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‘I want to be a superstar’: Two Islanders make acting debut in indie film

Sandcastles is a romance between two characters with learning disabilities

Two young Island actors are getting their start in local independent short film Sandcastles.

The movie features Sooke resident Justin Holmes and North Saanich resident Koko Farion, both first-time actors who have learning disabilities. In the movie they play star-crossed lovers until an operation for Holmes’ character leads their parents to intervene and split them up. Determined, they run away together like in Romeo and Juliet.

Holmes has acted on the stage before with the Sooke Harbour Players – his uncle Pete Holmes is vice-president of the troupe and encouraged his nephew to audition for the role.

“I never knew, that’s the thing. I just did theatre for fun. But I never thought I had natural talent,” said Justin Holmes. “I’ve been telling you that for years,” Pete said to Justin with a laugh. “He doesn’t listen to me.”

“Justin is a natural storyteller. He’s just a very entertaining guy. He’s always making up stories and wants to tell his own stories and been telling me that for years – I said, you should get into theatre.”

Holmes found the transition to being in front of the camera an enjoyable one, although navigating the awkwardness of the romantic scenes was something he had to get used to.

Farion also felt nervous about those scenes, but said they were “cute,” and her mother Younghee Farion said she quickly got over any nerves.

“She’s been looking for an opportunity for a long time because she was pretty good at high school. The teachers and volunteers at school, they all saw how she acted on the stage, and they always asked me to find an agent – they saw they saw the potential in her. So this opportunity came and we’re really happy. Especially Coco. She’s so natural. She’s not nervous at all. It’s amazing to see that.”

“I want to be a superstar, I want to walk on the red carpet,” said Farion.

The movie was funded by CineVic’s Dynamo Program, which gives grants and equipment rentals to films featuring diversity.

Director and producer Susan Ko teamed up with Langford-based writer and producer Brent Lanyon to work on the film, with shooting taking place in several locales, including Lanyon’s house.

Last year there were several big moves towards boosting the film industry in the Langford, with council calling action on a rezoning to allow sound stages to be built at the old Westshore Motorsports Park site, as well as the Vancouver Island South Film Commission moving their office out to Langford.

Ko said seeing new facilities and places to rent equipment to will be helpful, but that Greater Victoria as a whole provides lots of opportunities for filmmakers.

“When you make a movie usually have multiple locations right? So you’re driving all over the place. This is one of the reasons Victoria is so good is there’s oceans, there’s beaches, there’s forests, there’s city, there’s nature – lots of variety for filming, and different neighbourhoods that are very unique.”

Ko said the film will likely be finished around in September and from there taken to festivals and hopefully a couple of local screenings.

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