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AFF director spotlight: Chaz Thorne

It was a struggle to get made, but Chaz Thorne's coming-home film Whirligig was chosen as AFF's Atlantic Gala.


Friday, September 17, Oxford Theatre, 7pm

This is Chaz Thorne's first film since he was the toast of AFF in 2007. That year he had two major features screened: his directorial debut, the mortician comedy Just Buried, starring Jay Baruchel and Rose Byrne, and the racially charged boxing drama Poor Boy's Game, which he co-wrote and produced.

Whirligig is an entirely different beast, with Thorne directing a script by Dartmouthian scribe Michael Amo (TVs The Listener). "Boomerang kid" Nicholas returns home to not-entirely welcoming parents who enjoy their Eastern Shore empty nest, and then becomes romantically involved with a neighbour of theirs. The comedy stars Toronto actor Gregory Smith as Nicholas, perhaps best known as Ephram from the series Everwood

Thorne's not sweating turning over the screenwriting reins to someone else on this project, especially as his creative relationship with Amo is so strong. "I've been loving not being the writer," he says. "Having this super-talented guy, I can just say, I was feeling that in this scene we need to do this, and he just goes off and does it and it's great." 

Whirligig joins a healthy slate of Nova Scotia features at the festival this year, including Josh MacDonald and Evan Kelly's The Corridor (see page 15). It's been a busy year for feature filmmaking in the province, a testament to the fortitude of the filmmakers to see their visions completed despite budgetary constraints. Thorne saw almost half of his original estimated budget for Whirligig vanish when specific name casting and his first Canadian distributor bailed out of the project in late 2009. An eleventh-hour distribution deal with KinoSmith and help from Telefilm and Film Nova Scotia allowed him to shoot the film anyway. 

"I shot and even am cutting this film in less time than most people make TV for, and for significantly less money," he admits, crediting his producing partners and creative collaborators for helping make it happen. "Most of the time I'm really good at choosing who I'm surrounding myself with. They're really smart."

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