DIRECTOR'S CUT by Jim Millan, directed by Jillian Keiley and Millan, with Gord Rand, Amy Rutherford, Michelle Latimer, Ron White, Chris Earle and Ryan McVittie. Presented by Crow's Theatre at Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). Previews Tuesday (November 21), opens Wednesday (November 22) and runs to December 10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $21-$25, Sunday pwyc-$20, preview $15. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNNNN
Actor Ron White hasn't missed the irony of his two current jobs.
As a member the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), he's part of the negotiating team sitting across from a group of producers who are demanding new contract terms.
And as a performer in Jim Millan's Director's Cut, he plays Damien, the demanding producer hell-bent on shoehorning American stars, sex and action into a Canadian production driven by a director's vision.
"In the middle of some difficult bargaining, it's really cathartic in some way to come here and play this role," White says with a chuckle.
"The difficulties of being a producer aren't lost on me," he adds. "It's hard to get something like a film or a TV project up, and I have great respect and sympathy for anyone who can assemble the disparate elements and get it done.
"But when push comes to shove, everyone involved has to pay the bills, and some of the demands around the bargaining table can be beyond the pale."
Director's Cut, co-helmed by the playwright and Newfoundland director Jillian Keiley, has a two-pronged narrative. At its centre is Angelina's Trip, a story idea that creator and director Jeff MacBride wants to film.
Then there's a frame tale, a documentary chronicling the sometimes comical, sometimes woeful problems that Jeff and his editor, Derek Krantz, run into trying to make the movie.
"The docudrama emerges as a way for Jeff to come to grips with what occurred during the filming," explains White, a Dora-nominated actor whose work with Millan includes the splendid High Life.
"He has Derek, his best friend, along for the ride, and Derek provides a perfect foil for the initially innocent Jeff. Not only can he bounce ideas off Derek, but because the friendship is long-term Derek can call Jeff on any amount of mendacity coming his way."
White's experience is as much in film and TV as onstage, and when I ask whether he's met producers like Damien, he says they're mostly American.
"These are the people who aren't particularly concerned with what happens to an actor or what a scene is about. Their concern is production values, and most other points are secondary.
"Thankfully, Damien isn't that cliché. He's not a buffoon. He's trying to do what he thinks is best, given his years of experience. He wants to sell the property, and from his point of view there's nothing wrong with having a star in it who'll help the film break into European markets.
"The ideal would be if his vision of the film clicks with that of the director."
Maybe with a touch of the backpeddalling producer, White then shifts his focus to Jeff.
"He's the one who loses sight of the vision; he buys into the Hollywood dream in a big way. And the result is a film that's not at all the one with which he began."