Favel pitches movie project to Chamber directors

John Cairns

It might be too soon to refer to North Battleford as "Hollywood North," but the city and region could see some movie activity in the near future.

That was the message Floyd Favel had for directors at the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday.

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Favel, from Poundmaker First Nation, was there to fill them in on his motion picture project, Sweet Cherry Wine.

It is a 90-minute aboriginal-themed drama set in the 1950s that will be shown entirely in the Cree language, with English-language subtitles. Favel wrote the story and is one of the producers of the project.

A production company out of Montreal run by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn is producing the project.

They are experienced film producers whose previous work had gone on to win awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Much of their work over the past decade has been in the Inuit language.

Favel told Chamber directors details of this latest project, as well as the ongoing film finance efforts underway for the movie. Favel estimates the budget for the motion picture to be $2.2 million.

The producers have made a number of funding applications to various provincial and federal agencies, and they have been met with a positive response.

"So far every application we have made has been funded," said Favel.

One of those was a $600,000 grant from the Canadian Media Fund, the national public-private partnership that funds television projects in Canada.

Just a couple of weeks ago, said Favel, they were approved for $250,000 from Creative Saskatchewan.

That is the agency that the government set up to replace SaskFilm after the Film Employment Tax Credit was eliminated by the province in 2012. Unlike the old regime, the new tax credit from Creative Saskatchewan is non-refundable.

As well, the producers had meetings a couple of weeks ago with Telefilm Canada, the Federal crown corporation that provides funds for feature film projects in Canada. They sought $800,000 in funding in those discussions.

"Once you start getting funding, the rest falls into place," said Favel.

In addition to the film financing from levels of government, the project has been seeking $250,000 in funding from area First Nations.

He said Poundmaker has committed to contribute $30,000 while Moosomin First Nation is in for $70,000. The other partner is the Beardys reserve which would be in for $150,000; the contract with them is not signed yet, Favel noted.

With Poundmaker and Moosomin First Nation being part of the film, Favel said extensive shooting will be going on in the Battlefords area as a result.

"We will centre half of the film in this area," said Favel. That would include shooting in the Battlefords as well as in Poundmaker and Moosomin reserves.

He noted one of the stipulations in the Creative Saskatchewan funding is that $900,000 be spent in the local area for shooting. Favel said the plan, for now, would be to spend $450,000 in the Battlefords/Poundmaker/Moosomin area and the other $450,000 around the Beardy's/Rosthern area, due to the partnerships they have.

Actors are going to be aboriginal and non-aboriginal, and some of the casting has already taken place.

Sharon Thomas, who Favel said is Sweetgrass-raised, has already been hired. Another actor, Michael Lawrenchuk, from Winnipeg, has also been added to the cast.

Those are experienced actors, but most of the actors producers Cohen and Kunuk work with are actually non-actors. "Natural people," said Favel, in order to get "the real-life atmosphere."

Other personnel will need to be hired as well and Favel noted that because the film is set in the 1950s, costume people are needed.

Favel touted the project as something that will promote the Battlefords and area to a wider audience.

"Because the film will be shown nationally and internationally, I think it will be good promotion of this area," said Favel.

He noted there are also a number of empty buildings in the city that could be put to use in the movie. The plan is for the creative personnel and staff to stay in the area as well.

What Favel wanted from the Chamber was some more financial or other assistance to get the movie project off the ground. Favel asked for some "actual, tangible support from the Chamber of Commerce" for the film, he said.

Chamber president Ryan Moe responded the Chamber itself likely wouldn't be able to supply funding directly.

But he noted the Chamber included business leaders as part of their membership and suggested their individual members could step forward with sponsorship help.

Chamber executive director Linda Machniak suggested some help could be provided from the community in providing desks, tables or other 1950s paraphernalia. Favel said one particular need was for period vehicles from the 1950s that could be set up in front of storefronts.

"Some of the business people may have access to some of that stuff you're looking (for), or may be able to get it for you," said Machniak.

Favel also said they wanted to shoot some scenes at a hospital. Machniak suggested Prairie North Health Region would be the contact for those plans.

The plan is for the shooting to take place over 50 days, with a good deal of shooting to take place in August and September.

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