By Richard McGuire
Haiderali Ajmeri, a budding young Vancouver film director, was looking for the perfect spot to give a desert feel to his first film since graduating, a short comedy called “Two Thumbs Up.”
After extensive location scouting, he picked Osoyoos, which he learned has also been used in other films, including the science-fiction thriller, “The Humanity Bureau,” which was shot in Osoyoos and Oliver last November.
“I thought Osoyoos is the perfect spot,” said Ajmeri, who says he wanted a dry landscape to represent the western United States in this story where a naive young man picks up a hitchhiking escaped convict.
As they film a couple scenes at the Osoyoos Airport in the late afternoon, the golden light on the sagebrush is perfect. The first two nights they underestimated the time to get their shots before the sun dropped behind the mountain, completely changing the light. This time they nailed it.
It was a small crew at the shoot that evening – 10 people – but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
“It’s been awesome,” said Ajmeri. “We’re just loving the scenery, we’re loving the lake, the motels and everything. It’s been kind of like a mini-vacation when we go home at night after working in the day. It’s been really, really cool.”
“Two Thumbs Up” is a film idea that Ajmeri has been wanting to do for a long time. He’s made other short films during his studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC) film production program.
Like the others, this one will run about 20 to 25 minutes when it’s completed this year.
“I’m just starting out,” said Ajmeri. “Short films are a great way to start making films and start exploring the stories I’d like to tell, (explore) directing and writing and filmmaking in general.”
In his UBC program, the students often made short films. His crew includes others he met in his UBC program.
Short films also aren’t nearly as expensive to make as feature-length films.
Ajmeri planned to finish shooting by the end of the summer and then take a few more months with postproduction, releasing the film closer to the end of the year.
“We are going to be submitting to a few film festivals and hopefully once we’ve gone to that cycle, open it to a wide release that will be accessible to anyone,” Ajmeri said.
Osoyoos has been used in such other films as the 2010 movie “Gunless” that was filmed on a set of seven buildings at Elkink Ranch. A Mexican film called “Dance of the Little Old Man was also filmed there, and the Punjabi-language film “Crash” was filmed at the airport in 2014.
Osoyoos Councillor C.J. Rhodes points out that the film industy can be a huge economic driver.
Even a low-budget, short film with a small crew spends money in local accommodations and restaurants. More importantly, they raise the profile of the area as a film location.
Ajmeri hopes to be back.
“I would love to,” he said. “We’ve been so fortunate here in getting locations and everything has been really convenient for us.”