What do four short films about a disappearing brook, a haunted house, a quest for hidden art and a host of community heroes have to do with one another? Location, location, location. All are centred in and around Spryfield—the sometimes urban, sometimes rural borough of HRM located just past the Armdale Rotary along the Herring Cove Road.
The films are the fruit of Discover Spryfield, a project sponsored by the National Film Board and Action for Neighbourhood Change. In January, Discover Spryfield asked 14 Spryfieldians, aged from 13 to 61, to tell a story about their community, then gave them the training and support to tell that story on film. The project culminates this Sunday with a screening and celebration at the Spryfield Community Centre.
You might not see much on your first drive through Spryfield, admits aspiring filmmaker Tyler Burns, “but there’s art everywhere.” Burns worked with fellow directors Paula Lawlor and Heather Whitehead on No Boundaries, about Spryfield’s artistic side.
“The project opened so many doors for me, it’s crazy,” says Burns, a 20-year-old who has been dabbling in movie-making since grade 10. Working with professional cinematographer Kyle Cameron turned out to be a major boon. “Just to see his techniques in capturing things on camera—I learned a lot from that alone.” Since filming No Boundaries, Burns has secured a grant from the NFB for one of his own film projects.
“Everyone entered the program with different goals in mind,” says Ariella Pahlke, a local filmmaker who mentored the Discover Spryfield group. “Some were just curious about documentaries. Other people were more specifically interested in learning about filmmaking. Some wanted to showcase a part of their community.”
In Spryfield Spirit, Marlene Fitch, David Fellows and Samantha Thompson took their cameras on a community tour that started at Rockingstone Junior High and finished up at the Healthy Kids program in the Greystone community. “The idea is helping each other,” says Marlene Fitch. “I wanted people to know that there are wonderful people in Spryfield.”
For Corey Cluett, the motivation was a long-lost brook. “I was trying to resurrect Governor’s Brook,” says Cluett. “And it so happened they decided to do a film project. It just came along at the right time.” Cluett’s co-directors included his partner Cherie-Lyn McGann and father-and-son team David and Jeremy Aalders. Together, they explored the length of the brook from its source at spring-fed Katamaran Pond to where it enters Colpitt Lake. Along the way they discovered troublingly high levels of salt, a car graveyard and some disturbing facts about what flows into the brook and its watershed system. “The city in its great wisdom has tied in the runoff from the Dunbrack Highway to feed it,” says Bluett. “And eventually it works its way into Williams Lake.”
“They’re putting a big subdivision up called the Governor’s Brook subdivision, but nobody knows about the brook,” says Cluett. “We just wanted to bring awareness to people.”
One Discover Spryfield film won’t be premiering on Sunday because it’s already made its debut. Guardian Ancestors, directed by Jeff Bentley, Janet Kidston, Jennifer Phillip and Alicia Polonsky, screened at the Atlantic Film Festival in September. Kidston not only directed, but also co-starred in the film, along with her 181-year-old house and its collection of ancestral spirits. “We were going to do some of the old historical stuff about Spryfield,” says Kidston. “Of course somebody piped up and said, you live in the oldest house in Spryfield. Then somebody said, ‘Do you have any ghosts?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”
“Sometimes I’ll just be going about my business and suddenly I just walk into a cold spot in the house,” says Kidston. “So I stop and tell them all the latest news.”
“People kept asking me all along what I thought of the film,” says Kidston. “But it’s hard to disassociate yourself and see the film as a whole. I was learning and going with the flow.” But since the film’s debut at the festival, Kidston is more confident about her work. “We’re getting so many compliments, I’m impressed."
Discover spryfield screening, November 5, Captain William Spry Community Centre, 2:30pm