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Creative Spotlight: Kurt McLeod

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After nearly two decades of screenwriting, Kurt McLeod’s name is finally up in lights. At the end of last year, Copshop, a script McLeod’s been developing for over seven years, was finally made into a major motion picture.

Growing up in St. Albert, McLeod always had a love for movies. From renting videos at the local Blockbuster and Rogers Video to being blown away by the first Matrix movie, McLeod couldn’t get enough of what film had to offer.

“As a kid, I watched a lot of movies, like a lot of movies…. I was lucky enough that my parents would take us and rent us as many movies as we could watch wherever we wanted,” explains McLeod.

However, McLeod never thought his love for film would ever lead to a career.

“(I had) just (a) pure love of movies and television, but only as a consumer. I don’t know if I ever really considered creating stuff or making stuff,” says McLeod.

Everything changed for McLeod once he set his sights on Georgetown University in Washington D.C. In D.C., McLeod majored in philosophy and got early acceptance to medical school. From there, McLeod says his options were open.

“Going to the U.S. kind of opened my eyes a little bit; I could potentially do whatever. If you do good in school down there, it doesn’t really matter what your major is….You could be a classics major and go work at Goldman Sachs; you can be a philosophy major and go work for some movie producer or at a film agency,” says McLeod. “That’s kind of the path that I started charting. That’s when I started making short films.”

Soon after D.C, McLeod enrolled at London Film School (a school that has seen the likes of Hollywood greats such as Michael Mann and Duncan Jones), completing a master’s degree in screenwriting in 2009. Though McLeod’s primary loves are action and adventure films, he remembers writing one of his first shorts, Laundry, a short that taught him how to write deep, personable characters. Laundry was later made into a full short by director Nicole Volavka (Survivor, Seekers) and screened at Cannes Film Festival.

“(It was) a family drama about an adult grandson and his 70-year-old grandmother. It was based in Croatia, near unexploded landmines,” says McLeod.

“I think what I learned there is they don’t really remember an explosion or saving somebody’s life… they tend to remember these interactions between the characters, and the way those relationships end tends to affect them.”

Along with Laundry, McLeod wrote another script that had everything: action, comedy, monsters, and a whopping 200-million-dollar budget. Though this film couldn’t be made from a budgetary standpoint, McLeod still received a call from a management company that had one request: make a lower budget script that was more contained.

“Me and this manager were passing loglines back and forth, sort of little premises for different movie ideas,” explains McLeod. “One of the ideas that was sent to me was this hitman following his mark into a police station and trying to kill him there overnight.”

Later, while in law school at the University of Toronto, McLeod wrote the script that turned into Copshop.

“I almost thought there wasn’t enough there. I think it was when I started thinking about those two characters and then who the third person would be in this triangle…. I just saw some opportunity there,” says McLeod. “Once I had those characters, I was like, this is solid.”

Copshop, completed production in late 2020, helming Gerard Butler (300, Law Abiding Citizen) as bounty hunter Bob Viddick; Alexis Louder (The Tomorrow War, Watchmen) as local cop Valerie Young; and Frank Grillo (The Grey, The Purge: Anarchy) as con man Teddy Murretto. One of McLeod’s biggest influences, Joe Carnahan (Narc, The Grey), even directed the film. Copshop released domestically in theatres on Sept. 17, 2021.

Though McLeod is hard at work on his new projects — now as a full-time screenwriter — he hopes to see continued growth from Alberta’s film industry.

“We have incredible topography… we’ve got the prairies, we got the foothills, we got the mountains…. We have to start building space,” explains McLeod. “We certainly have the artistic talent, and the technical talent will come, and people will come and stay here because it’s much cheaper to live than other places where there’s lots of production.”

“I care about the place I live, I care about the community, and I want the economy to thrive.”

Copshop is available to rent or buy on video-on-demand services such as Apple TV and Prime Video.

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