Actor-director-screenwriter Paul Gross has begun shooting his WWI drama Passchendaele in Calgary, Alberta.

Produced by Niv Fichman of Rhombus Media, Frank Siracusa of Whizbang Films and Francis Damberger of the Damberger Film and Cattle Company, the $20m, 45-day production will follow the exploits of Canadian soldiers leading up to one of the principal battles of the conflict - fought over nearly four months in 1917, it cost each side one million casualties.

This is the second feature for Gross as director, who is best-known abroad for his role as Constable Benton Fraser in the TV series Due South. The film also stars Caroline Dhavernas (Breach, Hollywoodland).

In a blog on the film's website Gross expressed his wish that the film 're-ignite' an interest within Canadians for the nation's past. 'There is little doubt that the 1981 Peter Weir WW1 film Gallipoli was a powerful force in shaping Australia's sense of itself. In fact, most combatant nations have extensive film libraries chronicling their military histories. Only in Canada is our military record strangely absent. It is our mission to correct this.'

Backers include the government of Alberta, which contributed $5m of the budget, as well as Telefilm Canada, Movie Central, The Movie Network, The Harold Greenberg Fund and Canwest Mediaworks. Several private investors are also taking part and the film has separately drawn sponsorship from Canadian bank CIBC.

The film will be in Canada released on Rembrance Day, November 11, 2008 through Alliance Films.