From David Bowie to Prince, Muhammed Ali to Doris Lessing; Leonard Cohen to the Beatles’ peerless producer Sir George Martin, this year has seen the deaths of legends of music, literature and sport (and other fields, including burgers: this year also saw the demise of Michael James Delligatti, who, in 1967, created the Big Mac).
Some of these deaths were shocks, while others, while still sad, were not terribly surprising (Cohen was 82, Martin 90 and Delligatti 98) – but we mourn them nevertheless. There are at least two other names of special interest to us here at the Projection Project: filmmakers Andrzej Wajda and Colin Low. Both men made many films daring, innovative films that spoke directly to viewers in their respective countries, Poland and Canada. Wajda’s Kanal is an unflinching look at the Warsaw Uprising and Ashes and Diamonds offers subversive comment on Soviet domination of Poland following the Second World War. His 1981 film Man of Iron, a sequel to 1977’s Man of Marble, won the Palme d’Or. Twenty years later he received a lifetime achievement Oscar, but he didn’t rest on that laurel: in 2007, his uncompromising Katyn was nominated for the Oscar for best Best Foreign Language Film.
Colin Low, meanwhile, co-directed the influential documentary Universe in 1960. The optical effects and visuals in this NFB short caught the eye of Stanley Kubrick, who tried to hire the entire Universe team to work on his upcoming epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Colin turned Kubrick down, as he was already committed to creating the multi-screen extravaganza Labyrinth for Expo ‘67 in Montréal (those efforts in turn led to the development of IMAX). Low continued working, producing dozens of films over the subsequent decades. Recipient of the Order of Canada, Low died in February.
The passing of those whose work we admire has a silver lining, though – our attention is sent back to their work, which is savoured anew.
You will be able to read a little more about both men as well as other filmmakers and stars in our upcoming book Life with the Movies: Cinematic Change and Adaptation. It will be available in electronic form in January 2017. Watch this space!
In addition to preparing our book for its virtual launch, the Projection Project has had a busy, productive year. In April, we spoke to poet George Bowering and his childhood friend Will Trump about their memories of growing up in Oliver, BC, and attending (and getting thrown out of) the local cinema. Their conversation was so wide-ranging and fun that we decided to turn it into the framing device for our documentary Out of the Interior: Survival of the Small-town Cinema in British Columbia. (watch the trailer here).
In May we travelled to Oliver itself to gather b-roll footage to support George and Willy’s anecdotes, as well as create a stand-alone, still-photo look at the Oliver Theatre, featuring its longtime owners Christine and David Lesmeister. We’ve also put together a brief article on the history of the theatre. You can view the slideshow and read the article here.
In September, we made our final road trip for principle photography on Out of the Interior. Travelling once again through Penticton and Grand Forks, we conducted some final interviews with theatre managers and local moviegoers. We also dropped by local museums and archives, and were impressed by the professionalism of the curators and archivists who assisted us with our research.
“Your movie won’t be complete without the Royal,” theatre managers from Revelstoke to Creston have been telling us for the last couple of years. We decided it was finally time to visit Trail’s Royal Theatre and see if they were right. They were. We were grateful for the opportunity to not only interview Lisa Milne, who runs the theatre with her husband Jason, but also to relax at the legendary Colander Restaurant downtown (after a very efficient 90-minute shoot, if we do say so…we were racing to finish the sequence before the children and infants on the “set”, belonging to both the Milnes and the Projection Project, lost all patience with the adults fussing with lights and lav mics!).
Wrapping the shoot, we felt a mix of relief and a warm sense of the pride of completion. We also felt a touch of sadness as we made our way from Trail to Nakusp, through Vernon, and onwards back to the coast – sad to bring an end to these road trips together, these wonderful working holidays. Being joined by our infant son on these trips since May has made them even more special.
However, we know that we’ll return to all of these places again…with a little luck, it’ll be later on in 2017, on a cinematic roadshow to screen Out of the Interior. It’s the Project Project’s dream to show our documentary at the very cinemas profiled in our movie, as a tribute to the theatres themselves and to the people in these communities that support them.
In the meantime, we wish you a fine celebration this Christmas, and nothing but the best for the coming year.
Curtis & Silmara