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The story of locals going for gold

Growing Up Whistler to explore how Whistler has influenced three Olympic hopefuls

Anyone who knows Whistler is well aware that this community is full of characters. Well, each of those characters has a story to tell, whether it be a tale of tragedy, adventure, or incredible accomplishment.

So it's really no surprise that over the past five years the folks from the Whistler Film Festival have had an incredible response to their short film commission competition, known simply as Whistler Stories. Since the program was launched in 2005, 19 filmmakers from throughout the province have been selected to share their own personal tales, from a character exploration of Guitar Doug and Grateful Greg of the infamous Hairfarmers to an insightful history of the Whistler Cup.

And 2009 has offered up yet another rich crop of short film offerings to satisfy all the requirements of the Whistler Stories program, with four filmmakers tapped to turn their visions into reality.

Twenty-five-year-old filmmaker, Peter Harvey, is one of the talented filmmakers who has been selected to participate in the final chapter of the Whistler Stories project. As a born-and-bred Whistlerite, he's more than qualified to share his Whistler story, Growing Up Whistler , which explores how three local athletes - aspiring Olympians, in fact - have been inspired by their Whistler upbringing.

"I wanted to basically showcase how Whistler breeds these young, talented people... I feel like it's a training ground for (athletes)."

Harvey has been making short films with friends since he was 12 years old, and as a student at Whistler Secondary School, started the filmmaking program and "fell in love with the process."

"Having an idea, writing it into a script, then doing preproduction, production, postproduction, and then just seeing your final product out there, it was something I liked."

Harvey eventually went on to study film at Capilano University Film Centre - Capilano College, at the time - graduating in 2007. He produced Versus , a short film which was selected for the student showcase at the Toronto International Film Festival. Since then he has worked on a wide range of projects from the production management perspective.

Now, he's gearing up for a summer of shooting, following the three central characters of his Whistler Stories project: Canadian Alpine Ski Team athlete Robbie Dixon, Canadian snowboard team member Mercedes Nicoll, and Canadian ski cross team athlete Julia Murray as they train and prepare for one of the greatest challenges in their lives, winning gold on their home turf.

"Its basically like they've been training for this for their whole lives," Harvey said.

Harvey went to school with about 10 potential Olympians. "When we went to school, in elementary school at Myrtle Philip, on Thursdays it was like ski day, where we would show up with our ski gear and they would bus us up to the mountain, where we would go into Ski Scamps, and we would learn to ski."

In Growing Up Whistler , Harvey plans to focus on how the Whistler environment has shaped these athletes, exploring the influences of mentors like Dave Murray, Trevor Petersen, Rob Boyd, and Steve Podborski, and the challenges of growing up in a competitive environment.

"Because everyone is basically trying to be the best... it's really a dog-eat-dog world they're living in," Harvey said.

The busy young filmmaker recently shot a feature-length film for $39,000, so he doesn't anticipate any problems with the $5,000 budget for his five-minute-long Whistler Story.

Even though Harvey is used to pinching a penny, all of his funding will go into his production budget, which means that he won't be paying himself for this project. But telling this story was important to him, regardless of the payoff. He wants to offer up an insider's glimpse into the "working class" world of Whistlerites, not the people who own mansions.

"It's important to me because I think it's a story that needs to be told. It's basically sharing how we grew up in Whistler, and a lot of people think, 'oh, it's a cushy life, and you've gotta be rich to grow up in Whistler,' but that's not true."

Nicoll was on-board with the concept for the film as soon as Harvey approached her with the idea, and agrees that the community has definitely been an integral part of her athletic pursuits.

"Well, first off, if I hadn't moved to Whistler with my family I sure wouldn't be the snowboarder I am now," Nicoll said. "I don't even think I would be snowboarding! Whistler has moulded me to be the snowboarder I am, and I wouldn't want it any other way."