Screenwriter White Rock’s crime ‘drama’ is set to open in theaters

Writer-producer Kraig Wenman on a set of a Canadian bank built in Georgia for the movie Bandit. (Image courtesy of Kraig Wenman)
Josh Duhamel and Elisha Cuthbert star in Bandit, shot by director Allan Ungar from a script by White Rock's Kraig Wenman.  (Image courtesy of Kraig Wenman)Josh Duhamel and Elisha Cuthbert star in Bandit, shot by director Allan Ungar from a script by White Rock’s Kraig Wenman. (Image courtesy of Kraig Wenman)
Mel Gibson, as sleazy father figure Tommy Craig in Bandit.  (Image courtesy of Kraig Wenman)Mel Gibson, as sleazy father figure Tommy Craig in Bandit. (Image courtesy of Kraig Wenman)

White Rock-based producer and screenwriter Kraig Wenman is in heaven right now.

The feature film screenplay veteran — he’s sold dozens, including many for the Lifetime Movie Network and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries — recently learned of his passion project, the true crime “drama,” Banditwill debut in Cineplex theaters – including Langley’s Colossus – on September 23.

The film’s cinema window will be joined by a host of online and cable streaming options including Apple-TV, Prime Video, VUDU, Google Play, Microsoft, Spectrum, DirecTV, Comcast, Cox, Dish, Fios, Telus , Shaw, Rogers and Bell.

And, thanks to turf deals struck by Wenman and his production partners at the Cannes Film Festival in May, audiences will also see him everywhere, from the UK, France, Spain, Greece, Italy, from Germany to Poland, from the Baltic States, from the Middle East. East, South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa.

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With Josh Duhamel, Elisha Cuthbert and Mel Gibson, Bandit is the true story of American-born bank robber Gilbert Galvan (played by Duhamel), who in the late 1980s earned himself the title of Canada’s “flying bandit”.

Living under the pseudonym of Robert Whiteman – nominally a successful stock and bond dealer – the boyish and likeable Galvan lived a comfortable middle-class existence in Pembroke, Ontario. with a woman, Andrea (played by Cuthbert) who had no idea what her real profession was.

Galvan, who loved to fly first class from Toronto on his “business trips,” always traveled with a little extra baggage – two handguns and a slew of easy-to-remove disguises.

After getting off in another Canadian city, the cunning bandit would manage a deftly executed bank job or two before calmly boarding another jet for the flight home, with a briefcase now full of cash.

During a particularly non-violent three-year career — which included robbing banks in 15 cities — Galvan reportedly raked in $2.3 million.

But his downfall began when he met the charismatic strip club owner and jewelry lover Tommy Craig (played by Gibson) who had a reputation as one of the biggest hoarders of stolen property in Ontario.

Given the sheer scale of the actual events, there’s a comedic element to Banditsaid Wenman – which puts it in similar territory to other true crime “dramas” such as Blow and Catch Me If You Can.

Directed by Canadian Allan Ungar, and shot in early summer 2021, Bandit also reverses the usual film industry practice of Canadian locations replacing the United States by having US locations (in and around Thomasville, Georgia) populate urban and suburban areas of Ontario.

Part of the reason is that it was easier to set up funding in the United States — after the initial COVID lockdown — than in Canada, Wenman said. Peace Ark News.

“It was an adventure. We shot 21 days in Georgia, one day in Ottawa, then one day in Los Angeles and everything finally came together. It’s getting harder and harder to compete with studios for theater (space), so we’re thrilled to have 100 screens in America and everywhere “on demand.”

“I’ve been on the phone with director Allan Ungar every day going through every shot, every alternate shot, and it’s definitely been a labor of love to bring this true Canadian story to the screen as it unfolds. for once in Canada!

The fact that Ungar had a photographic memory helped the production process, Wenman said.

“He ended up knowing the script better than anyone, which helped us shoot 163 scenes, with 918 setups/shots in just 21 days, not including the second unit camera department. Fortunately, our teams in Georgia, Los Angeles and Ottawa were able to work. the long hours at lightning speed.

“They really are the ones who deserve all the credit.”

But giving the film its “heart,” Wenman said, was the cast, which bonded together like an effective team.

“Josh was not only suave, but hilarious in the improvisation, as you will see in his performance. And Elisha, playing the heart, the hope and the conscience of the film, really helped anchor all the madness of the Real story. At the heart of the movie, it’s really a love story between Josh and Elisha with sayings and jokes that I’ve stolen from my own life.

A last-minute addition to the cast was Nestor Carbonnel, who brings a lot of energy and professionalism to the role of Galvan’s policeman’s nemesis, Wenman noted.

“He’s like Michael Jordan… you just give him the ball,” he said.

And Wenman said he really enjoyed working on set with Gibson, who brought much of his own experience as a writer and director to the project.

“He could really add lines and rework them on the page with me. Like Josh’s lines, for Mel we used actual dialogue from the real characters they were based on whenever we could. Like Mel saying, “I’ve got a PhD thesis down the street” which is so ‘gangster’ – and a completely real line.

And the real Galvan, who eventually served time for his crimes, wasn’t far from the project — he actually appears in the background for several scenes in the film, Wenman said.

After being introduced by Robert Knuckle, author of the book The Flying Bandit – which, along with interviews with journalist Ed Arnold, became the basis of the script – Galvan and Wenman befriended almost immediately.

“He’s fine, a free man, who I talk to almost every day,” Wenman said.

“He’s thrilled to show people the crazy story he’s been through and enjoys the notoriety. He’s in the background during the bar scenes alongside yours truly.

“It’s hard to think it all started with a nine-year-old kid hearing the urban legend about it in Ottawa,” added Wenman, who lived in the capital from kindergarten to grade 6, as his late father, Bob, was serving. in parliament as the MP for Fraser Valley West.

“I lived maybe 10 minutes from the real bandit there.”

Naturally, it’s very rewarding for Wenman to see the project, three years in the works, come to fruition – and he plans to take a large group of friends to the 7 p.m. premiere in Colossus on September 23.

“It’s an exciting time to see your dream come true, a small indie film with a heart that takes on the big guys, much like Galvan did against the ‘banksters’,” he said.

And it has a message for budding filmmakers.

“Everyone will tell you that it’s impossible to achieve something like this,” he said.

“But anything worthwhile is never easy. And everything is impossible until it is not. Your dreams aren’t going to follow you, so go ahead, chase them, attack them, and slap them until they submit!

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