The Sunrise Film Festival is officially on Hollywood’s radar.
The Red Maple Leaf – a gritty crime thriller jam-packed with Hollywood talent – made its première at the festival Saturday night at Pictou Lodge and brought along its star, director and writer Frank D’Angelo as well as supporting actor Daniel Baldwin who plays suspect Richard Barton in the film.
D’Angelo explained that while The Red Maple Leaf has screened in Hamilton, Ont., where it was filmed, he chose to hold the film’s Maritime première at Sunrise on account of his love for Nova Scotia.
“I love Nova Scotia,” D’Angelo said. “I love the people here … and I still come out here with the band, but I love the people. The way they talk, the questions they ask. They’re very soulful people and I think my movie is very soulful and I think that’s why everybody connected to it.”
The feature-length film was made independently by D’Angelo and has recently been picked up for distribution by 20th Century Fox.
“When you see this film and when you see the cast list, you will be amazed,” said Sunrise’s Stuart Cresswell. “Every one of them is a huge name from the world of film. And it reminds me very much of what my old drama teacher used to tell me: ‘There is no such thing as small parts, just small actors,’ and none of these are small actors. They are absolutely huge. It’s a tremendous film. I’m amazed.”
It isn’t hyperbole on Cresswell’s part either.
In addition to D’Angelo and Baldwin, the film also features performances from James Caan, Martin Landau, Paul Sorvino, Armand Assante, Mira Sorvino, Michael Paré, Eric Roberts, Margot Kidder, Kris Kristofferson, and the final appearances from the late Robert Loggia and Doris Roberts.
D’Angelo wore multiple hats – from lead actor to director and writing the soundtrack – but the film is no vanity piece. In fact, despite playing the film’s central character it’s actually singer-songwriter Kris Krist-offerson who appears first in the film’s stylized end credits, a move D’Angelo saw as only appropriate.
“He deserves it,” D’Angelo said. “He’s Kris Kristofferson. There’s no damn way I’m going to put my name in front of Kris Kristofferson.”
During the film’s Q&A panel on the weekend, Baldwin revealed that the film was shot in just four days and that D’Angelo used an unorthodox, but effective, six-camera set up. Baldwin said D’Angelo’s approach not only takes a significant amount of planning on the director’s part but also makes certain demands on the actors involved.
“What happens is, a) they are very long days and he’ll try to gap shoot,” Baldwin explained. “We’ll shoot a bunch of scenes and you’re restricted by location – if you notice there aren’t a lot of locations in the film –so he uses buildings that will have multiple rooms in it that he can dress so you don’t have to move the equipment and move stuff around too far.”
Although one may be tempted to think the “D’Angelo Method” to be economical in terms of time if not budget, D’Angelo said it was neither the case nor reasoning.
“We don’t shoot this way to economize,” the director said. “We shoot this way because I believe it’s the best way to capture the moment.”
For Baldwin, D’Angelo’s method required him to draw on his experiences on set and around different types of cameras and lenses to nail his performance, which was handy as much of the film is made of first takes. He explained how it works during the panel presentation.
“It’s a different kind of acting. It’s like live theatre, is what it is.”
Baldwin described the process as “fast and furious, rodeo style.”
As for D’Angelo, speed just appears to be his way. The director noted that he actually started the project by writing the film’s soundtrack in a single day while the script itself was written in 36 hours “from start to finish.”
While the film itself was well received by festival goers, the Q&A panel that followed and the chance to chat and interact with its stars proved to be the hit for many– after all, a Hollywood actor in Pictou is a pretty rare sight. For now.
Actor Daniel Baldwin with fiance Robin Hempel. (Cameron photo)