When Tito Guillen, director of a new local short film, contacted me to offer an advance screening of the new project I leapt at the chance, of course. One of the primary qualities necessary to be a decent writer is a deep and relentless curiosity about everything, but especially about the things your friends have been up to. So when he sent me the link, I watched the film intently. Not once, but at least three times, because once the curiosity was sated I found so much more I needed to grasp.
"The Good Survivor" is the local film that won a $10,000 Telus OPTIK grant thanks to a voting process that allowed members of the public to vote for films they wanted to see funded. The concept in itself was intriguing, given a cast of locals like Steve Reeve Newman of Mix 103.7 FM radio fame and up-and-coming young performer Dylan Thomas-Bouchier. Both of these individuals are gifted actors in their own right, but I was intrigued to see how they would work together, and how they would work Dylan's cerebral palsy into a screenplay about a challenging post-apocalyptic world - one filled with zombies.
Of course zombies are quite popular right now, given television shows such as The Walking Dead that have taken zombie culture to new heights. But The Good Survivor is less about the zombies and more about two very different characters who come together in a world filled with them - and one of the characters has what we have long traditionally viewed (and even called) a handicap.
I have had the opportunity to speak to Dylan about the filming, and I know it was an arduous ordeal for all of the cast and crew given that it was filmed in the winter and they were exposed to the elements for long periods of time. For Dylan it was on occasion particularly challenging, which is perhaps what has given rise to an astonishing performance that so captured me I had to watch the short three times to let it sink in fully.
This is not to diminish the roles played by anyone else, including the talented Steve Reeve Newman who looks a bit Grizzly Adams bear-like and who evokes the crankiness one would expect of someone who has been fending off hordes of zombies (and carries a secret inside them too). The supporting roles are equally well portrayed, but there is no doubt young Dylan steals the show as he fleshes out a character that is not only more than his "handicap", but is also perhaps even far more interesting and compelling because of it.
The short is filmed so well, particularly given the inclement weather conditions, and the directing is crisp and precise. The special effects are suitably gory, and the storyline is thoughtful as it explores what it takes to be a "good survivor", which in the end may not be about traditional survival skills at all.
The short film has now had a few public screenings, and even more people have had the opportunity to experience what I was so fortunate to get a sneak peek at. The reviews continue to be strong, and there continues to be interest in both the project and a very unique storyline that didn't shy away from the reality of "handicaps" but instead stared right into them.
This week The Good Survivor enters into a new phase of voting. You can view the film online and then you can vote for the project. A top winner from Alberta and a top winner from BC will be selected through a combination of votes, social media presence and a jury of judges to go to the next level of mentorship through Telus / NSI and an invitation to the Banff Media Festival to further the development and careers of the filmmakers.
The support of the community continues to be critical to ensuring The Good Survivor not only attracts new audiences, but furthers the development of a group of individuals who have already produced a remarkable short film, made in challenging circumstances and featuring a storyline that is not only unusual but compelling.
Over the past few years the art of filmmaking has truly taken off in our region. Thanks to individuals such as those involved in this project, Wood Buffalo and Fort McMurray are becoming part of the Canadian filmmaking presence, an amazing achievement that has occurred in a very short period of time. It is entirely due to thoughtful, professional products like this one, which marry a popular concept (zombies) with a solid storyline that explores what being a good survivor really means, and the true nature of our handicaps, whether they are physical or emotional.
I sincerely hope you will take the time to view the film and to vote for this group of filmmakers and this project, one which proudly reflects our community. Watch the film, and then vote to ensure this group of local filmmakers has the opportunity to further explore their craft while also representing our community on a national stage. Help The Good Survivor to thrive and move onto the next step - and take pride in fellow community members as they follow their dreams.
You can watch the short in the video below, and just below that is the link to vote for this project. If like good short films, if you love people who have passion for their craft and if you want to see others in our community have the opportunity to attain their dreams and goals, vote now for The Good Survivor - because this group of filmmakers? Well, they have shown all of us just what it takes to not only survive, but rise.