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Film wraps production in qathet region

Filmmakers make use of beautiful backdrop for feature motion picture

Using as many local resources as possible, the feature film with the working title Can I Get A Witness? has wrapped its three-week shooting schedule in the qathet region.

Producer Raymond Massey said the film depicts a potential future reality where environmentalists have taken control of the political agenda and are taking steps to save the planet, allowing the environment to restore itself as the crucible of life.

“This involves the earth itself starting to make progress toward its original state, which means tapering off the population, plus the pressure we put the earth through with our capitalist model,” said Massey.

The film is set 30 years in the future.

Massey said he had been in the region for two months, preparing for the shoot, scouting, casting and holding pre-production meetings. Shooting lasted for three weeks in July.

“One of the goals of the film was maximum local engagement,” said Massey. “We really worked hard to find local talent to work on-camera and we've even got a local composer, Leslie Sutherland, for the music, so the music has been done. Tony Papa has also been an associate producer on the film and has been one of our most important local resources to help channel people to do the show.”

Papa runs Powell River Digital Film School and has channelled multiple students to university programs, many of whom are now in the early stages of their careers.

“There was a diaspora of his former students who work in the business in Vancouver that were on our set,” said Massey. “We brought a bunch of them back here to Powell River. They can stay with their parents and for them, it's the biggest credit in their careers. It kind of warmed our hearts that we can do that for a lot of these guys.”

Massey said the production cast a couple of the speaking roles to local people. They also cast a jazz quartet called The Kitchen Sink that played in a beach scene for the film, as well as at the wrap party.

“They played for four hours, we danced, and it was really awesome,” said Massey.

He said Papa was instrumental in advocating for the film to be shot in qathet region. Massey said that Ann Marie Fleming, who wrote and directed the film, came here years ago, where she had been a guest mentor at the digital film school.

Many locations throughout the region will appear in the film. The Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill appears in as many shots as possible.

“The pulp mill is an emblem of the symptom and it's perfect as a backdrop, visually and metaphorically, for the world that we're proposing for 30 years from now,” said Massey.

The production also shot at the Rodmay Hotel and other Townsite locations. Cranberry Lake was also used for filming.

“The director fell in love with the lily pads,” said Massey. “It's kind of magical photographically and we played it to the hilt.”

Filming also took place in Wildwood, spending seven days on a two-acre property. Pebble Beach was another location, using a house and the beach for production.

“We never disguise the fact that we're in Powell River, British Columbia, in Canada,” said Massey. “We are unapologetically not dressing it up as anything else. It's identifiable as it is rather than being a shell for something else.”

Cast of characters

Can I Get A Witness? stars accomplished and award-winning Canadian actor Sandra Oh, with Keira Jang, a Vancouver actor, making her feature film debut as Oh’s daughter, and the other main character being Joel Oulette, from Medicine Hat, Alberta, who has had roles in many other productions. Patrick Gallagher, another Canadian actor, now living in Los Angeles, was also on set for a day.

“Sandra's stature has grown and grown the whole time she’s acted and her stature has grown exponentially,” said Massey. “She's still as grassroots as she ever was.”

Oh plays the mother of Jang, whose character is about 16 years old and is beginning to work for the government.

Massey said that while the film is set in the future, it is not some sort of post-apocalyptic, dystopian, scorched landscape thing with a bunch of zombie survivors.

“We've just looked at it with an organic possible outcome,” said Massey. “It’s as if you simply said: what would happen if the environmentalists suddenly had the ability to take radical action to save the planet? We all recognize that we're kind of on this road to hell and that the planet can't sustain what we're doing to it right now. 

“This film asks: so what if we didn't take emergency action? What would it look like? What would the outcome be like? We're just continuing the conversation about the wakeup call that we actually need to recognize the path that we're on and what we can do.”

The film, said Massey, is a human drama. The political reality is people can't live a full life.

The story is about this young girl whose own mother is reaching her 50th birthday and her right to live is coming to an end.

The whole story takes place in the span of 48 hours. It documents what's about to happen when the daughter and her mother are at the most painful moment where each is gearing up to say goodbye to each other.

“That's the tough, dramatic, emotional stuff in this film,” said Massey. “I have to tell you, I have never wept so much, so often. “You look around and every single person watching monitors is in tears.”

Massey said the cast and crew had praise for the region. Other than the need for more restaurants to be open after 8 pm, it was absolutely spectacular, he added.

The film will be finished probably in March next year, delivered in time for some major festivals, with fingers crossed for a selection in a major festival. 

Massey is also looking forward to the day that the production can host a screening at the Patricia Theatre.

“We want to invite all our new friends from Powell River to come in and actually see it in their hometown,” he said.

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