully improvised film,” said BFA actor Demi Pederson.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it plays to a campus audience, it does risk offending people, not anymore than what goes on in the mainstream cinema out there,” said Scholte, “I hope there’s a lot of laughter and I hope people don’t take themselves too seriously when they come and see it too, and that they’re sort of willing to go for a ride.”

Mercury Falling will be showing at 7:30pm on both January 26 and 27. Tickets can either be purchased at the doors of the Norm Theatre or online.