The orange flame of a cigarette lighter heats up the bottom of a spoon. A woman draws the liquid into a syringe, injects it into her scar-covered arm and her world begins to spin as the drug takes hold.
But the dose is too much to handle and she stumbles out of her house and onto the sidewalk before collapsing. The scene cuts to black and the opening credits roll. So begins the film Blood Hunters — an independent horror movie with some unconventional financial support.
Nearly a quarter of the film’s approximately $500,000 budget came courtesy of about 15 different angel investors, including 10 from the Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN), a group better known for its backing of the technology or manufacturing sector than the film industry.
“Despite the fact we’re probably known for our investments in technology, we are really sector-agnostic,” said GTAN President Rob Douglas at the film’s local premiere last Thursday at Bingemans.
“We have manufacturing technologies, bio companies, medical device companies — and companies that want to do movies. We never know amongst our membership what is going to be attractive and what isn’t.”
Blood Hunters follows single mother Ellie Barnes, the same woman who overdosed in the opening scene, after she wakes up in a medical facility only to discover she’s mysteriously nine months pregnant and the doctors and nurses around her have been brutally killed.
Douglas noted it’s important for GTAN — a not-for-profit corporation made up of about 100 investors seeking opportunities to fund promising, early-stage businesses under the Ontario government’s Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Angel Network Program — to invest not only in local tech startups, but cultural efforts as well.
“It’s our opportunity to shed a little spotlight on the arts and raise the profile enough for people who might otherwise consider leaving this community to go to [Silicon] Valley or Buffalo and say there really is a lot here in Waterloo and it’s getting better.”
Rob Douglas, President of GTAN and Tricia Lee, director of the film Blood Hunters.
(photo: James Jackson for Communitech).
The movie was screened locally at an event called Transfuzion, the monthly GTAN investors meeting with a Halloween twist. Director Tricia Lee said she was drawn to the story as soon as she read it.
“My writing partner Corey Brown pitched this idea to me and I loved it because it had mystery in the concept and we later find there are creatures in the facility, so there’s danger [and] there’s survival,” said Lee, President and CEO of production company A Film Monkey Production.
Blood Hunters was shot over 20 days in an empty warehouse on Danforth Avenue in Toronto in April and May 2015. Lee said it’s tough to get funding for independent films in Canada, especially the horror genre, so she pitched her idea to GTAN in February 2014 and found enthusiastic support.
This is far from her first feature film, however, and Lee has directed other successful indie horror flicks, including Silent Retreat in 2013, which won Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and Clean Break in 2014, named Best Drama Feature at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival.
Blood Hunters had its world premiere in August at FrightFest in London, England, and Lee is planning a theatrical release in Toronto and other Canadian cities as well.
The angel investors got more than just the satisfaction of viewing the finished product, however, as many were given roles in the film to play dead bodies.
“That was the magic for these investors — not only could they invest some money but they could actually appear on screen,” said Douglas with a laugh.