Gone indie 

Peter Chrzanowski screens The Good Life to sold out theatre

Independent filmmaker Peter Chrzanowski, whose short film The Good Life was recently screened at Vancouver’s Crazy 8s festival, has returned to working on his two-year project about life in a developing ski resort town, Goldenrush.

"The challenge of filmmaking is finding a good subject matter that is of interest, then finding the best way to create character-driven stories," says Chrzanowski.

"The film was really well-received, and both screenings sold out," he says of The Good Life. The Crazy 8s short film showcase, held this year at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre on May 25, features the work of five filmmakers in a presentation by the B.C. branch of the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC).

Each filmmaker is given 800 feet of film and $800 to complete an eight minute short film. The tight deadlines and budgets are sure-fire ways to get the creative juices going, especially when a larger project is in transition.

"It’s almost like something’s guiding me," muses Chrzanowski, whose 20-year career in film in the Whistler and Vancouver areas, as well as abroad, has always favoured outdoor and adventure-style documentaries.

The Good Life was no exception. The story contrasts the idyllic lifestyle of a couple living as farmers in a valley hugged by mountains all around – shot in Pemberton – versus the stresses one partner experiences when she is forced to take a job in the city after a flood destroys their farm.

A funny scene includes the husband skiing from valley to "Ocean City" (shot near Mount Seymour) and all the way downtown, skis and backpack in tow.

"We were throwing around all kinds of ideas, and we maybe wanted to make a statement by making a film that was a little light, like an exaggerated fairy tale. I think we made a few points," says Chrzanowski.

There are a few twists in the film. The characters are Medieval. Group dinners around the bonfire and ski days contrast with shots of the listless wife at her desk in a darkened office room, working under a domineering boss. The filmmaker asks, "Can the Knight of Extremes save face and bring his beloved one home again?"

For Chrzanowski, independent filmmaking is a challenge that requires sacrifice.

"It’s very hard to pursue if you want to be independent. I’m 44-years-old and don’t have a family – it would be unfair to do that to them," he says.

Chrzanowski’s previous work includes three films with the CBC (one documentary featured a descent of Mount Waddington in 1985), the South American feature Journey to the Heart of the World (currently airing on Cable 6), and The Spirit, a tribute to the late Whistler skier Trevor Petersen.

"I guess the really nice parts (about making films) are when a film like Spirit gets out to the community, when someone comes up to you in a gondola in Golden and says ‘Hey we saw The Spirit, it was really nice, a well-done film.’"

His current project is chronicling Golden’s evolution from a small town to a ski town.

"The transitions are fascinating. In a lot of ways Golden was a regular industrial town with innocence that built up skiing, then was sold to developers."

Information about Goldenrush: The Birth of a Resort can be viewed at www.itv.net.

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