Like a lot of folks hoping to make a career in film, actor and producer Marcus Rosner moved away from here — but has often wished he didn’t have to.
“I did leave,” says the 32-year-old, raised in Sherwood Park. “Growing up I was a big jock. I played a lot of hockey. I was on the rugby team, volleyball team, little bit of football.
“I just didn’t feel like there was a huge light shining on the creative part of my high school experience. There was a huge divide between the jocks and the drama nerds, of which I now loudly proclaim myself to be.”
After graduating from Salsbury Composite High, Rosner took a trip to New York City with his mother that changed his life — not the last time this would happen.
“I saw the New York Film Academy and that sparked this idea I should look into something people told me over the years: that you should try modelling, you should try acting.
“But I didn’t even understand what the process of getting into something like that would be as a kid from Sherwood Park, Alberta.”
Long story short, Rosner ended up at Vancouver Film School, and in the last decade has since landed TV roles on the cult hit Supernatural, UnREAL and the DC Comics-inspired Arrow where he played the same character twice — Max Fuller — six years apart.
The biggest production Rosner’s ever worked on — in the role of Handsome Harry — was the $200-million Disney film Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney.
“I had one line,” he says. “We did six months of costume building, and they flew me to Spain to film my line — and then I fly off in this jetpack.
“I went to the premiere with my then-girlfriend now wife and we sat down and my scene came on. And I turned to her and was like, ‘Aaaand, I didn’t make the cut,’” Rosner laughs, another face on the cutting room floor.
“It was such a rapid introduction to what this business can be in so many ways in terms of the size, the scope, the scale, the excitement and the disappointment all at once.”
His latest film, the Keiynan Lonsdale-starring, LGBTQ+ romcom My Fake Boyfriend (where Rosner plays the lead’s real boyfriend), worked out better, and recently premiered to an audience in San Francisco and is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Most of Rosner’s 50 or so roles, however, have been playing the handsome lead man and love interest in what’s known in the industry as ‘motw’ — movie of the week — productions, not infrequently with Christmas in the title.
“Maybe 15 of them or so,” he laughs.
Which brings the story back to Edmonton from his current home base in Toronto, and Vancouver and L.A. where he often works.
Amid the whirl of chaos and terror, you might recall the Northern Gateway Films movie being shot in Old Strathcona, just as the pandemic was shutting the entire planet down in early 2020 — certainly a tense and chaotic time to make a movie.
In a wash of hand sanitizer, daily check-ins with provincial health authorities and forced-perspective shots to make socially-distanced crowds look denser, Rosner played Prince Nicolas in the Hallmark film, Christmas with a Crown.
But it was in this setting that Rosner made such friends with Edmonton filmmakers Dylan Pearce and Andy Scholotiuk that he asked to join forces with them, hoping not just for more producer credits, but to intentionally help invigorate Edmonton’s film-production ecosystem.
“With my connections in Toronto and Vancouver, I was looking for a way to move behind the camera into a production position,” explains Rosner who worked out a deal with Montreal-based Reel One Entertainment, a worldwide TV film and series distributor, for financial backing. “I kind of came to Dylan and said, ‘Look, if I can bring these movies back to Edmonton, can we team up and produce them together in town the same way that I saw you guys do Christmas With a Crown and the way I’ve seen you do so many others in the last decade in the city?’”
So far, in October last year, the expanded Northern Gateway team with Rosner included shot From Italy with Amore, largely and intentionally in Sherwood Park where the star grew up.
“And then we’re following that up this summer shooting A Vintage Bride as it’s currently titled, and Finding Mr. Right,” says Rosner. “We’re planning on rolling into pre-production on those, shooting them back-to-back.”
Rosner will co-produce and star in both.
“And that was one of my long-term goals, really, to sort of try and bring things here. Because I didn’t see much growing up here. I almost didn’t become an actor; I didn’t see it as a viable career here,” he says. “The whole fact that I had to leave here to go do this somewhere else is something that I guess I’m trying to reverse in a way through all of this.”
With Alberta-shot productions like The Revenant, the Fargo series, the Ghostbusters sequel and HBO’s The Last of Us filming here in the last few years, Rosner is aware of the province’s buzz.
“It’s funny to hear people in other provinces, when I work with them, note Alberta is booming right now. And I’m like, well, Calgary is in a very significant way, and Edmonton has been propped up here and there.
“But the whole reason why people — be it crew or cast or anyone in film — often has to go elsewhere is there’s not a regular industry and not enough jobs year-round.”
He notes, correctly, the level of expertise in Edmonton is phenomenal, “but they often have to go to Calgary or Vancouver or Toronto and leave their families for long stints.
“We certainly can’t be the guys that fix this on our own,” he adds. “But we do think these motws are a great way to bring sort of a regularly operating film production to the city.”