You can do a whole lot of creepy things with a 6,000-square-foot production studio, full lighting grid and a gigantic green screen backdrop.
Mount Pearl's Best Boy Entertainment is about to find out just how spooky their new studio space can get.
After opening a high-definition green-screen production studio in January, Best Boy has announced it will produce and finance a series of low-budget "genre" films - namely horror, sci-fi and psychological thrillers - embarking into the world of movies for the first time.
"We call them genre films to distinguish them from mainstream dramas. Genre is very popular in the world marketplace; there seems to be an insatiable desire for genre films," explained Ed Martin, Best Boy's founder and CEO. "They're more marketable than straight dramas."
Employing 35 people full-time, Best Boy is known for producing TV and interactive media. The company has produced five TV series in the past four years in the children's, documentary, travel and reality genres, including "Pet ER" and "Mickey's Farm," which are broadcast in more than 170 countries.
The production company recently opened a distribution office in London, England, and plans, later this year, to introduce full-motion capture capability to its facility, providing animation for film and video games.
Best Boy has partnered with Peter Wetherell of Magus Entertainment in Los Angeles to produce the genre films, having connected with him during a provincial government-sponsored networking trip to L.A. for film and television producers last year.
One thing led to another, and Wetherell is now the executive producer for the genre film project. He's saved the company about 10 years of trying to break into the American scene, Martin said, and together, they've put together a team of financers and distributors.
Wetherell was particularly impressed with the potential for location shots in Newfoundland and Labrador, Martin explained.
Combined with Best Boy's ability to recreate any setting or backdrop on its 98-foot by 14-foot green screen, the films will be shot both in the studio and outside.
"When he was here from Los Angeles, I took him all over the place, and he was pretty impressed at the variety of landscapes. Every 10 minutes it was a changing landscape," Martin said.
"For the genre films, we're looking at high-concept. Remember the cabin in the woods stories? Compact, enclosed spaces, that kind of thing. Because we can do a lot of the interiors, weather is not an issue."
Best Boy will look to expand its staff in order to produce visual and special effects for the films. Compositors, data wranglers, matchmove artists and rotoscope artists will all be added to the team - and they have to be good, Martin said.
"You look at a film today and if the visual effects are cheesy, you can tell right away," he said. "Everybody's pretty savvy now. We have to be really good at it in order to sell our film."
Things on the TV side of production have been going well for the company, which is currently taping the fourth of 13 "Pet ER" episodes.
"Mickey's Farm" is in pre-production, with 26 episodes ordered for this year, and other projects are in the works.
None of them are anything like film, Martin said, which has challenges that come from it not being part of a template.
A TV series comes with a formula that remains the same through each episode, and the crew is consistent, as well.
Movies, he said, are a one-off and you never really know what you've come up with until it's in front of an audience.
By producing a series of films, Best Boy hopes to be able to apply some of the consistency it has achieved in television production to the big screen.
Best Boy plans to produce one feature-length genre film this year, two next year and three per year after that, most with a budget of about $1 million or $1.5 million, Martin said.
To that end, it's looking for scripts, with a few criteria: if it's a thriller, it's got to thrill. If it's a horror, it's got to scare. If it's sci-fi, well, it has to be ... different.
"It all starts with the script, and we need ones that tell a good story. Then it's our job to put that together in a way that audiences will appreciate it."
The production company has already been receiving scripts from across North America, and is honing in on an American one now for a summer shoot.
Martin said he'd love to have some local people submitting ideas, which Best Boy will take in a number of ways: if you've got a great idea but you're not a writer, the company will hire one to turn that idea into a film script. If you've got a story written, they can turn it into a screenplay. If you've got a full script completed, they'll happily accept it and tell you what they think. They'll also gladly pay for ideas and scripts they're interested in.
"We want people to know that we're serious about this initiative. We won't waste their time, we'll read everything that comes our way and we'll do it as quickly as time allows, and we'll get back to each and every person that gets in touch with us," Martin said. "That's part of our modus operandi."
Another part of the company's plan is to help develop talented local directors by giving them an opportunity to break into film.
A fair amount of casting for the films will be done locally, Martin said, with Best Boy looking to attach a big-name actor, not necessarily A-list but a known star, to each movie.
Though it's ambitious, Martin is confident his company will be successful in its film initiative, cementing Best Boy as a go-to facility and production team in the making of genre films and a valued local employer.
"If we achieve our objective of rolling out three films a year, that keeps people employed, it adds new skills and infrastructure to the province, and it makes us a serious player in the film arena," he said. "It's all about keeping our people here and keeping our people working."
Anyone wishing to send Best Boy a genre film script or idea can email it to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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