Making movie magic 

Who: Peter Rowe, Director

What: Treasure Island & Digital Workshops

Where: MY Place

When: Saturday, Dec. 7

When the credits roll at the end of a film, do you a) grab your coat and bolt for the exit; b) make out with your date before the lights come on; or c) stare intently at the screen to spot the cast and crew’s names, quietly congratulating them on a job well done.

If you answered "C", chances are you’re a film buff who will appreciate the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) special guests. One of the best in the business is filmmaker Peter Rowe, a well-respected, world-renowned director of feature films, digital documentaries, TV series and chair of the Directors Guild of Canada.

Rowe is flying in from Singapore to appear on the WFF’s Digital Filmmaking panel, the Adventure Filmmaking panel and to introduce his popular children’s film Treasure Island , starring Jack Palance as Long John Silver .

I nabbed Rowe the day before his trip to Asia, at home in Mississauga, Ontario. It must be said, this guy is a walking cinema workshop. Even in a quick phone interview his zest for filmmaking was obvious. His stories, tips and behind-the-scenes secrets were testament to his reputation as a man who can successfully create movie magic.

In his screen adaptation of the 16 th century Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island, Rowe had to rewrite and restructure a good part of the plot to cater to current kids’ tastes. His "classic movie with a contemporary spin" is about a young boy's adventures on the high seas, fending off pirates to become a hero.

"I even wanted to take it one step further and turn the character of Jim Hawkins into a girl disguised as a boy, but I couldn’t convince the producers of that," he laughed.

The secret to cracking the modern kids’ market, according to Rowe, lies in understanding how the younger generation now think.

"Kids films have to be about kids who get into trouble and then get themselves out of it on their own, without an adult’s help," he said.

Alongside his film work, Rowe has worked extensively with digital cameras, notably in the TV series Exploring Under Sail, plus documentaries like Bridging the Atlantic and New World Columbus .

Rowe’s decision to go digital was never based on a love for the medium though.

"Realistically, if I could shoot with a 40 person crew and an Imax camera all the time, I would, but it’s impossible to do that logistically and financially. So that’s when digital cameras are the answer. They are small, relatively inexpensive and can be taken into rare and rugged extremes."

Rowe does give digital cameras kudos in the opportunity stakes.

"If you can get images that are unique, you create a whole new world and can reach a whole new audience. There’s obviously a big market out there for the unknown and it’s growing all the time.

Rowe’s latest project is a feature film called Snakehead Passage , about human smuggling from China into Canada. The story centres on a woman who left China to escape persecution for her religious beliefs, came to B.C, made her way across the country and eventually to New York City.

"I’m not expecting the Chinese government to be supportive, but hopefully some Hong Kong or other Asian investors or producers will see the benefits of telling this story."

Let’s hope he returns to Canada with the help he was hoping for.


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