Selwyn House coming to a theatre near you
By Richard Wills, Publications Editor
Selwyn House School has a starring role in a movie that should be in theatres by the fall of 2007.
The film, entitled Prom Wars, is an off-beat look at rivalries between private boys’ schools. In it, boys from the fictional schools of Selby House and Lancaster College compete for the attentions of students from a local girls’ school, called Miss Aversham and Miss Cronstall’s School for Girls. Sound familiar?
It should. The setting is obviously based on the school days of Selwyn House Old Boy Myles Hainsworth ’89, who wrote the script for the movie. The director, Phil Price, owner of the production company, Philms, is the brother of Alex ’98, another SHS Old Boy. The two have worked together on projects before, and have repeatedly used Selwyn House as a backdrop for their coming-of-age themes.
In 2001, the two made a film called Summer, which traced the experiences of three 23-year-old friends as they spend their last summer together before going their separate ways. Set in Montreal, Summer was shot on many locales familiar to Old Boys, and includes a graduation scene shot in the school’s Lucas Building.
Philms’ second feature, Hatley High, won awards for best director and best screenplay at the 2005 US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. Set in the Eastern Townships, that film also contained scenes shot at Selwyn House.
The duo is also responsible for The Festival, a television “mockumentary” series following the misadventures of a young filmmaker attending an American film festival for the screening of his latest movie.
Obviously, Hainsworth and Price mine their own experiences for inspiration, and the result has won them the respect of their peers, if not their names in lights.
Over the cold, wet weekend of November 10-12, Selwyn House was taken over by dozens of people working on Prom Wars, including camera and sound crews, wardrobe and makeup people, set decorators and sundry technicians, not to mention the starring actors and dozens of extras, who milled about in Coristine Hall, waiting patiently for their few minutes in front of the camera.
Lead roles are played by Raviv Ullman, star of Phil of the Future on the Disney Channel, and Alia Shawkat, star of TV’s Arrested Development.
Scenes were shot in the Lucas and Macaulay Buildings, with the Mac gym providing the backdrop for a prom scene, and the front lobby used for a scene involving a confrontation between students outside the dance. The archway of the Speirs Building was used for a brief scene of dialogue among a group of Selby students. Other shots were set up in the Lucas Building, but were scrapped.
The movie was being shot on a tight five-week schedule, and all the Selwyn House scenes had to be fit into a long weekend while students and staff were away.
Standing off camera, quietly watching the controlled chaos of the shooting of his brainchild, Myles Hainsworth talked about his upbringing in lower Westmount, and how that was transformed into what would later been seen on screen.
Even while he was a student at Selwyn House, he had a penchant for drama, he says. He played the lead role in Tom Sawyer, had a major part in The Caine Mutiny and played Polonius in Hamlet during his senior year, winning the Patricia Marsh Drama Prize for his efforts.
Myles said he had worked on the script for Prom Wars for more than a year before it began to see the light of day. With a budget of just under $2 million, this is not a big production by industry standards, Still, financial considerations come into play long before a script goes into production.
Every major movie made in Canada receives some funding through Telefilm Canada, with help from other production companies, Myles explains. A script submitted for funding usually goes through a series of re-writes before the companies bankrolling the project feel the content is appropriate and commercially viable.
Myles’ original script was more true to specific details of his experience attending Selwyn House. But the project’s backers felt much of this detail should be eliminated in order to widen the movie’s appeal to a general audience. The result is a more generic script, but that’s part of the process of production, he says.
Myles says he is happy to be part of the Montreal movie scene, and has so, far, resisted the temptations of Tinseltown, admitting he was planning his first-ever trip to Los Angeles. “Our goal is to be part of a scene here [in Montreal] that’s self-sustaining,” he says. “We’re doggedly trying to make an effort to stay here.”