Bowen filmmakers tackle subject of loss
It is a story about loss and about the wish that there is someone who will somehow be able to make it all better. Filmmakers Sam and Kailey Spear have tackled that subject in their film By my Side. They have grown up on Bowen Island and credit their community with providing inspiration and talent. They'll screen the film on Thursday, August 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Tir-na-nOg and have answered a few questions about the movie and their experience of studying film at Simon Fraser University (SFU) for Undercurrent readers.
Q. What inspired you to produce a film about a girl's journey through loss?
A. Loss is something that we all experience. It is often accompanied by feelings of helplessness and confusion. Allowing these feelings to come through the character of a child gives us the opportunity to connect with that innocent part inside of us that wishes that someone will be able to make everything better. We are able to watch as she tries to figure out how to maneuver through life after loss and deal with these feelings.
Q. What influence did your growing up on Bowen and being connected to the community have on the story as well as the decision to film on the island?
A. Growing up on Bowen has given us a love of the west coast and in particular of Bowen Island. We knew that we wanted our audiences to get a chance to see some of the place we love. Knowing, in pre-production, that we were going to shoot on the island also gave us the ability to shape our scenes around locations and images that we know well.
We have also found that there is an amazing concentration of talent on our little island. We wanted to use this film as an opportunity to bring some of the island’s talent together in one project. We were extremely lucky to have Bowen islanders participate as principal cast, background performers, casting, assistant directing, music, set design, set photography, catering, production assistants and poster design (to name a few).
Q. Can you share your thoughts about the experience of working with friends and neighbours on Bowen? Any stories about the filming/ production that relate to the island?
A. We were extremely lucky to be able to shoot on Bowen Island. Not only does Bowen have so many wonderful locations to shoot at (the United Church, the Flower Shop, Hood Point, etc.) but the people on Bowen are very supportive as well. The community’s support was especially clear when we were shooting the memorial scene. We had about fifty people come out to volunteer as extras that day. They all were extremely patient as we ran about setting up shots and moving lights.
Q. How was your experience of going through the SFU film program?
A. The SFU film program is wonderful. We gained a lot of experience through many hours on set and in editing suites. The program is special as it cultivates the development of auteurs as well as technically adept filmmakers. We were also very lucky to be part of an extremely talented class; we all helped each other through the four-year-program. The length of the program was important as it allowed us to try everything included in filmmaking, but then allowed us to start specializing during our final years. Coming from an acting background, it is no surprise that what we want to do most is work with actors. We want to continue acting but we also love directing. We have many ideas for features we want to develop in the future, so our task now is to pick one idea and start really moving ahead with it. In addition to acting and directing, we love casting. We ended up casting most of the grad films last year. We will also be casting a couple of the grad films in the coming year.
Q. What is next for you as filmmakers?
A. Well, that is the big question. We have many concepts for feature-length films that we want to make, but many of those require very large budgets. Right now, we are trying choose a concept that we can develop and produce at a relatively low cost in order to start to make a name for ourselves as feature film directors. We would also love to direct other people’s scripts. In terms of choosing scripts to take on, we are looking for films that we deem important to make. A lot of time and money goes into making films, and we want to always make sure that the films we are working on are worth putting into the world.
The screening of By my Side is scheduled for Thursday, August 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Tir-na-nOg. Tickets are available at Phoenix. They are $5 and free for cast (including background) and crew. Because there are only around 70 seats, we want to encourage people to pick up their tickets as soon as possible, even they are free.