On set: FFP goes for S-E-X
During a wild romp with one of his many female conquests and a skewer of shish-kabob, Allgood Butts, hairdresser and ladies man extraordinaire, chokes and takes a brief absence from this world. The moment nicely sums up the gist of The Three-Hundred and Ninety First, film number seven for the Canadian Film Centre’s Feature Film Project.
Shot around Toronto over 20 days starting at the beginning of September, the $400,000 Dentata Pictures Production in association with Clarence Square marks the feature film debut for writer/director Andrew Ainsworth and coproducers Jeffrey Berman (who makes a cameo appearance as Rabbi) and Tina Grewal.
The farcical story follows the escapades of Allgood Butts, who following a near death experience has a chat with an angel who warns the Casanova that on his 391st female conquest he will die.
As Butts tries to resist the temptations of the flesh and lead a celibate existence, his newfound Puritanism becomes a trifle more difficult when a lesbian act takes up residence next door.
Inspiration for the rather off-the-wall lustful script came from another project Ainsworth was working on, also involving a near-death experience and how it changed a life philosophy.
Realizing that that script was going nowhere, Ainsworth returned to the keyboard and in order to meet the mid-December deadline for the ffp, plowed forward for eight days to come up with The Three-Hundred and Ninety-First.
Ainsworth says this work is a traditional Hollywood narrative in its structure with no intention to modify Tinsletown formula. Perhaps the only thing really different about the simple script is that it is a comedy with a lot of sex that doesn’t hold back like a mainstream Hollywood movie might. The Three-Hundred and Ninety-First is also apparently not afraid to use naughty words and images – the politically correct movement be damned.
‘The language I wrote in the script was very bang-on,’ says Ainsworth. ‘I described women’s bodies using words like tits, ass and bum in my scene descriptions because I wanted people reading it to get a sense of where I was coming from. It has nothing to do with politics or political correctness, it’s simply about a guy who loves women, who has an experience, who has to stay away from women. That’s all, it’s pretty simple.’
Since all the lead roles in the script called for nudity, many local actors were scared off and casting the film proved time-consuming – about three months. Eventually, however, a cast was solicited.
‘There was a bit of gossip surrounding the script in the acting world,’ Ainsworth says. ‘There is a scene where an angel titty-whips Allgood; some found it offensive, others loved it.’
Those willing to bare all are Michael McMurtry (Last Night, The Newsroom) as Allgood Butts, Janet Kidder (The Industry, A Cool Dry Place) as Amber, part of the lesbian act with whom the hairdresser falls in love, Christine Donato (Car 54), as Raven, Murray Follows (Robocop) is Allgood’s best friend Gerry, and Joan Heney (Nikita) as Allgood’s mother.
‘Everyone be natural,’ are the directions given to the mostly naked McMurtry and Kidder, who for around eight takes roll around on a bed in a smoke-filled room of a trendy downtown Toronto apartment.
The scene is at the end of the film when Allgood returns to reality and reveals his love for Amber, which exempts him from his death sentence.
Behind the lens is dop Christopher Ball, who is capturing the scenes in a fairly simple style, which Ainsworth describes as kind of ‘loosey-goosey,’ with a lot of hand-held shots not typical to traditional comedies. ‘There is all sorts of stuff happening, it’s all high key lighting, it’s bright and we can see everything.’
As for the mood on set, while Ainsworth swears there is no inter-crew flirting going on, the sexual tension is high. Once the helmer realized there were no love affairs happening, he put his foot down and made a rule that it would remain such until the wrap party. As long as everyone keeps it clean there will be prizes handed out. ‘You do a movie about sex,’ says Ainsworth, ‘and nobody wants any.’
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