First of several film productions starts rolling in Fort Smith

First of several film productions starts rolling in Fort Smith
Ryanna Bourke, left, and co-star Daniel Wiltzen shoot a scene of Hickey Gone Wrong.Photo: Dali Carmichael.

Fort Smith author Richard Van Camp has dreamt for years of bringing his stories to life through film using his hometown as the set.

Last weekend his dream came true when a group of independent filmmakers touched down in the small town to shoot Hickey Gone Wrong, based on Van Camp’s graphic novel of the same name.

“Hickey Gone Wrong is so important to me because we have Fort Smith actors, we have a Fort Smith producer and we’re mentoring Fort Smithers on set,” Van Camp said. “I always felt like I let a lot of people down when we tried for seven years to get The Lesser Blessed shot in the Northwest Territories…With Mohawk Midnight Runners, we also let Fort Smith down because we were so close to shooting in Fort Smith.”

The process of staffing and producing the project was fast and efficient. Auditions were held in the basement of the community recreation centre the night of Aug. 7. By the following evening, the cast was selected and attending dress rehearsals on set at Target, an out-of-commission gas station in town. Filming was completed by Aug. 11.

The film stars high schooler Daniel Wiltzen as main character Clarence, Ryanna Bourke as his mother, Calum McCarney as his father and Douglas Meidl as his best friend Grant. The crew consists of director Jay Cardinal Villeneuve and cinematographer Damien Eagle Bear, who hail from Vancouver. Local filmmaker Carla Ulrich is credited as the film’s producer and Yellowknifer Travis Mercredi is the location sound and audio tech.

Hickey Gone Wrong tells the tale of Clarence receiving his first hickey and the hilarity that ensues as a result. According to Van Camp, the story is based on his own adolescent experiences working at Kelly’s gas station as a teen.

Van Camp profusely thanked all who auditioned at a community event on Saturday and told those who did made the cut not to worry, for they too will get a chance to make it to the silver screen when production on his next film, Three Feathers, begins in October.

Three Feathers is going to be a very complex shoot. We’ll be shooting every scene in all four of the official languages of the South Slave region,” he said. “We’re not going to shoot the entire movie in one go. We’re going to use several days in October, several days in full-on winter and several days in full-on spring. This will give each of the actors time to master all four of their dialogue sections before they’re actually on set, even though we will have Aboriginal language coaches on set.”

Three Feathers will star Joel Evans – the lead actor in Van Camp’s previous feature-length film The Lesser Blessed – and David Burke, a Fort Smith actor who recently had a role in the Hollywood production Cut Bank.

With any luck, the work won’t stop there. Next summer, Van Camp hopes to film one of his currently unreleased graphic novels, A Blanket of Butterflies, in Fort Smith as well.

In the meantime, Hickey Gone Wrong will have its premiere at the end of the month. It will be shown alongside a Youth Rise Project film being produced during the last week of August. Eventually, Van Camp and Ulrich plan to run Hickey Gone Wrong through the independent film circuit.

“I’m just so proud to be a Fort Smither today and to welcome a production company into our community to really honour a hilarious Fort Smith story,” Van Camp said. “I really do feel that  was such a dark, at-the-crossroads story of revenge and redemption that I kind of got that theme of darkness out of me, but now it’s really time to celebrate and that’s what this movie means to me.”

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