Adam Beach says it doesn't surprise him when people wonder why he's moving to Vancouver Island.
The Los Angeles-based film star is one of Hollywood's most prolific aboriginal actors, after all. Noteworthy credits include his portrayals of troubled soldier Ira Hayes in Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, a Navajo code-talker opposite Nicolas Cage in Windtalkers, Brooklyn detective Chester Lake in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Tommy Flute in HBO's Big Love.
And he'll be in multiplexes again next summer opposite Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell, Daniel Craig and Keith Carradine in Cowboys & Aliens, Jon Favreau's sci-fi western about an Arizona landowner who teams with Apaches to battle aliens.
The Manitoba-born Saulteaux native said relocating to the Cowichan Valley and forming a creative partnership with producer Robin Webb to make independent films through his Bay Film Studios was a no-brainer.
"The big difference is with the [Bay] studio we're out to change people's lives," said Beach, who, despite limping from a painful groin injury incurred while shooting the new Hawaii Five-O TV series, was all smiles and characteristically playful.
"Working on a big-budget movie, you're looking to make a quick-buck blockbuster with entertainment value."
Their partnership ignited when Beach signed to play the Ojibway title character in Tommy Prince: Prince of the Devils, his $11-million feature about his personal hero, the most decorated aboriginal war veteran in Canadian history.
"I've been doing these heroic movies in the U.S. and I think it's time to profile us and honour and respect how great our forces are," said Beach, noting First Nations youth desperately needs such a hero.
An aboriginal role model himself — he was orphaned at age eight when his parents died in separate accidents months apart — Beach hopes to steer youths away from drugs, alcohol and gang lifestyles through film production.
The actor, who plans on buying a home in Cowichan next year, is also opening an acting school and developing content "that offers the true perspective on who we are" from sitcoms to pay-per-view events for his online TV channel on Open Vision Networks.
Being here also lets him get in touch with his spiritual side, added Beach, who attracted 3,000 onlookers to a traditional naming ceremony last April when the Cowichan Nation gave him, his daughter Phoenix, 2, and Webb aboriginal names.
"Our culture and traditional values are my foundation, and what better place to feel connected than here?" asked the actor, saying he offers tobacco to the ocean and sky, and prays and sings after waking each morning in his rental home.
"It's the perfect place for me. I feel like I'm in God's country."
Beach, 38, got a step closer to fulfilling his dream with the start of preproduction on Dating Dot Con, Webb's $2-million cautionary feature about children lured by Internet predators.
"It caught his attention," said Webb, who showed Beach some scripts to consider before the Prince project rolls next year.
Beach will play a vigilante cop who takes matters into his own hands when four Internet predators can't be tried because their teenaged victims won't report the crimes. Victoria's Beau Mirchoff co-stars as "the rotten rich kid," said Webb.
"No report, no crime. No crime, no justice," said the director with a background in production of safety films and manuals.
An open casting call takes place Saturday from 9 to 2 at Bay Film Studios (6759 Considine Ave., Maple Bay), with filming slated to start in December in Victoria and Cowichan Valley, where a police station, hospital and school will be replicated at the Maple Bay studios.
Beach said Dating Dot Con typifies the kind of project that uses the film industry as a tool to change lives.
"Kids in school nowadays look to the Internet and TV as a guide," he says. "We want to be the guys to give them a good perspective."
Other studio developments include Vancouver businessman Richard Kipping coming onboard as an executive producer; Webb is also exploring potential production opportunities with producers Allan Krasnick and Don Enright.
Beach said he'll be "reeling in some Hollywood friends" to help him on his Island mission. He's brainstorming with actor Hayden Christensen, hopes to lure Sam Rockwell and guarantees his best friend, actor Scott Caan, will be "hanging out here."
Meanwhile, he just flew off to Ottawa to celebrate his 38th birthday, which coincided with Remembrance Day, with sons Noah, 14, and Luke, 12, and daughter Phoenix.
"With them, you're just you," he said. "You're not the actor. You're just daddy."
For more information visit: www.bayfilmstudios.com
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