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Universal Groove is a story in the pre-millennium underground party scene through the eyes of eight people. Each character starts the night with a personal mission, but all leave the party changed by their interactions. The film uses an after-hours backdrop to draw eight characters together at one event - Groove. Each is pulled through a night of inspiration and escape through drugs.
Jim (Corey Haim), a film director, struggles with writer's block. Eve (Anne Nahabedian), a painter, searches for inspiration. Beamer (Jordan Perlis) is a stockbroker looking to escape from a hard day at work. Gina (Rami Yasin) is a party fixture, who likes being around people. Zed (Robert Rudman) is a waiter who needs a reason to let go of his pain. Candy (Kianha Daniels) and Kane (Marie-Eve Blackburn), are party girls are ready to go on a moment's notice. Push (Corey Besner)]is an opportunistic dealer.
Universal Groove explores many different themes, each centering on the film's eight characters. These themes include free-spirited drug use, release, escape from one's troubles, the first-time experience, homosexuality, and man's everlasting struggle to blend in and leave a mark.
Each of the main characters grapples with one of these themes while attempting to wrest themselves from the problem that currently confronts them: Jim has writer's block and is late on a difficult deadline; Eve is wholly uninspired; Beamer has just lost a pile of money on the stock market; Zed is too wound up to enjoy life; Gina is uncomfortable in her own skin; Candy and Kane have nothing to ground them in life except each other; Push needs a party to confirm his existence.
The original version also intended to explore the global connection that exists between people as a party grows. However critical footage was stolen during a robbery at a post-production facility, and thus this element was lost.
Filming and post-production
Writer/director Sandeep Panesar completed the screenplay during the winter of 1998/1999. Universal Groove was shot in the then-new digital video format. The producers felt that this medium would allow the gathering of additional B-Roll footage that may not have otherwise been shot. The shooting of particular scenes and some western footage took place in a single day at Upper Canada Village during March 1999. Other shooting took place during a week-long excursion in May 1999. Principal photography began on July 11, 1999 in Montreal, continuing for eleven days around the city.
For Montrealers the return of Corey Haim to his home city was media-worthy, and the production was followed relentlessly, inciting visits from People Magazine and other large media interests. Haim's presence on set was marred by his inability to stay drug-free and perform at his peak. He was frequently noted to be confused and high; leading to his overdose during production. The tight schedule allowed little time for Haim's recovery.
The film wrapped on July 22, 1999, leaving producers with approximately 36 hours of digital video footage to comb through. The producers took a one-year hiatus on the film while they experimented with digital effects, post-production processing tests, and interviewed post-production facilities. Due to the dwindling post-production budget, the producers needed to raise more finance in order to complete the film. The film went into hiatus for three further years. At the end of 2003, post-production once again began in earnest.
Studio break-in and release
On the morning of August 18, 2004, editors arrived at the Universal Groove post-production facility to find it vandalized, and robbed. Of the thirty-six hours of footage originally shot, only twelve remained. The stolen footage included unedited shots for critical scenes necessary for the development of the plot. Universal Groove went on indefinite hiatus while the producers tried to determine whether the production could be salvaged. In late 2005, footage began appearing on the internet, made accessible through torrents, peer-to-peer file sharing networks and on websites.
In 2006, the project was revived when director Francois Garcia crafted a plan to rebuild the film while preserving as much of its intended vision and integrity as possible. The film was eventually released on DVD in December 2007. The final version of the film contains alternate takes of some scenes that were released on the internet, and some scenes for which the original footage had been stolen but had been assembled.
- Universal Groove Blog. Accessed July 29, 2007.