By Noah Love
First-year fashion student Nicole Raven is leading a double life. By day she is a fashion school beginner. By night she is a film festival starlet.
Two years ago, a casting call changed Raven’s life. She met with director S. Wyeth Clarkson in Toronto to audition for a role in his first feature-length film, Deadend.com, and quickly landed a lead role.
“She was fabulous. I don’t have another word for it,” Clarkson says.
The film showcases Raven as one of three teenagers travelling to Canada’s West Coast, where they plan to commit suicide together. It’s extremely graphic. One character injects heroin, another is asked to star in a porn film and gets into a room with the actress and her burly husband, and in a chilling scene near the end of the film, Raven is features in a graphic rape scene not unlike the one in Larry Clark’s Kids.
Deadend.com is a cross between The Blair Witch Project and Leaving Las Vegas. At two-and-a-half-hours, the $25,000 feature is a bit long. Some of the dialogue, which is mostly improvised, is very good. The digital video quality makes the film a bit tough to watch, but it is still a decent experimental film and serves as a great guide for young Canadian independent filmmakers.
On Monday, the night of the premiere, a party was held at Lounge 88 on Clinton Street to celebrate the sold-out screening. Clarkson, the film’s excitable director, sat in a corner with a small group of pals. At the opposite end of the restaurant, Raven sat with her boyfriend (who appears in Deadend.com). Sensing her stardom, fans flocked towards her, but she made time for everybody.
The first week of school is typically used to meet people, locate classrooms and discover that the food is terrible. Raven’s first week included red carpet parties and a sold-out public screening of her film.
“We went to Schmooze Fest [at the CityTV building]. I wasn’t prepared for that. I was shaking in my boots. But I almost ran into Colin Mochrie, so that was a highlight.”
Though she says she is enjoying her first taste of notoriety, Raven is quick to insist that fashion comes first.
“If something comes of [the film], I’d think about [pursuing] it,” Raven says, standing outside the lounge in her blue overalls. “It’s something I would like to do in my spare time. I have the fashion thing, and that’s my true passion. I know it sounds funny to say acting is your hobby.”
Hobby or not, Clarkson has high praise for her first-time actress.
“Nicole was so brace,” he says. “She believed in us and she worked really hard, and I think she doesn’t even know how good a performance she gave.”
The three students in the film actually trekked across Canada, driving from Halifax to Prince Rupert, B.C. Most of the things that happen to the characters in the movie happened during the real life road trip, which Raven found to be one of the most challenging aspects of working on the film.
“It was pretty intense,” she says. “There’s a scene where we were driving past a car accident, and I didn’t want any part of it. It was a real accident. People really got injured. I was a bit upset that the scene was in the movie. I felt it shouldn’t have been.”
Deadend.com screens one more time at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Royal Ontario Museum’s theatre. Raven heads back to a regular life next week.
“The girls and the teachers [in fashion] are great. I’ve never had a better experience.”