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Michael Shannon, star of the film "Take Shelter," in Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2011. (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)
Michael Shannon, star of the film "Take Shelter," in Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2011. (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)


At Whistler Film Fest, a big actor spares time for the newbies Add to ...

Michael Shannon is a busy guy, what with his role in the Superman flick Man of Steel currently shooting in Vancouver and a host of other commitments as befits an Oscar-nominated actor ( Revolutionary Road), HBO series regular ( Boardwalk Empire) and star of the Oscar-buzzy Cannes-winning recent release Take Shelter.

Still, Shannon managed to get up to the Whistler Film Festival for a Spotlight Tribute and onstage interview this past Saturday. And when some film students asked that night if he would attend a screening of their films the following afternoon, he managed to extend his stay so that he could be there.

“I wasn’t quite sure if he would be able to make the time,” says Simon Fraser University film student Samantha Spear, 22. “I know that he’s very busy.”

Spear and her twin sister – fellow film student Kailey Spear – had had a brief conversation with Shannon after his tribute Saturday afternoon. When they saw him at the festival’s gala party that night, they approached again and asked if he might stick around for the Student Shortwork screening, beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

“At that point, he wasn’t sure if he could stay; he had to get back down to Vancouver to work,” says Samantha Spear. “We suggested that he stick around and see them because they’re really great, and he said that he’d try to make time. And he did, which is amazing.”

Among the films that screened in the student showcase was No Words Came Down, about a lonely young man who is set up on a blind date with a middle-aged woman. The film – which won the festival’s $500 best-student short-work award (the jury praised it for its “courage and compassion”) – was co-directed by 29-year-old Ryan Flowers, who recently finished the SFU film program.

“I just think it made everybody feel a little bit more special,” Flowers said Monday, about Shannon’s attendance. “He said he doesn’t get a chance to see these kinds of films anywhere else; that he loves to support films and see new filmmakers.”

The Spears also spoke at length with Shannon about the struggles their Bowen Island, B.C., alma mater, Tir-na-nOg Theatre School, is facing. They say he offered some good ideas, including a list of plays he felt might work as fundraisers.

But above all, they say, he offered his time.

“I was just so happy that he showed up,” says Samantha Spear. “I mean, it’s hard to get people out to see student shorts and they’re the [filmmakers]who really need the support. It means a lot for students to have audiences. And for him to show up, it’s just a testament to his support of film and student films.”

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