1994’s Anchor Zone was the highest-budgeted Newfoundland film of its time and it was set to jump-start local cinema. It didn’t. Adam Clarke interviewed the cast and crew about the film’s tumultuous production, a punk rock song dedicated to Anchor Zone and a revolutionary plan to release the movie on CD-ROM instead of VHS tapes.
Here’s the scenario: The year is 2010. Newfoundland is ruled by Wondracorp, owned by the evil Colonel Bob—known around these parts as Ron Hynes. Wondracorp’s science division is run by Lawson Hughes, who performs brain experiments on children like Ved.
One man stands to end the tyranny: Radd, also known as Mark Critch on a skateboard. Radd is joined on his quest by his buddy, Dogface, and Hughes’ estranged daughter Robin (Nicole Stoffman, aka Degrassi’s Stephanie Kaye).
Can this trio, aided by the enigmatic Ved, make a difference? Will Dogface’s brother, Brogan (Andrew Younghusband, Canada’s Worst Driver) the Wondra-cop, help them out? And why does Ved have tape on his forehead?
On the Casting
Ken Pittman (producer): [Henry Czerny] was on his way to do Clear And Present Danger… so we made a deal with him. Part of the deal was that we bought his plane ticket to L.A. after the shoot… So some of the budget got eaten up to give him a round-trip ticket.
T.H. Hatte (writer): [Henry Czerny] was rushed in late and fell back on horrific Frankenstein grimaces and bulls**t backstory antics which were more the creation of [the director] than Henry, who just wanted to fly in, lay down his version of a character… Well, what he was able to grasp. Which wasn’t much.
Pheilm Martin (actor): I just did it for a laugh.
On the Production
Mark Critch (actor): I looked at the script and I remember thinking “cyberpunk? Flying skateboards? This could actually be kinda cool.” As the budgetary restraints become apparent, you start to notice that it’s not going to be a flying skateboard, it’s just going to be a f***ing skateboard.
T.H. Hatte (writer): I was on set to rewrite [daily] until I was barred from the set.
Ken Pittman (producer): [Writer T.H. Hatte] was very opinionated and he wasn’t liked by everybody… [He also] actively challenged the director while she was filming a scene. I asked him not to return to the set.
Andrew Younghusband (actor): [T.H. Hatte] used to wear one of those hats that looks like a Mary Brown’s box.
On the Experiments
Ken Pittman (producer): Three things we were hoping to do after the fact: Produce a CD-ROM for the movie, go online with a version of the movie you could download, and release a soundtrack album. All of it was undoable in economic terms. [It was 1994.]
Mark Critch (actor): There was also talk of getting everybody together for a video webchat.
On the Aftermath
Andrew Younghusband (actor): They had a million dollars and were trying to make a big-budget sci-fi, but what they should have done with Anchor Zone is tried to make a b-movie sci-fi.
Nicole Stoffman (actor): On paper, it looked like an action movie.
Mark Critch (actor): I thought of it as “Jim Henson’s Blade Runner Babies.”
Michael Luke (actor): Being an eleven-year-old kid, it was an unbelievable experience. There was a lot of hype and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Pheilm Martin (actor): One night at Bar None [a few years ago], this strange man with long hair and a big long beard comes up to me. It’s Jesse Walker. He told me his band, Skull Face & Others, had a song called “Xtendo Arm Of Creepy Death,” which was about Dogface, [the character I played.]
Mark Critch (actor): Is it just something stoner kids watch now?
T.H. Hatte (writer): I thought it was god-awful. Nothing at all like I had written.
Mark Critch (actor): There are so many other factors that come in, and then things start being traded away. ‘We want to get so-and-so to direct but she’s got to come from this section of the country to get this grant, okay?’ You start doing this little barter system. ‘We need Czerny. Flying him in means we can’t shoot that.’ So you end up with these little Franken-movies