Usually Cold War spy films involve a dramatic submarine standoff. However, in the case of upcoming film Burlesque Assassins, there are fewer guns and more garters.
Directed by Calgary’s Jonathan Joffe, and filmed entirely within the city, Burlesque Assasins is a tale of intrigue and action. The film follows Johnny Valentine and his group of sexy, super-spies on a mission to save the world from total domination.
The film was shot in Calgary between March 30th and April 20th of 2011. It features an international cast of burlesque dancers and actors. With a huge cast and crew (about 200 people were involved in the shoot) and a variety of locations, it was an ambitious project for Joffe to take on as his first feature. “At times, it was totally overwhelming. Everything was a spectacle,” said Joffe.
With a passing interest in burlesque, Joffe had written a short in early 2009 about the art form. After visiting the Toronto burlesque fest he realized that there was potential for a larger story. Meeting performers at the festival, Joffe found “so much talent, enthusiasm, creativity, and wisdom”.
Many of the film’s performers have theatre backgrounds, and are classically trained actors as well as burlesque dancers. The combination worked well on set. “Burlesque performers are used to being ready to work, and they really respect the crew because they know what to do. The crew felt that,” said Joffe. “The cast and crew really gelled on set.”
Thankfully, that chemistry was one less thing for Joffe to worry about – with fantastical sets and Calgary’s unpredictable weather, he had enough on his plate. “We had a one day shoot in a circus tent in a warehouse,” said Joffe. Overnight, the team lead by production designer Bobby Vanonen created an enormous tent ready for the morning shoot.
Another day, a planned outdoor shoot was interrupted by a freak blizzard. The production team worked through the night building an entire pool hall so filming could resume in the morning.
Thankfully, not everything involved building an entire pool hall. “We spent nine days shooting at all hours in the Lantern Church in Inglewood,” said Joffe. “They were amazing hosts, and so generous.”
The group also shot on the same street as the Lougheed House, and in the Engineered Air Theatre at the Epcor Centre – which was given a retro vibe by the art department. Also, keep an eye out for an exciting airplane scene in the film that was shot entirely in the Calgary Aerospace Museum.
Burlesque Assassins premieres in Calgary on August 1st at the Plaza Theatre in Kensington. The film will be accompanied by a live performance with four burlesque dancers, including Raven Virginia and Miyuki Divine of The Garter Girls, a local burlesque troupe. There’s also an after party to follow the screening.
“We’re really excited for the film,” said Divine, who has been a member of the Garter Girls since the troupe was founded four years ago. The film features Ontario’s Roxy Dlite, who is one of Divine’s inspirations as a performer.
Divine is excited that the film may bring more notice to Calgary’s burlesque scene. “It’s definitely growing already,” she said. According to divine, there are now at least six different burlesque troupes in Calgary.
“It’s fun, exciting, and sexy,” said Virginia, when asked about what draws people to burlesque. “It’s not a direct service, not just sexual titillation. Burlesque uses comedy, narrative, characters, and the art of the striptease- emphasis on tease.”
If you’d like to see the Garter Girls perform, stay tuned for an upcoming show at the Arrata Opera Centre. You can subscribe to their newsletter for more details on their website. Click here to purchase tickets for the premiere of Burlesque Assassins. You can view more information about the film on their website or on their Facebook page. Check out the trailer for Burlesque Assassins on YouTube.