Earlier this week the teaser trailer for the upcoming CBC Television film City On Fire was released online. Based on James Mullinger’s quest to prove that anything is possible in Saint John, the film follows the story of his move to New Brunswick and his attempt to sell out Harbour Station for the biggest comedy show of his life.
With not one, but two films set to be released based on his life, Mullinger is naturally feeling a bit overwhelmed. “I do admit that it feels pretty weird to have two movies about my life being released in the space of a month. One is semi-fictional, and features an actor (James Buckley) playing me, which is [to be] released in British cinemas on 28th October. The other is perhaps too real and too honest and features the real me undertaking the biggest and most ridiculous task of my life – trying to sell out a stadium arena in New Brunswick”.
City on Fire is produced by Hemmings House Pictures, a Saint John based film production company, and directed by Lauchlan Ough. Founded by Greg Hemmings about ten years ago, Hemmings House aims to inspire positive social change through impactful media. They’ve produced films like The Paramount, which documented and promoted a movement to prevent a historic movie theatre from being demolished, and The Millennial Dream, which showcased the shifting priorities of a younger generation that believe happiness isn’t a dollar value.
Mullinger raves about working with Hemmings House, saying “There’s a reason they are known as one of the best. Nothing was left to chance, they worked tirelessly to create the best film possible. Lauchlan is a perfectionist and it shows. He would go out to shoot the same piece of footage a dozen times if the weather wasn’t right the first eleven times. He never gave up. He spent a day getting a shot that might appear on screen for two seconds. The result is a sensory overload.”
The teaser itself is a minute and a half long and opens with the stage crew setting up for the big gig and audience members filing into Harbour Station. The camera follows Mullinger as he makes his way from dressing room to stage, looking more than a little nervous. But in the moment of truth he musters courage from his comedy hero, “This makes me think of something that Jerry Seinfeld said to me about playing these rooms. He said the thing with comedy is it doesn’t matter how deep the water is, all you can do is swim. And what I’ve got to do right now is just go out there and swim, and hopefully not sink.”
Mullinger says that making City on Fire has been one of his proudest moments, “I am so incredibly pleased that this film – that will be seen so many in this time slot – captures why I moved to Saint John, New Brunswick from London, England and why I love living here so much. The film is as much about Saint John, its history and its future, as it is about my stupid jokes.”
The CBC primetime special promises to put the spotlight on the city of Saint John as it’s seldom viewed on the national stage: as a land of opportunity. With so much negative media published about the Maritimes recently, City on Fire is a much needed breath of fresh air. Mullinger believes the film could be a game changer for the city, saying, “Finally the rest of the country (and hopefully the world) will see what an amazing city this is and bring their business here. When I moved here I had visited over 15 times so was already a fan. Come here once and you will fall in love with it. I do a lot of corporate gigs for conferences that come here and I hear the same thing over and over. That people love it here so much but can’t understand why no one knows about it. The reason is simple. The national newspapers have an agenda that suits them. They like to spread the idea that the Maritimes is dead. Despite the fact that they have freelancers in every part of the country except this one! I hope this film will make Maclean’s come here and see what’s really going on.”
City on Fire will air on CBC September 17th at 8pm AST. Most of Saint John is expected to be tuned in as our little city on the Bay finally takes centre stage and proves to the rest of the country what we already know: that we are indeed, a City on Fire.
For more information on the film, visit hemmingshouse.com.