B.C. duo wins Kennedy thumbs-up

Category: Shadow Company News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: September 17, 2007 | Publication: Time Colonist | Author: Michael D. Reid, Times Colonist
Publication/Article Link:Times Colonist

He's no Roger Ebert, but who can resist quoting a thumbs-up review when it's from U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy?

Certainly not Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque, co-directors of Shadow Company, an eye-opening documentary about international military contractors that is finally getting the widespread attention they've long dreamed of.

"[It] takes a thorough and balanced look at the use of private security forces in Iraq and raises serious policy questions," observed Kennedy, adding his voice to a chorus of approval that includes directors Edward Zwick and Morgan Spurlock.

The Massachusetts senator even invited the pair to a special screening of the film on Capitol Hill.

After 18 months of production that took the Vancouver filmmakers from North America to Iraq and Sierra Leone, followed by six months of self-distribution and a DVD release, the duo's "little documentary that could" has opened in Los Angeles.

Bourque, Bicanic and his partner and creative collaborator, actress-screenwriter Dominika Wolski, got a whiff of the sweet smell of success at Friday's red-carpet gala screening. It was followed by a Q&A with Bicanic, who wrote the film inspired by the experiences of a university pal who gave up a law practice to become a soldier-for-hire, and author Robert Young Pelton.

A who's who of L.A.-based Canucks -- including Kiefer Sutherland and Carrie Anne Moss -- was invited to the downtown Laemmle Grand for the premiere of the documentary narrated by hunky Scotsman Gerard Butler of 300 fame.

Notable guests included director Jeremiah Chechik (Benny and Joon), former Beatles manager Jack Oliver, model Jaime King, and Wolski, who hosted the after-party and modelled the glamorous, eco-friendly Froote jewelry line for which she's the face.

Bicanic, a British dot-com entrepreneur who co-founded Vancouver's Purpose Films with Remy Kozak in 2003, couldn't resist using a famous movie line -- "If you build it they will come" -- to describe the momentum their film has gained.

In this case, "they" include Gale Anne Hurd, the Terminator and Incredible Hulk producer with whom Bicanic has inked a deal to develop Shadow Company into a feature film, and Zwick, who e-mailed words of praise after seeing a rough cut of the film.

So impressed was Zwick he showed the film to Leonardo DiCaprio to help him research his role in Blood Diamond. He also invited Bicanic and Wolski to Mozambique, where they attended a birthday party for co-star Djimon Hounsou.

"Being optioned by Gale Anne Hurd has been the big feather in our cap so far," says Bourque, 35.

"It's kind of cool for both of us that between Zwick and Gale we've just jumped 15 rungs on the Hollywood ladder," adds Bicanic, 33. "To do that in the normal way is comparatively difficult."

The weekend's L.A. debut followed showings in New York, San Francisco and other markets in tandem with its DVD release.

"We've taken a more grassroots approach to marketing and distribution," says Bourque, adding they got a boost when the film won best documentary in its category, writing, directing and editing awards at the Leo Awards in Vancouver in June.

Generally favourable reviews in Variety, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times helped.

The filmmakers' euphoria was tempered by the amount of time and energy they've put into getting Shadow Company seen.

"It's a long-term project, especially on the festival circuit. What's incredible is how you end up living it," notes Bourque.

It's not that they haven't been busy developing other projects.

Bourque, who got his start shooting music videos in Victoria, just finished directing the first season of The Two Coreys, the "celeb-reality" series featuring actors and former teen idols Corey Feldman and Corey Haim for A&E.

"I was almost like a therapist on set," he jokes.

He also just completed Dreams of Flight, his Bravo! documentary about artist Sven Johansson, and he's in post-production on Termination Point, a time-travel thriller for the Sci-Fi Channel starring Jason Priestley and Lou Diamond Phillips.

As if that weren't enough, Bourque is an in-house writer at Vancouver's Insight Studios -- "It works well for me" -- and just finished writing an action movie for Wesley Snipes, a sequel to The Art of War.

Bourque hopes the springboard effect will trigger production of The Yearning, the project he co-wrote with Wolski.

"It's a cross-genre film about a gang of outlaws," explains Wolski, who is also slated to star in the Gothic horror-tinged film they've been trying to get off the ground for years. "It's an action fable-thriller."