Wednesday 05th, March 2014 / 17:25



Three Colours + A Canvas is a feature film by acclaimed Indian director, Shailender Vyas, shot almost entirely at the legendary Cecil Hotel.

The Cecil Hotel opened for business in 1912 during what we called the “Age of Optimism” and is one of the few pre-First World War hotels left standing in the city.

The Cecil Hotel was at the epicentre of all things notorious, including prostitution, drugs and murder. It was therefore shut down in 2009 and purchased for $10.9 million by the city that same year.

The now-defunct sleazy hotel seems like the least appealing spot for a film set. But for Vyas, the Cecil Hotel made for the perfect apartment for Anarosa, one of the film’s main characters.

“We needed a place that was very spacious with high ceilings so we could design the top angle shots and that could fit large lights and dollies. [The hotel already] had a wood finish and a gritty feel,” he writes in an email.

Art director Bill Hutchinson completed the apartment’s overall feel and look, says Vyas, by adding fake brick walls, false ceilings, laminated flooring and a fake window to add sunlight.

Vyas and his wife, Rikita Anand, who sits as the film’s producer, moved to Calgary from India five years ago.

He says Calgary is an ideal city for filmmakers for its beautiful landscapes and landmarks but also for its friendly people and helpful city administration.

Vyas says getting access to the Cecil wasn’t an easy process but, somehow, made it work with The City of Calgary’s film division team and was granted access to the entire hotel during their shooting week.

Many times during the shoot, loud footsteps, which Vyas took for mice, interrupted filming.

“My team was convinced that the Cecil Hotel was haunted,” says Vyas. And let’s face it, it probably was and still is.

Vyas says Calgarians will recognize the city depicted in his film as Calgary as opposed to a fictional city.

“The locations that have been used are so iconic of the city: [the] Peace Bridge, Stephen Avenue, the Divine store, the Calgary Tower and many more.

“Everyone will be surprised with what they see. Calgary has never been showcased this way before,” he says.

Coincidentally so, Three Colours + A Canvas is the story of four friends exploring new worlds of freedom and responsibility which leads to drug addiction and its consequences.

As an effort to educate people on the matter, 10 per cent of the ticket sales will go to The University of Calgary’s Distress Centre, an organization, which, according to Vyas, “work[s] so hard to fight drug addictions and mental health issues among youth.”

Three Colours + A Canvas will premiere at The Globe Cinema on March 13 with additional screenings March 14 to 20.

By Claire Miglionico