Drafted By: Shannon Little.

Turning 80 years old is a milestone.  Although Vancouver is relatively young when it comes to historical landmarks, a lot has happened in the last 80 years, and the Dunbar Theatre has been around since the 1930’s and truly is a place to be celebrated! Susan Skemp, Ken Charko and James E. Taylor have decided to create a short film about the Dunbar Theatre to showcase to the world what an incredible LITTLE gem this theatre is.

Susan is an Entertainer who has been performing since the age of five.  She headlined for Princess Cruise Lines giving her the opportunity to travel and work all over the world.  She also starred in a Japanese Television Series and has sung on all the stages in Vancouver.  A couple of years ago Susan met Ken and they collaborated on a Christmas special.  They had so much fun working together on the first show, they decided to do another show last year, where Susan would perform on stage before the start of a movie.

To mark the celebration of the independently owned Dunbar Theatre’s 80th year, she suggested that they make a film of their own and it has been an ongoing project ever since.

Ken enjoys doing the LITTLE internal projects and shows with Susan, and the customers also enjoy this unique feature.  He is a former Vancouver Film School student, who did some acting early on in his career.  He is currently the Director of the Motion Picture Theatre Association, representing all the Independent Theatres in the Province.  Ken owns the Dunbar Theatre, and is extremely proud of the fact that his theatre has been voted to have the BEST POPCORN.  He also is very active within the film community and believes in promoting and saving BC Film.

As Susan is the writer, songwriter and producer, and Ken is the Owner of the Theatre, Executive Producer, and Head Popcorn Guy, all they needed now was the position of a Filmmaker/Director. This is where James comes in…James has been making films in Vancouver since the age of nine.  With his career spanning three decades, it is no surprise that his directing credits include 26 episodes of Live-Action Broadcast Television, Computer Animated Broadcast Television, 60 Short Films and Commercials.  He has received numerous awards in TV, Music Videos and Animation.

Two of the STARS of the film “Alma & Dunbar” ~ Photo Credit : 5U54N & J4M35 Productions
Two of the STARS of the film “Alma & Dunbar” ~ Photo Credit : 5U54N & J4M35 Productions

Before learning the details about the film, I was intrigued to discover what made this Theatre so special to these three people.  Ken emphasized that for a single screen theatre there are very few screens that are actually busier than the Dunbar.  They have competitive prices, free parking, the concession items are reasonably priced and they use REAL BUTTER on their popcorn.  The technology is just as good as the modern Cineplex theatres, and they show all the #1 films while you are sitting in special seats, designed by Ken, which are comfy and provide lots of leg room with arm rests that go up and down.

There is a community spirit and feeling when you attend the Dunbar Theatre.  A social atmosphere where you can see your neighbours, and also feel a sense of security, a point that Ken noted, they have never needed a security guard in all the years that the Dunbar has been open.  This theatre draws people from the Dunbar and surrounding Communities out to as far as Hastings and the PNE area. 

The Dunbar Theatre is definitely a cultural landmark, but what they hope to convey with this film is the value of having an artistic venue in a city environment.  A building that is unique, in that the owner and the people connected to it, are willing to “think outside the box”, such as live shows before a movie, which offer creative and entertaining new ventures for the public.

And of course, every historical building should have at least one Ghost, should it not?DELORES has two confirmed sightings, as being the resident ghost of the Dunbar Theatre.

“Delores” the resident Ghost of the Dunbar Theatre ~ Photo Credit : 5U54N & J4M35 Productions
“Delores” the resident Ghost of the Dunbar Theatre ~ Photo Credit : 5U54N & J4M35 Productions

Her presence can be felt in the projection room, and when you are alone in the theatre you feel as if you are being watched.  Also, if you turn around quickly there is a sense that a figure is rushing past you.

During this interview I learned so many fascinating things, not just about the Dunbar Theatre, but about film making itself.  Although they are treating this movie like a feature, it is a short film and will only be up to 12 minutes in length.

Susan is writing the music for it and the one main song will carry the audience through each decade changing with each genre.  Each decade will have its own flavour, a true sense of each period, and as James said, there will be a nice marriage between the visual and the auditory ultimately creating a beautiful piece of art.

There will be a celebration of every decade starting in the 1930’s showcasing the style of film of that era, progressing through to the 1970’s where the style had a polaroid look to it, and into the 1990’s where it was all about bling.  It will be very nostalgic for some people, reminding them of the days gone by, when movies only cost 5 cents.  The theatre was run by a Manager, had a doorman, a ticket taker and a projectionist and more often than not the film on the reel broke during the movie, causing an unexpected “intermission”.  Graphically wise it will be very exciting as the intent is to make you feel like you are in the film…literally experiencing each time period. For that is and always has been the true intent behind movies, the true magic of going to the movies is to get lost in the film.

Susan, Ken and James are striving to leave the audience wanting more.  Their desire is to tell a story, to humanize the Dunbar Theatre, and make the whole world say “Lets go to Vancouver, lets go to the Dunbar Theatre.” ~ Susan Skemp

This is why they are applying to Film Festivals like Cannes, Sundance and TIFF, as well as Award Shows like the Genies and the Junos to showcase to the rest of Canada and the world, what they have done, what they are so very proud of, and to literally let the world see and learn about the Dunbar Theatre.

The team does face some challenges regarding the application into the Film Festivals however, for you can pay your entrance fee and yet it is still a roll of the dice if your film will even get pre-judged, so it is absolutely critical that you “make your film stand out” ~ James E. Taylor. 

The film is prepped and started, however, the release date has yet to be set for the following steps need to be completed first:

1)     Do a Production Schedule

2)     Do a Post-Production Schedule

3)     Compliance with various Festivals are satisfied

4)     Talk to people who have submitted and been successful previously for  the particular category that they are in and find out the optimal time for best exposure / best coverage

What they have produced, the category they will end up falling into, where they will get the most exposure and the timing of the Film Festivals will all play a huge role in which Festivals will accept them as well.

Although this short film is technically classified as a Documentary, James made it clear that it is going to be strictly an entertainment film, like any other narrative work.  They will not be presenting the information in the traditional documentary style, but creating a different and unique technique that is exciting and new.  They plan on using information from interviews with Ken, and a man who, to this day still lives behind the Dunbar Theatre.  He has some really interesting stories about the days when the foundation for the theatre was poured, what was happening during World War II, and how when the measles outbreak occurred, the children were not allowed to attend matinees at the theatre.  

Susan Skemp (Writer, Songwriter, Producer) / Ken Charko (Exec. Producer, Owner of Dunbar Theatre, Head Popcorn Guy) / James E. Taylor (Filmmaker, Director) ~ Photo Credit : 5U54N & J4M35 Productions
Susan Skemp (Writer, Songwriter, Producer) / Ken Charko (Exec. Producer, Owner of Dunbar Theatre, Head Popcorn Guy) / James E. Taylor (Filmmaker, Director) ~ Photo Credit : 5U54N & J4M35 Productions

Susan, Ken and James have followed the path that many Documentary filmmakers are taking today by asking for public support through the Crowd funding site known as FUNDRAZR.  This is a fabulous way to bring public awareness to ones film and also for the public to share in a LITTLE piece of the growth and creation of a work of art.  Ultimately giving the public a chance to see something that they already love and cherish, become a LITTLE more famous and perhaps world-renowned. Their goal still needs to be met and any support is greatly appreciated.

As we began to wrap up the interview I asked each of them what they truly desired from the making of this film and these were their responses…

Susan wants to create something magical.  She wants people to come in and see the film, forget the troubles of their day, laugh, shed a tear, leave humming a tune, and come back to see it again.   She would love for the theatre and the film to be recognized for the gift that it is, and for everyone in the world to say, “I want a theatre like the Dunbar Theatre where I live.” ~ Susan Skemp

Ken wants to sell popcorn!  He also wants to help grow our local talent because he truly believes that if you help to grow indigenous product here they will be more resilient to fluctuations in the film community, which he strongly supports.

But at the end of the day, he is a businessman, and “it’s all about making money… and every movie ever made…sells popcorn.” ~ Ken Charko   Hence, his titles, Owner of the Dunbar Theatre, Executive Producer and “HEAD POPCORN GUY”!

For James, “It’s not about the accolades or any of those things.  As a filmmaker…I want people to see it…and the greatest gift I can give is if I can tell this really unique story and do it in a different way that nobody else has done, call it our own version of a documentary…then I’ll have done my job.” ~ James E. Taylor

It is amazing that 80 years can be encapsulated in a 12-minute film.  From the way films used to be filmed, to the history of the community surrounding the Dunbar Theatre during each decade, to humour and pathos, interviews and classic, timeless photographs.  But that’s the magic of making movies and Susan, Ken and James are creating a film to be celebrated about a theatre that is being celebrated!

HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY DUNBAR THEATER…HERE’S TO ANOTHER 80!!!


Contact Information:

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/dunbartheatre

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/dunbartheatre

Fundraising:  https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/fxGG2/ab/44Zpk2

Shannon Little ~ “Celebrity” Interviewer : Writer ~ MLZ