Corner Gas jumps to the big (and small) screen

For six seasons on CTV, the tagline for Corner Gas was always that there “wasn’t a lot going on,” but the making of Corner Gas: The Movie couldn’t have been further from the truth.

It consumed the lives of creator/executive producer Brent Butt, executive producer Virginia Thompson, writers Andrew Carr and Andrew Wreggitt and executive producer/director David Storey for a couple of years as they tried to fashion a script that, unlike a television episode, had to have big stakes for the citizens of Dog River, Sask. Something had to be going on.

“If we couldn’t come up with a script that turned a 30-minute show into a 90-minute movie without wrecking it, then let’s not do it,” Butt says during a press day in Toronto. “We wrote this script for probably two years.”

“We wrote the script once, and it was really funny and the core was there, but what was really missing was the stakes,” Thompson explains. “We brought in Andrew Wreggitt, who is a wonderful long-form writer, and he sat down with us all. We all said, ‘We have a really funny beginning to the film, but it’s not deep enough.’ We all recognized that.”

The result? Dog River is bankrupt and everyone is desperate to make ends meet. In typical off-beat fashion, the townsfolk come up with several outlandish ideas, including entering a contest that to win the town the money it needs to keep going. And while the main storyline may be a little more dramatic and bigger in scope, Dog River’s characters have remained the same, though there have been a few minor tweaks. Oscar (Eric Peterson) goes into survival mode,  Emma (Janet Wright) pines for grandchildren, Davis (Lorne Cardinal) dips his toe into private investigating, Wanda (Nancy Robertson) looks for a way to make a quick buck, Lacey (Gabrielle Miller) heads up the plan to bring Dog River back from bankruptcy, Karen (Tara Spencer-Nairn) is pregnant and Hank (Fred Ewanuick) is, well … Hank.

There have been hurdles along the way, including the aforementioned rewrite, a fast turnaround time with regard to post-production and acquiring funding from Telefilm Canada. Add to that the unprecedented move of having the movie in Cineplex theatres for one week before jumping to TVs for the rest of the month and Corner Gas: The Movie is a rare beast in this country.

Those going to the theatre to see Corner Gas: The Movie are in for a special treat. Not only will members of the cast pop up unannounced in several cities this week, but Butt shot a special 20-minute pre-movie show especially for Cineplex that involves Corner Gas trivia, quizzes and a sing-along. And stick around for the end credits: not only are fans featured singing the show’s iconic theme song, but everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign–that hit its goal in just 24 hours on the way to over $285,000 pledged–has their name listed.

“I was worried whether people would care about the movie,” Robertson admits. “I didn’t want it to have that sad tone, so when the Kickstarter campaign came in I said, ‘All right, this is reassuring and a nice shot in the arm.’ People still love it, but you don’t know whether they’re done with it.”

“And I was relieved it just wasn’t one rich dude in the Kickstarter!”

Corner Gas: The Movie is in Cineplex movie theatres from Dec. 3 to 7 before debuting Sunday, Dec. 8, at 9 p.m. ET on The Movie Network; Wednesday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV Two; and Monday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The Comedy Network.