Paving the Road to Victory

By VFS Web Team, on August 7, 2007

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"1440","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","title":"Road to Victory Poster","alt":"Road to Victory Poster"}}]]It takes a village. When Film Production grad Mike Reilly wrote and directed his short Artistic Anxiety at VFS, it touched off a series of meetings and relationships that would become the foundation for his next film, an ambitious feature about an injured athlete's relationship with a stripper while he battles accusations of steroid abuse.
Artistic Anxiety producer, Mike's Film Production classmate Jonathon Kitchen, and star, Vancouver actor Peter Abrams, would be instrumental in getting Road to Victory off the ground. With Jonathon in tow, a crew of fellow VFS grads, and much guidance from their former instructors, they set to work.
In three months, the team had most of the principal photography in the can, and since production - in Vancouver, Washington, Oregon, and California - wrapped, it's been doing the festival circuit, from Hollywood to Portugal. It got its Canadian premiere in late June at ReelHeART in Toronto, where it won the "Best of the Fest" Award.
In the middle of it all, we asked Mike and Jon about the long, circuitous journey of bringing Road to Victory to screen.

How did you two first meet, and what led to working together on the film?
Mike Reilly: Jon and I were both part of Class 95 in Film Production, and we had worked together on and off throughout the school year, but we really cemented our working relationship while doing Artistic Anxiety together. Jon and I both shared the same sentiments about the quantity and quality of work required to get a project done correctly, and we carried this work ethic with us into Road to Victory.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"1441","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","title":"Mike Reilly On Set with Actors","alt":"Mike Reilly On Set with Actors"}}]]Jonathon Kitchen: That shared work ethic led directly into pre-production and casting for Road to Victory, which began while we were still studying at VFS. We actually began principal photography during our final break at VFS, and continued filming the day after we graduated.

Road to Victory covers a lot of territory - sports, medicine, gender. What was the genesis of the idea?

Reilly: The initial idea for the script came to me when I was in college, and the story was shared with me personally by an acquaintance. I was completing my pre-med degree at the time, and I saw a lot of carry-over between the story presented to me and some of the nagging doubts I had about the medical profession. I never wanted to make a sports movie, and I am proud that the film has stayed true to the script in this regard.

What challenges did you face in bringing it to screen?
Reilly: It's been both a rewarding and a punishing process. Audience feedback was an essential and very painful part of it. Any time you create something original, earning the trust of your audience becomes a major challenge, and it took quite a bit of thought and consideration on our part to gain that trust.
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"1442","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","title":"Road to Victory Still","alt":"Road to Victory Still"}}]]Kitchen: The learning curve was pointed straight upward. We had to continually do research, and, in turn, teach and convince ourselves on how we might successfully complete the film on our own. We lacked funds and crew members at every phase, but always managed to figure something out. We both felt so strongly about the project that we continued making it no matter what the cost to us personally.
And the film was crewed by a lot of other VFS grads.
Reilly: The majority of the crew that worked on this film was either still in film school or fresh out. Preserving the integrity of the story was always the highest goal to me, and in order to do that, it means that I needed a group of people who were as committed as I was.
Kitchen: We were also fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some of our VFS TAs in critical re-shoots.
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"1443","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","title":"Road to Victory Still","alt":"Road to Victory Still"}}]]With Road to Victory doing the festival rounds, what's next for you?
Reilly: I'm reluctant to discuss the next project in much detail, because the more research I do, the more I realize how many major establishments in the U.S. and Canada are going to look bad because of it. It's a true story about the American Medical Association's rise to power.
Kitchen: It will be a massive undertaking, but it's a story that needs to be told. The original purpose of theatre was to educate through entertainment, and it's our to mission to continue to do just that
Grads who worked onRoad to Victory include Samantha Reinis(associate producer/additional director), Brent Buntyn (cinematographer), Pat Tate (art director), Daren Sasges (art director), Sunhwa Kim (1st AC), Mike Kim (1st AC), Chris Coulter (sound), Scott Tester (camera operator), and Jack Schurman (camera operator), along with TAs (and grads) Steven Deneault (cinematographer), Josh Kjorven (camera operator), and Chad Galloway (gaffer/ grip).
The film's next screening is August 11 at the Sacramento International Film and Music Festival.
Road to Victory on MySpace:
Update: Jon writes in to tell us that Road to Victorytook home the Audience Award (Best Narrative Feature) in Sacramento! "We had about 300 people attend our screening at the historic Crest Theatre (more than any other film/event held at the fest this year)," he says. "The reactions from the viewing experience were all positive."