From Trailer Park Boys to soldier boys for Clattenburg

Director of beloved Canadian TV series focused on film about the boys in Afghanistan -- "still funny, but more serious."

Photo of Trailer Park Boys characters courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It's a big stretch for director, but the king of trailer park comedy says he's ready for it.

The Canadian Press has the story on what the director of the beloved Canadian series Trailer Park Boys has planned next:

TORONTO -- Mike Clattenburg has left the trailer park.

The Cole Harbour, N.S., native was eager to stray way outside his comfort zone for his first feature film, "Afghan Luke.''

He wanted to eschew the trademark mockumentary shooting style he developed on "Trailer Park Boys'' and tell a story that was still funny, but far more serious, and on a much bigger scale.

The director found his project in a script about a veteran war correspondent named Luke Benning (Nick Stahl), who returns to Afghanistan to uncover a scandal involving Canadian soldiers.

"I wanted something that was difficult, challenging and more so dramatic than comedic,'' Clattenburg said during an interview at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

"I was looking for apples and oranges, something different than 'Trailer Park Boys' -- that screwball, zany comedy which I really enjoyed.

"An entirely new world to delve into and learn about.''

The first challenge was figuring out how to convincingly shoot the film in Canada, since going to Afghanistan was obviously not an option. Clattenburg found a rough and sandy area in the Interior of British Columbia that made for a remarkably realistic-looking set. And the region's harsh conditions also helped throw the actors into their roles and keep them in character.

"The location was gold for the opportunity for us to just immerse in this world and in these characters,'' explained Vik Sahay, who plays an ambitious rival journalist who's fighting for the same scoop.

"Very little was done set-dressing wise, that is what it looks like: hail one day, boiling hot the next day, wind, sand. All of it was unbelievably conducive to leaving the rest of the world behind and getting into the dynamic of the characters.

"It pushes you deeper into that rabbit hole.''

Stephen Lobo, who plays an Afghan fixer who guides foreign journalists and acts as a translator, agreed the conditions on set were tough to take but a huge benefit overall.

"Sometimes as an actor part of the job is having to create and make the audience believe your environment -- the extreme example would be using blue screen technology -- but with this there was none of that work, it was a real treat,'' Lobo said.

"We just believed it, that we were there, and we felt it.''

Lobo and Sahay praised Clattenburg's approach to directing, including his willingness to let actors improvise.

"There's no bad idea, he was game for anything,'' said Lobo.

"I didn't stray off the script that much but to know that you can allows for a different kind of listening and you've really got to be alive.''

Added Sahay: "It creates a kind of alchemy, a chemistry and an electricity on set and in a scene when you're actually listening and responding and not worrying about lines.''

"Afghan Luke'' opens in Toronto on Friday.

Clattenburg's next project is a big-screen comedy/drama called "The Guys Who Move Furniture,'' starring Will Sasso, Victor Garber and Charles Murphy.

"It was inspired by when I was moving a couple of times and saw how hard these guys work. I met some really nice fellas who do one of the toughest jobs in the world -- it's really difficult and nobody wants to do it -- so that interested me,'' he said.

"It's got some heart and soul. It's about a guy who doesn't necessarily believe in himself and kind of learns to believe in himself.''

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