A Thriller Filmed in Windsor Keeps
Audiences on the Edge of Their Seats
Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography courtesy of Suede Productions
For a movie so lush with striking dialogue, Suede Productions’ new feature length thriller, Depraved Mind, reveals some of its most startling secrets without words.
The movie tells the story of Thomas, a man suffering from amnesia who wakes in a prison hospital. He is informed by psychiatrist, Audrey, that he is a prolific serial killer.
“Feel free to ask me any questions,” Audrey says to a groaning, bleary Thomas. “I’m here to perform a court ordered psychological evaluation.”
By the end of the movie, the audience has many questions, and plenty of answers, all as compelling as they are uncomfortable to contemplate.
Written by Suede Productions veterans, Nick Shields and Chris Pickle—with Nick in the director’s chair—Depraved Mind takes hold of the audience in its first frames and does not relinquish its grip until the closing credits.
For film lovers rankled by the paint-by-numbers approach in so many contemporary thrillers, Depraved Mind is a welcome shock to the system. The film’s greatest virtue is that it demands something of the audience. Passively absorbing the story is not an option. Information is parsed in an array of fascinating forms: Audrey’s tape recorder as she listens to a session with Ned, another man believed to be a killer; dream-like flashbacks occurring in black and white; through characters’ facial expressions.
The greatest purveyor of information is the camera. At one crucial juncture—in a film abounding with startling turns and disorienting revelations—the camera pulls back, revealing a little more of the environment the audience has already grown used to. This subtle change in perspective unbalances the audience’s understanding of what’s happening.
“Prior to having a single thought about the film,” Nick explains, “we were approached for a number of years to shoot more features in the region. Many of the offers came with scripts, but they weren’t our stories, so we turned them down. Finally, someone said: ‘If not this, then what?’”
He continues: “Within minutes of the offer coming in, Chris Pickle said: ‘Well, what if a guy wakes up in a prison hospital and finds out he’s a serial killer?’ For as much work as we’ve put into other projects we might have considered doing, we all said: ‘Yeah, that’s what we should do!’”
The idea was greenlit by the backers before the script was written. And that’s when the well-oiled machine of Suede Productions kicked into high gear.
“We assembled a team,” Nick says. “A project of this scale needed a producer familiar with that genre, so we brought in Mike Stasko. Ted Bezaire came aboard as production manager.”
The team at Suede delivered a script within four weeks and began shooting Depraved Mind within four months of the pitch. The budget was approximately $500,000.
The film is a minefield of potential spoilers, but it can be safely revealed that its original title was “The Lion Behind Him.”
It is no easy thing making a movie like this. In screenwriting, turns in the story are known as “beats” and pacing beats throughout a script, ensuring each has the desired effect, is like landing a space probe safely on a distant planet. It’s all in a day’s work for the guys at Suede Productions.
“Nick and I locked ourselves away and worked on the script,” says co-writer Chris Pickle. “We laid our three-by-five index cards on a huge table so we could see where the beats were, fill in any gaps, and get the pacing right. We didn’t start a draft until we had a robust outline.”
The story is wonderfully engrossing and impossible to guess.
Suede’s meticulous approach maximized time management—the most precious commodity on set. Each day of the twenty-day shoot began at eight o’clock in the morning and wrapped by four or five in the afternoon.
A terrific concept and a talented crew are vital to a successful production, but a great script can be a liability in the hands of actors unable to handle its rigors. The three principal actors chosen by Suede bring the heady story to life in a way that is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Toronto actor Kristen MacCulloch plays psychiatrist Audrey Brandt.
“Kristen is a feat to watch,” Chris says. “We knew right away when we saw her. One of the key things for an actor is to make choices, even if you’re not completely sure of what the writer/director wants. Kristen came with choices. Seeing an actor do that was remarkable.”
Vancouver actor Eddie Canelea plays Thomas.
“Eddie is such a great guy, he’s so naturally likable!” Chris continues. “That was very important for us. We needed that likability because when you hear what the doctor says his character did, you can’t root for him, but Eddie makes it so you can.”
And then there is Windsor-based actor, Craig Gloster. It was a marvel watching the arc of Craig’s performance. The audience first finds him as a gnarled, nearly blind shell of a human being in a wheelchair, who replies to questions in a laboured monotone. As the film takes the audience along its whip-turns, we glimpse other, surprising sides of Ned. Craig delivers the goods every time.
The precision of Suede Productions’ approach on Depraved Mind carries through to the finished product. The locations, the lighting and sound design add subtle yet indispensable layers to the experience, combining to create a fully realized world—one the audience is compelled to explore, but cannot wait to escape.
“We needed large spaces for the movie,” Nick says. “That’s not easy in a real estate bubble! Then we realized that we have the single coolest person in the world right here in Windsor: Mike Brkovich, who owns Walkerville Brewery. We approached him with our problem, and he let us use space in his twin towers at the Hiram Walker building. That served as the hospital.”
Once they had the space, there were still more challenges to solve.
“Snap your fingers in the space and it echoes for thirty seconds,” Nick says. “We brought a hundred mattresses up four flights of stairs to deaden the sound of the space.”
Depraved Mind is a definitive answer to the question posed to the team at the outset: “If not this, then what?”
Not only is the experience unforgettable for movie audiences, but it left a positive, lasting impression on all involved.
“Suede is such a great team,” says Kristen. “A role like Audry is a gift.”
“They are such great dudes,” says Eddie. “Nick is so knowledgeable about film. They’re people who love cinema making cinema.”
Depraved Mind won “Best Feature” at Barebones International Film & Music Festival and Motor City International Film Festival, and “Best in Fest” at the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival,
As Nick says: “We don’t swim in praise or wallow in self-pity.” Suede Productions is already on to its next project.
Where can movie lovers see Depraved Mind?
“That’s still being nailed down,” Nick says, “but if you subscribe to any of the popular streaming services, you’ll find it!”