By Kris Ketonen

It’s been a long road for Thunder Bay filmmaker Lee Chambers, but this month he’ll see eight years of work come to fruition when his debut feature film The Pineville Heist hits the big screen. “For eight years, it’s always on a knife’s edge,” says Chambers, a Confederation College film professor. “All the money and all the time that went into it means nothing until you have it. We have it now, so I can take a deep breath.”

The Pineville Heist tells the story of a high school student who stumbles across a crime and is pursued by the criminals through his locked-down high school. The film was shot mainly at the former Fort William Collegiate Institute (with location shooting at Centennial Park and in Red Rock). Keeping locations to a minimum was a conscious choice—Chambers said his goal was always to make a commercially viable film that would sell, but he needed to be mindful of the logistics.

“I realized there were a lot of schools in town that were closing,” Chambers says. “What if I could get my hands on a school, and house everything there? I shoot in it, I house the offices in it, I store gear in it.”

That proved to be an inspiration. The basic idea—a high-school student witnesses a crime while hiding from the culprits—was something Chambers had for a “long time,” but he didn’t have anything beyond that. Having the student then return to his high school helped the filmmaker expand the idea into a story.

Chambers wrote an outline, and then worked with Sault Ste. Marie’s Todd Gordon on the script. Shooting took place in June 2014 with a mix of local and international cast and crew.

“I had 59 (Confederation College) students and grads who worked on it, alongside some professionals,” Chambers says. “And then about 30 St. Patrick High School students filled the hallways and the classrooms.”

Thanks to a hugely successful world premiere at SilverCity Thunder Bay on April 6, The Pineville Heist is back for an encore presentation on April 25 at 7pm.

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