Today my friend Hans Olson and I drove out to his parents’ property near Armena, Alberta – about 15 minutes outside of Camrose. It’s called “Pretty Hill.” I was scouting the plot as a possible location for This Wind, and Hans was generously showing me the area around where he grew up while also hitching a ride out to his folks’ place for the weekend. I was expecting to drive out, drop Hans off, snap a few pictures, and turn right around and come home. But of course, Hans’s parents greeted me with far too much hospitality for my visit to be a short one. We ended up eating hot dogs on the porch as the sun started to set and a thunder storm started to creep in on us from the south. Hans and I sipped cups of coffee and smoked clove cigarettes and talked about films we love like The Spirit Of The Beehive.
I first met Hans in the summer of 2011 when I got my first ever film job in Alberta working as a production assistant for one day on a National Film Board documentary called The Auctioneer. Hans was the film’s director. Since that day, I started seeing Hans everywhere – At The Metro Cinema; The Film And Video Arts Society; coffee shops we both frequent; on the street. Often we’d bump into each other and start talking about filmmaking, and it became more obvious with every conversation that we share very similar attitudes about storytelling. If all goes well, I’ll be working for Hans on his next project: an independent feature film shooting in Edmonton in the fall.
It seems cliche, of course, but in all honesty: nothing puts me at peace quite like the quiet Albertan prairie at dusk. When I moved back to Edmonton from Vancouver in early 2011, I don’t think I fully understood why I was doing it. I knew I wanted to be closer to my good friends and family again, that was certain. But I don’t know if I fully appreciated how much this landscape means to me. I know that it’s another cliche for Canadian artists to only ever want to talk about the land and how the land informs everything that we do. But it does. I think the particular beauty of the prairie is that the vastness of the sky is a permanent reminder of our extreme insignificance. This is so healthy. It prevents us from becoming too self-important. And the land is a blank slate, an empty sheet of paper, waiting for you to leave a mark on it somehow, to create something. It’s a creative proving ground. It’s home.
Walking around out in the country, I told Hans that I dont’t just want to make one film out here; I want to make ten. We’ll start with one for now. I think we have our location.
Until next time.