Dean Wray’s film career may span over two decades, but he recently celebrated another first.
Last month, the long-time Qualicum Beach resident and his colleagues were in Vancouver for the theatrical release of his first film Down Here.
“I’m pretty proud of it,” said Wray, who was the star, co-writer and first-time executive producer of the film. “It’s been something I’ve been building toward.”
Down Here is a feature-length film set on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that tells the story of an alcoholic detective who struggles with inner demons while searching to find a murderer targeting street workers.
However, as the detective’s life continues to unravel, and the lines between his professional life and addiction start to blur, he finds solace—and the opportunity for redemption—within the fragile community he is trying to protect.
Blending elements of a crime thriller and a contemporary social drama, Wray described Down Here as having documentary-like realism and grit with a social message.
“It’s pretty raw … but we don’t overplay that,” he said.
Yet despite the weight of the film, Down Here was shot in only 13 days.
“I got a champagne movie on a beer budget,” said the executive producer.
Wray placed a lot of praise on the Down Here team for this feat. Some of the main creative players for the film included director, writer, producer and supporting actor Teach Grant; fellow executive producer and Wray’s sister Shawna Wray; and producer Crystal Braunwarth.
According to a news release for the film, the cast was mostly filled with people Wray and Grant had worked with over the years.
“We’ve both carved out a pretty long path over the years in front of the camera and so each of us had a bank of tremendous talent to pull from,” said Grant in the release.
They also made a successful cold-call to actress Tantoo Cardinal, who is a Member of the Order of Canada for her contributions to the growth and development of Aboriginal performing arts.
Another major presence in the film was the Downtown Eastside itself.
“The cinematography is just beautiful,” said Wray.
“The locations were an important landscape for us to get right,” said Braunwrath in the aforementioned release
Braunwrath said it took about a month to scout out the Downtown areas alone.
“(We) really tried to dig in to the nooks and crannies that are seldom seen by even long time Vancouverites,” she said. “It was a real joy to get acquainted with this part of the city.”
Yet despite all this hard work, Wray said he was surprised at how hard it was to bring the film to a larger audience. As an indy film, Down Here had to first make its rounds at film festivals. It was an official selection for the 2013 Whistler Film Festival and even earned an award of excellence at the Canada Film Festival in 2014.
Only recently, however, did Canada’s Capital Motion Picture Group and the US’s Devolver Digital pick up the national and international distribution rights to the film.
It was at that point when Wray and the rest of the Down Here team finally got to have their big premiere at the Rio in Vancouver, an event that they turned into a fundraiser for the street youth charity Covenant House.
If you’d like to see Down Home, it is available digitally through iTunes, Vimeo and Google Play. You can also contact Capital Motion Picture Group for a DVD copy.