-by Anne Finlay-Stewart

"According to Valentine" - a short indie film shot locally – will premiere at Heartwood Concert Hall this Saturday, February 6.

The film is adapted from the award-winning play "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre", which Christopher McGruer directed as part of an Owen Sound Little Theatre night of one-act plays in 2012. McGruer sent a letter to the playwright Allan Knee to ask for permission to adapt the play for film, because "if I were a writer in my New York apartment, I would like to get a real letter in a real envelope." The reply, a clear green light, came by return mail in less than a week.

Although he considers himself primarily a writer, McGruer says he is curious about everything. He read everything he could find about film and filmmaking and knew he wanted to direct. "Film is a director's medium – you decide how the story is told, and the more you learn, the more you have to work with."

And to be successful as a director? "All you have to do is get the best people involved," McGruer says, and somehow he makes that sound easy. Tom Albrecht, a professional actor who appeared as both Hamlet andMacbeth in the Owen Sound Little Theatre productions, worked the shooting schedule into his own to play one of the leads. The other is local actress Kelley Dewey, whose comic chops we discovered as sh soon as she walked on stage as a Pigeon sister in the OSLT's Odd Couple.

Locals will recognize Owen Sound settings that are both universal – the office, the restaurant – and beautiful. The film is tied together with the distinctive music of Larry Jensen, who also appears on camera as himself. From his first visit to the script readings, McGruer says Jensen was creating the beginnings of the original score.

The shooting lasted about a year, and the editing process took close to twice as long again. After people have given so much of themselves to a project like this, "I owe it to them to make it look good. Editing is everything." McGruer self-identifies as a "geek and a nerd", but he is clearly delighted to have worked with and learned from those he describes as some of the best in the business on the technical post-production work.

As the finished film was ready for premiere, producer Paul Hartmann weighed in on social media. "I loved the team sport that is film making. This project was fun. As a producer and editor on the project it was great working with Christopher McGruer on his first film and to come back and see the AWESOME work he and James Hooey had done was inspiring. The idea had come to life."

Overwhelmed by the generosity of the talented professionals who worked on every aspect of the film, McGruer concluded, "You don't need to leave this area to get anything done. You must simply bring integrity and honesty to the process."

Larry Jensen and the Great Unknown band will be playing songs from the movie soundtrack at the Heartwood premiere and both cast and crew will be on hand. After our own hometown launch, "According to Valentine" will be pitched in the competitive film festival circuit.

The evening begins at 7:30 and $15 tickets are available in advance at Heartwood Home or at the door.



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