A film started four years ago by a Victoria real estate agent is finally drawing to a close in the last days before its world premiere at the Victoria Film Festival.
The festival guide pitches Jackhammer as “without a doubt, the most ambitious movie shot by Victorians” – an apt description considering its creator Mike Hanus began the project with zero directing experience and ended up with a feature-length film, featuring a Hollywood cast.
“I had drive and desire,” said Hanus in a phone interview from Vancouver, as he put the finishing touches on the film. “I really wanted to make my own film, hit some film festivals and create my own road to the promised land.”
The motivation to take on the project took hold of Hanus in 2009 while he was selling homes in Victoria and regularly travelling to Vancouver for acting gigs. Frustrated with the lack of more substantial roles available at home, he began production of Jackhammer, which he wrote, stars in and directs.
“I definitely wear a few hats,” Hanus said of his auteur experience.
Hanus solicited the help of a writing team to translate his original concept into a screenplay. Among the cast: Island-born Pamela Anderson, comedian Jamie Kennedy, Mad TV’s Nicole Sullivan and Rob Wells of Trailer Park Boys fame.
Jackhammer follows the story of two brothers, one, an introverted aspiring theatre actor (Guy Christie) and the other, Jackhammer (Hanus), trained to perform on another kind of stage. When the thespian is blacklisted by the industry’s most notorious casting agent (Kennedy), his protein-pounding, spray-tanning, older brother Jackhammer steps in. Jackhammer also happens to be a male stripper.
“It’s a roller-coaster ride of good times and uncomfortable situations,” he said.
“I’m trying to create a project within the scope of the budget that could be a big success theatrically on an indie-level,” Hanus added, saying that it wouldn’t be the first time low-budget comedy struck it big, should Jackhammer join the ranks of Napoleon Dynamite and Clerks.
Local supporters from equipment rental houses to restaurants across the city stepped up to help Hanus make the project as good as he possibly could, he said.
The process of finding the key people to work on the film was incremental, with early connections eventually leading to the star-speckled end product. Case in point: securing an editor from the Trailer Park Boys who got Rob Wells aboard.
“It was a slow-building process, of working hard and reshooting and really taking it seriously,” Hanus said. “We have amazingly talented people who need to be showcased.”
Among the variety of talents, Hanus said are a writing team able to craft jokes that still have him laughing even after dozens of viewings and local synth-revivalist Mike Glover. Glover, gaining popularity for Miami Nights 1984 provided the ‘80s-inspired soundtrack, in keeping with Jackhammer’s love for the neon era.
After the hubbub of the film festival, Hanus will return to his day job in realty – a position he’s happy to continue alongside future film projects.
The Victoria Film Festival runs Feb. 1 to 10, Jackhammer’s one screening is sold out. For a full listing of dates and showtimes for other festival programming, go to victoriafilmfestival.com.
More than just movies
Victoria Film Festival offerings outside the norm Feb. 1-10
Looking for an experience outside the theatre during this year’s film festival? Here are three Victoria Film Festival picks you won’t find anywhere else:
– Lunch Time Shorts: $12 gets you 40 minutes of VFF programming on Feb. 4 at The Vic (808 Douglas St.) and lunch – a cultural experience and basic human necessity, all in time to make it back to the office. Doors open at 11:45 a.m. and the screening ends at 12:50 p.m.
– Sips ’n’ Cinema: Whiskey: After the 6:45 p.m. screening of No at Empire #6 on Feb. 6, guests will walk to Argyle Attic (777 Courtney St.) for a whiskey tasting and discussion. Festival programmer Donovan Aikman leads the talk on the film, which won the top prize in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. Tickets are $20.
– I’ve Been Everywhere: When Island filmmaker Jonathan Holiff, son of Johnny Cash’s long-time manager Saul Holiff, discovered his late father’s collection of Cash memorabilia in a Nanaimo storage facility, it led to the making of My Father and the Man in Black, a documentary featured at this year’s festival. The discovery also fuelled “Inheriting CASH” an exhibit of treasures from Holiff’s collection, on display, along with the travelling stories of Victoria performers. The exhibit runs Feb. 3 through 10 on the second floor of the Bay Centre. Holiff will also attend both screenings of his doc and answer questions post-film.
– Alcheringa Gallery (655 Fort St.) features the work of First Nations artist Rande Cook throughout the festival – a link to The Skin I’m In, a documentary in which Cook and his work are prominently featured.
For ticket or showtime info, or to download the full guide, visit victoriafilmfestival.com.