Stage Door Johnny’s two-day low-budget shoot took place at Edmonton’s Unitarian Church
Keep your eyes peeled for St. Albert’s new award-winning screenwriter. David Haas, 77, a well-known playwright in the area’s theater scene, won first prize in the Edmonton Short Film Festival’s Alberta Screenwriters Acceleration Program.
Out of 67 scripts, the festival accepted his script. Johnny stage door won a $20,000 prize, which covers everything from script editing and filming to post-production and mentorship from established professionals.
“I felt very happy. I describe it as walking on the ceiling. I was thrilled and I’m always surprised when I win,” said Haas, who received the news on Dec. 29.
The title, Johnny stage dooris borrowed from a term used in the 1920s and 1930s to describe men who would hang out at the stage doors after a show to flirt with actresses, Haas explained.
As the script begins, Alfred (Paul Boltbee), an old man, stands by the stage doors waiting to give the star, Sylvia Dempster (Joanna Manchur), a bouquet of red roses. Ron (Griffin Cork), the security guard, tries to get him to move on. However, Alfred persuades the guard to let him stay.
The next morning, Ron discusses the old man with the theater manager Henderson (Anne-Marie Smyth). Henderson tells her that Alfred was a run-down actor whose career crashed due to heavy drinking. The theater manager added that Alfred often handed out flowers at the stage doors, but no one knew much about him. It becomes Ron’s mission to find out more about the mysterious Alfred.
Filming for the two-day film took place this past weekend at the Unitarian Church in Edmonton. The six actors and more than triple the number of crew members adjusted lights, cameras, recording equipment, costumes and sets while working around church services.
Part of the prize for the inaugural accelerator program was the screenwriter’s opportunity to direct the five-page shoot. Since Haas is a groundbreaking screenwriter and has never directed a play, the award covered the mentorship of award-winning writer Neil Chase, a screenplay coach, who helped whittle the 10-page screenplay down to five, and director Gilbert Allan.
“Gilbert was my directing advisor. I couldn’t have made it without his help. He had some very good suggestions, most of which I accepted.
Haas, whose three main careers span the military, law and security enforcement, believes in writing what he knows. Interesting way, Johnny stage door was composed in 2008.
“I was looking for a good story and this came to mind. I’m not trying to preach. I’m not trying to be fashionable. I like to entertain, but the essence of a play is a good story.
As a playwright, Haas first wrote His day in courtwinner of the 1978 competition Edmonton newspaper One Acts and One Acts from the 1983 Alberta Culture Awards.
After a 36-year hiatus, Haas wrote a series of pieces produced at the Edmonton Fringe Festival: Pacific time (2015), Wolf Crossing (2016), crazy train (2017), and Where the heroes rest (2019).