A Campbell River teen has been hailed as possibly the next Steven Spielberg by a local film commission.
At the age of 15 and about to enter Grade 10 at Carihi, Michael Stevantoni already has seven films under his belt, with an eighth about to be released to the public this fall.
INFilm (Vancouver Island North Film Commission) staff, which worked with the young director on his latest film is so impressed by Stevantoni they have compared him to one of North America’s best-known directors.
“Last summer we had the pleasure of working with this young talent as he produced his first feature short film, Cipher,” Joan Miller, INFilm commissioner, wrote in a report.
Cipher wrapped at the end of May and Stevantoni plans to hold a community screening sometime in the fall. The 18-minute long short film took him seven days to film but the production was a year-long project that was not without its share of hiccups.
“There were times it seemed insurmountable,” said Diane Stevan, Stevantoni’s grandmother who helped with the production of Cipher. “I’m pleased he didn’t give up.”
Editing was when Stevantoni ran into the biggest hurdles. Colour correction was a chore as was the audio.
“When we filmed in front of City Hall there was a guy cutting the hedges and the mic kept picking it up. It sounded terrible and you couldn’t hear the actor very well,” Stevantoni said. “I had to get the actor, who was working on a film in Edmonton, to re-do the lines for me and then I had to dub them in.”
In a scene filmed in the dark under an overpass on South Dogwood Street near Timberline school, it was a noisy generator that posed a problem for Stevantoni.
But with the help of Shannon Hagen, the media teacher at Timberline, Stevantoni was able to take out any unwanted noise.
Stevan said she is impressed with the final product and thrilled for her grandson, who has so much passion for film making.
She said Stevantoni became hooked after a trip to Universal Studios when he was 11.
“There was a huge bronze sculpture of a guy with a movie camera and Michael looked up at it and said ‘that’s what I want to do when I grow up.’ So my husband and I bought him a camera for Christmas that year,” Stevan said.
But that wasn’t his first time working with film.
Stevantoni first got his hands on a video camera when he was three-years-old.
“I’ve been into this for a really long time,” Stevantoni said. “I used to take shots of me playing with toys set to music playing in the background. Or I would make short films using Lego.”
After his grandparents’ Christmas present, Stevantoni shot his first film, Indianna Jeff, when he was 11. The film involved he and a friend hunting for treasure – gold coins courtesy of Dollarama – in his backyard. Then came the second instalment, Indianna Jeff and the Mayan Crystal, for which he won an award at the Campbell River Film Festival in 2008.
He was also a winner in a short film contest sponsored by BC Parks in which he shot footage at Rathtrevor Beach near Parksville.
Just last year, Stevantoni was one of 10 filmmakers selected to show his work at the Vermont Green Mountain Film Festival in the United States. His entry, A Splitting Image, was inspired by the Stephen King novels he was reading at the time.
“That’s when I was starting to get more professional but it was still just my friends in the film,” Stevantoni said. “But I got a composer to do the music and got a special effects guy from Vancouver.”
Then came Cipher, Stevantoni’s first film with adult actors, courtesy of Rivercity Players. The thriller follows a detective, played by actor and city councillor Ryan Mennie, who is trying to decipher a cryptic message left by a serial bomber, played by actor Andy Peterson. The detective soon realizes the message spells out the name of the bomber’s next victim.