By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
The Town of Magrath is the first of nine communities to be selected by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to take part in The Grasslands Project. A series of short films about people and issues in the southern prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Our objective is to create a series of short films based on ideas, issues and stories brought forward by community members in the region,” shared Scott Parker, associate producer, The Grasslands Project.
It is an innovative step for documentary film making, where the ideas and stories for the short films are generated by the community itself.
Parker contacted Magrath because the Garden city website was current, detailed and well designed. “It was clear that Magrath is a vibrant community and one that would likely be interested in this project … we are looking out for towns that have more of an engaged citizenship,” and Magrath has many strong clubs and societies.
Right now the project is in its earliest stages, with the remaining communities to be selected shortly.
Until the NFB has a chance to hear about the stories, ideas and themes that are important from the residents that actually live in the area, they do not know what the focus of the five to 10 minute films in the anthology will be. It is part of their mandate to not come into the areas with any preconceived assumptions
In 2011 the NFB went to Nunavut and did a series of six short films there titled “Stories from our Lamd 1.5” and they were well received by the community. For example, one of the films was a time lapse of a seal hunter that illustrated the required patience and resilience of the culture.
“People really liked them because they felt these films really depicted what they were all about. And the executive producer, David Christensen wanted to explore the southern prairie region in the same way.
“In the case of Magrath, it’s not necessarily about doing a film about a particular community, although that may be the case. Maybe there is a story about Magrath that we feel is a good story to tell that is representative of the region.”
The Grasslands Project team at NFB will be coming to Magrath at the end of February to meet with 50 to 75 citizens, representing a cross section of the community to develop a list of stories, characters and issues based on community input.
All of the costs will be covered by the NFB, with no expectation on the municipality to contribute. Shooting will span one to three days, with a crew of approximately five including a director, camera person, sound recordist and a production assistant.
Another unique aspect of this project is that the NFB intends to return to the communities with a draft of the film to screen it with an audience of community members and get input into the films before they are finalized.
The goal is to have the films completed by the end of the year, with the order they are shot in to be determined based on what season is best suited to shooting a story in a community. They will be available to viewers across Canada and around the world.
“We don’t want people to think we are coming down there (from Edmonton) to do a tourism or promotional film or a major motion picture … It is short documentary films on stories and issues from the region.