A promotional trailer for Mark Andrew Twitchell’s Star Wars: Secrets of the Rebellion, a Star Wars “fan film.”
On August 27, 2008, wannabe Canadian filmmaker Mark Andrew Twitchell, age 29, published a message on a Facebook discussion board. Twitchell referenced a new film he was planning, Day Players, and his post was about a short he planned to “kill some time” until Day Players was “ready.” Twitchell continued:
“Here’s the vitals.
“Title: House of Cards
Genre: Mystery thriller
Shoot dates: Friday September 27th 2008 – Sunday September 28th 2008
“Roles required . . .
“The Killer: Need a male, playing age mid to late 20’s. Needs to deliver in a cold, sociopathic tone. Since face is disguised for the most part, need someone with a commanding voice.
“Roger: Primarily the victim in the scenario. Male playing age mid 40’s, preferably silver-ish hair. Family man type with a deceptive streak built from a place of insecurity.
“Wife: Rogers significant other. One scene req. Female playing age late 30’s. Other physical attributes not important.
“Kids: Need two children, preferably one girl and one boy ages 7 – 8.
“Writer: Male, playing age mid – late 20’s
Writers girlfriend: Female, Playing age mid – late 20’s.
“I’m casting all of these roles personally so just contact me through facebook to start the process. We’re short on time so the sooner the better.
“Roles are non paid for House of Cards but we are working on a $3M feature right after this with major A-list talent and I remember things like work ethic and true acting chops when considering roles for that too.”
Two days after the Facebook post, “xrpressdirector” made a purchase via iOffer.com, an eBay-like auction site. xpressdirector, a male in Alberta, Canada, bought a “telescopic stun gun baton w/alarm/light.” The weapon was specifically advertised as “legal in Canada.”
The item was shipped on September 5.
At XpressEntertainment.ca, Mark Andrew Twitchell promoted his film work. His biggest, ongoing project was Star Wars: Secrets of the Rebellion. Secrets was “a full length feature film that employs professional acting talent, a multi faceted plot line and professional industry effects wizardry to achieve the production values of an $80,000,000 film on a budget of just $60,000.”
Elsewhere on the same website you could find the story of Xpress Entertainment:
“Xpress Entertainment was founded in October 2005 by Mark Twitchell as a film promotions company. It soon switched gears to film production and has stayed on that path ever since. The first major undertaking released under the banner of Xpress Entertainment is Star Wars: Secrets of the Rebellion. A full length feature film that was assembled, produced, shot and will be completed for around $60,000 USD which considering the production values of the film, is a paramount achievement on behalf of the company and it’s partners.
“Now Xpress Entertainment seeks to branch out into all genres of film, producing them outside of the studio system to keep the creative control in the hands of the writer and director. Star Wars was a labor of love for all who contribute to it’s fruition, primarily serving as one huge demo reel that proves our company can accomplish anything it sets out to do and stands alone as the only non profit project on our schedule.
“Every future endeavor we produce moves forward with the same goals and principals on which the ocmpany was founded. Use a powerful work ethic and ruthlessly resourceful minds to produce original and widely appealing motion pictures that will result in the career success of everyone involved and profitability for the films investors through sound planning.”
At the bottom of the page were some of Twitchell’s particulars:
ph: (780) 977-7840
“Email: [email protected]”
Mark Andrew Twitchell was fond of the screen name, “xpressdirector.” He used it on YouTube. He also used it on iFreelance.com. The same screen name, usually with the URL to Xpress Entertainment’s website attached, could be found on numerous message boards on the Web devoted to discussing either film in general or Star Wars, in particular.
On October 3rd, a man came to 5712 40th Ave. in Edmonton. He was about 5’10” and weight 180. He may have been driving a Black Ford Ranger. The man was well-dressed, as if he was going out for a date.
Instead, he was attacked by someone wearing a hockey mask. He broke away from his attacker and ran, as a couple walking nearby looked on in shock. The man fled with welts over one eye. Police still don’t know who he was, but his name may have been Hank, or possibly Fred.
Johnny Brian Altinger’s friends have said the 38-year-old man met someone online. On or around October 10, Altinger agreed to get together with his newfound friend.
Altinger was reported missing on October 16.
On Halloween, police arrested Mark Andrew Twitchell, xpressdirector, at his parents’ home in North Edmonton. They charged him with the murder of Johnny Brian Altinger.
It isn’t clear that Twitchell’s House of Cards was supposed to be about luring a male victim via a dating site and killing him, but Detective Mark Anstey said the following to Edmonton media about an unnamed movie Twitchell filmed late in September: “The movie was about luring a male from a dating internet site and basically killing the male in the garage and chopping up the body parts and getting rid of the body.”
The odds seem pretty good that House of Cards was the same movie about which Twitchell posted his message on Facebook.
Edmonton police believe that Altinger was lured to 5712 40th Avenue and murdered there. They believe they have more than enough evidence to make the first degree murder charge they’ve leveled against Mark Andrew Twitchell stick — even though they have yet to find Altinger’s body.
They basically think Mark Twitchell wanted to make his movie real.
Movies were everything to Mark Twitchell. From his MySpace:
“My life blood is film making. I’m hooked. It’s a ton of work and very demanding but if I don’t end up doing it for a living I’ll feel that I failed somewhere along the line. Star Wars: Secrets of the Rebellion is my baby and I’m makng it as good as it can be because I truly believe people around the world deserve to have this story told with the highest production values a non profit movie can possibly get and since everyone in the entertainment industry is in it because of Star Wars it’s easy to get the help. So here’s to my cast and crew, gods and goddesses each and every one of you. My other passion in life is my beautiful wife Jess. I’ve never been so in love in my life and until I met her I really had no idea what love was or how great it could be. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I love her more every day.”
Twitchell also thought he had the goods to be one of the greats. He wrote one blog entry on his MySpace weblog. It was titled, “What Happened to Star Wars?”
At the end of the post, Twitchell drew a Star Wars-style comparison, one that laid bare his narcissism: he was the young hero, and Star Wars creator was the soulless villain:
“I see Star Wars for what it was, what it should be and for what it can be again. Often I feel beside myself, stunned that it’s me who gets the divine opportunity to tell this story. And that’s when I relaize [sic]it’s fate. I was born to do this and every turn I’ve taken on the path of life has led me to this. It’s my destiny to revive the electricty [sic]of Star Wars and invoke that chill in the spine that Lucas was too focused on the money to do […] He’s more machine now than man. I feel the force and I will bring it back.”
Mark Twitchell dreamed big. His commitment was apparent in even making his addition to the Star Wars mythos at all — not only did he manage to snag real actors to for the work — including at least one cast member from the Lucas films — the only way Twitchell could legally make his film was to call it a fan movie and never profit from it.
Did he wish he could somehow make the Star Wars universe real? Anyone who has ever enjoyed even one movie from that series probably does.
But even a sociopath knows that won’t happen. So the question now is this — did Mark Andrew Twitchell’s desire to create a new universe on film spill over into his actions in the real world? Knowing he couldn’t make a real universe filled with Ewoks and Wookies, did Twitchell decide to bring his darker, more gruesome dreams to fruition?
Worse yet — did he record his acts?
It’s a question worth asking, even though no normal person wants to know the answer. After all — you have to wonder how the police have become convinced they can make a case against Twitchell for murder when they admit they don’t have a body.
They are searching, though. There’s nothing like closure in a crime like this, but at least there may come a day when Johnny Brian Altinger can come home again.
For the record — police don’t think Twitchell and Altinger were acquainted. For all they know, Altinger thought he was headed out for a date. Instead, he may have walked into something straight out of a horror film, and become the unwilling star of the drama. [Edmonton.ctv.ca and Canada.com. Excellent comprehensive page about the case far: Last Link on the Left.]