Sunday, September 6, 2009

Oakalla Prison Documentary - story buried in the heart of Metrotown

Film school kept me busy all summer, resulting in neglect to my Blogs and websites. This Blog article was published in RUNAGATE PICTURES, yesterday. There is no harm cross-posting because Iit's one more chance that other documentary filmmakers in the Lower Mainland might stumble upon my work, and perhaps make contact.
It has only been a week since the BURNABY NOW published a feature on my documentary OAKALLA, and the reporter included a list of minor mysteries which needed solving. For example, the Burnaby City Archives, the Museum nor the Library had a photo or knew of JUBILEE HALL, a landmark I needed to pin down for a location shot.

Much to my delight, a Mr. John Komm nominated an old wooden building he believed is the hall. I had thought the building torn down because it was already described as being "ramshackle" by a Vancouver SUN reporter in 1953. Though the property has passed through a half dozen owners and as many name changes, a few minutes in old City Directories confirmed that Jubilee Hall still exists in Burnaby Metrotown, near the Skytrain line. It seems an amazing example of survival in an area that has been very heavily redeveloped. This squat structure was the site of high drama in the 1950s, when Doukhobor men and women were moved from Oakalla by the busload, to be processed by a magistrate and then sent back to prison. (Photograph by John Komm)

In the photo (above) a Freedomite Doukhobor male and a woman are attempting to disrupt court proceedings by stripping in front of the magistrate. Doukhobor women also conspired to created chaos at nearby Oakalla Prison by burning their mattresses and refusing to eat.

I have enjoyed this very productive week. Well over twenty people got in touch to share stories or simply offer research leads to aid the next project, THE GHOSTS OF OAKALLA. I'm really getting a sense that people in the community want this film to be made. There has actually been a stunning development which has redirected much of my research time and must impact what I choose to shoot and how the story will be crafted. Unfortunately I cannot "give away" the discovery, as making key elements common knowledge would blow the dramatic impact I plan to build into the film.
Dylan Innes directing on the set of his film MANDROID, September 2009. His DOP is Felix Oltean. [Production still - Elaine Gebert]

Yesterday I had some fun playing a minor character in a scene for a futuristic film called MANDROID, written and directed by Dylan Innes. The crew was a talented bunch from S.F.U. film school and the set was located inside the busy headquarters of the B.C. Lung Association on Oak Street in Vancouver. It was only my second opportunity to "act". The first experience was in August when student director Jonathan Pon invited me to play an unfriendly Mall security guard in his comedy REBEL WITHOUT A CLUE. Jonathan's parody of film school actually reflects some of the "stuff" some of us went through at Broadway campus. REBEL will be screened at Langara College on September 27 at 3pm.