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Communitas Film Club Releases The Drifter

The Communitas Film Club has released its latest film, a western called “The Drifter.” Set in 1860 Oregon, the story follows the Drifter, played by Darrin Riga, who is known as the fastest gun in the west. He’s also a loner. While on his way north to Canada, he is ambushed by thugs and when the Drifter kills one of those thugs in the process, the thug’s brother, Doug Dekker seeks to avenge him.

“It’s a classic action western film,” says filmmaker Brian Cucek, who also works for Communitas Supportive Care Society, an organization that supports people living with developmental disabilities.

What makes the Communitas Film Club unique is that it makes its own movies. It is also  inclusive in that the actors who participate live with a variety of disabilities and abilities.

Their first original film was an 8 minute short called “Batman’s Revenge”. When the film  wrapped up, they began brainstorming about what the next project could look like and the idea of a western came up. Brian raised the idea with Darrin who loved it and immediately came up with the character whose reputation as the fastest gun in the west made others want to challenge him.

“That’s how it started but the script evolved as we went along,” Brian says. “I wrote the general story and it was written to include as many people as possible. And whenever someone asked if they could be involved, we’d write a part just for them. There are nearly 30 people included in the production.”

Darrin Riga stars as The Drifter

Darrin, who lives with autism, is no stranger to working in the media. Last year, he fulfilled a dream of hosting his own radio show, which he did on CIVL radio in Abbotsford. Transitioning to film felt natural.

“I came up with idea from watching old westerns,” he says. “I love being the star of a western!”

Ryan Vis, who also lives with a disability, agrees. He played the role of the villain and really enjoyed the experience of being on the movie set. He especially liked the show-down scene between the two characters. To prepare for the role, Ryan said he had to wear a moustache and practice the shoot-out scene using a fake gun.

Ryan Vis chats with filmmaker Brian Cucek during the filming of The Drifter

“I really liked saying my line: ‘You killed my brother!’” he says.

What gives the film the look of authenticity is the film location. The Drifter was shot on location in Langley, on the same set used by When Calls the Heart, a Hallmark film. Brian’s friend is a neighbour of the owner, Rod MacInnes and asked Rod if he’d be willing to have Brian’s group shoot on the set. When Rod learned about the Communitas Film Club, he was happy to give them permission.

“I thought it would be really cool,” he said.

Rod’s property has been in use since 2005 for variety of films. The Hallmark producers have expanded the set, building a church and finishing the interiors of many of the other buildings. Because most professional film productions don’t shoot on weekends, Rod opens it up to students from Capilano University or to other independent filmmakers.

“We just ensure that they are careful around the studio’s equipment and that their film schedule doesn’t interfere with the schedule of the professionals using the lot,” Rod explains.

Brian was thrilled to have such an amazing set to use as the backdrop for The Drifter and is grateful to Rod for opening up his place to people who live with disabilities.

A private screening of The Drifter was held at Communitas Supportive Care Society at the end of April for all the actors and crew and their closest fans. You can view the video here:


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