If only he made a better film!!

Paul Gross hopes for ‘Passchendaele’ big-screen release in China
TORONTO – Writer-director Paul Gross won over Canadian audiences with his multimillion-dollar war epic “Passchendaele,” and now he’s got his sights set on movie fans internationally.
As Gross releases the First World War film on DVD this week in Canada, he says he’s trying to get the picture on to big screens in Britain, China and the United States.
“What I’m most excited about is China,” Gross says in an interview.
“I would just love it if it went into China . . . They take about 20 foreign films a year, and you know there are 500 million middle-class Chinese – we could actually make some money.”
Recouping funds is understandably top of mind for the Canadian filmmaker. At a cost of $20 million, “Passchendaele” is among the most expensive Canadian films ever made.
The gritty drama ended up raking in roughly $4.5 million at the box office since its release in October – a hefty sum for an independent Canadian film but still far short of its original cost.
When “Passchendaele” debuted last year it was bolstered by massive publicity. It had an opening-night slot at the Toronto International Film Festival, followed by a cross-Canada tour in which the film’s cast appeared at movie houses and took questions from audiences.
Now it’s ready for its small-screen debut, but Gross notes the stakes are anything but small.
“I think it accounts for like two-thirds of what a film can do financially,” he says of DVD releases in general.
“Increasingly, I think people start to look upon the theatrical release as a way of satisfying those who really need to see it on a huge screen, but also making sure that people are aware of it when it comes out for people to take home to their own television sets and their own home theatres.”
Of course, it doesn’t help that Gross is seeking distribution during the current tough economic climate. By and large, independent films are not selling well these days, he says.
“It’s ironic, because if I were trying to raise the financing for it right now it would be hopeless to go to private individuals and say ‘Can you part with money that you no longer have and give it to me?’ That wouldn’t have happened,” says Gross, who also found support from government sources, including $5.5 million from the Alberta government.
“On the other hand, it might have been better if we had done it five years earlier and had it out when the market was a bit better.”
The sprawling historical drama centres on the battle-weary Sgt. Michael Dunne, played by Gross, who falls in love with a troubled nurse, played by Caroline Dhavernas, when he’s brought to a Calgary hospital. Their tender relationship forms the main story arc, leading up to the climactic battle of Passchendaele and a stark account of the relentless German assault that devastated Allied forces.
Gross says he began envisioning the project more than a decade ago, and after finally recreating the battle’s stunning bleak landscape for the large screen he expresses misgivings now that it is being shrunk for the small one.
“You do sort of cringe because we made something that’s capable of being blown up into a huge picture, and reducing it like that seems a little bit crazy. On the other hand, the world is what it is,” he says, noting today’s medium of choice is even smaller than TV, with many pop culture junkies favouring portable media players.
“I don’t like watching a film on a screen that small but I know lots of people who do, including my own kids. They seem fine with it. I’ll say, ‘How can you get enough out of this? And they’ll say, ‘Oh no, I see it big.”‘
Meanwhile, Gross is hopeful that “Passchendaele” could find another life in movie theatres in China.
“I gather we still have quite a profile there. Because of Bethune, there’s this funny sense they have of us,” he says, referring to Canadian doctor Norman Bethune, considered a hero in China for joining the resistance in that country against the Japanese invasion in 1938.
“Passchendaele” comes out on DVD on Tuesday.