God’s Acre is a feature length film that tells the story of Frank, an Indigenous man who must chose to abandon his traditional land due to flooding caused by big oil and climate change or attempt to accept the changes and adapt to a new way of life. Filmmaker Kelton Stepanowich has launched a one-month long Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $25,000 for production costs. The film has the backing of a strong team of ambitious Canadian talent looking to start filming in the regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Fort Chipewyan this summer.
- Actor Lorne Cardinal stars in the role of Frank
- Greg Lawson will be playing Sergeant Gordon
- Roland Pemberton as Constable Young
The campaign ends June 25, 2015.
Stepanowich shared insights about the film and his crowd funding campaign with MUSKRAT staff writer, Erica Commanda.
MM: Who wrote God’s Acre?
KS: God’s Acre was co-written by myself and my writing partner, Derek Vermillion, of the Mikisew Cree Nation. Derek is pretty secretive about his identity. He probably wouldn’t want me to tell you he’s an amazing Aboriginal writer from Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, but that’s what he gets for not doing the press with me (laughs). He’s actually the one who came to me with the idea of the film. See, our grandfathers were Aboriginal trappers who lived on the trapline off the old ways. Its something we aren’t far removed from. The stories of these older Aboriginal people are usually not in the media, unless it’s in a documentary. That motif is great for creating a character who has his own troubles, conflictions, and values, especially since the character is in isolation dealing with the effects of the outside world.
MM: Why this story why now?
KS: In the area I’m from, Aboriginal communities are in a interesting situation. There is a lot of development on our lands. That means there is a lot of money being thrown around which can be used to build infrastructure for the community, but at what cost? This industry development usually ties in with the word “progress”. I remember talking to a Chief from one of our local reserves and he was telling me stories about the poverty before development. He said you could either be on welfare or work with the industry and create opportunity for the greater good.
Do I think the industry is living up to certain standards for Aboriginal people or communities? My opinion is neither here nor there. I think the bigger thing which should be brought up is that this land, this water, this air we breathe, is something our ancestors fought to the very death for. They sacrificed their lives for us today. We are in a place in history which might define who we are for many years. So I think the question is, what do we want to be remembered as? What values do we want to give our children and grandchildren? In the community I’m from there is a lot of development on land where trapper’s lay their traplines. This development stops the trapper from being able to sustain his culture and lifestyle of living off the land. The government and industry like to say Aboriginal people no longer live off the land or partake in their culture and lifestyle. How can they? It’s being destroyed. Maybe that’s one of the themes of my film, maybe not, who wants to know (laughs).
MM: Is this your first film campaign funded through crowdfunding?
KS: This is my first film campaign. I am lucky to have executive producer, Avi Federgreen, with over twenty years of experience helping me on this project. He has been a part of campaigns like this before and hooked me up with Ayah Norris from Indiegogo, who has walked me through the process of creating a successful campaign. Shout out to Ayah! I’m excited for this campaign. For those who don’t know what crowdfunding is, it is a method of raising money for projects where people donate online and receive perks (such as posters or dvds) for contributing. It is safe and reliable. Projects have been able to raise millions on Indiegogo. Its a interesting way of letting the audience decide what they want to see.
MM: What do you hope the audience takes away from the film?
KS: I hope the audience likes it (laughs). This film has a few different metaphors that are very current in what Aboriginal people are going through, what’s going to happen and the decisions that have to be made. I don’t want to get too much into it cause I don’t want to influence anyones opinion. What I’m trying to say is that if the audience watches this movie and has their own idea on what it means and its themes then we did our job. I think thats how you know you made great art is when people take something personal from it.
MM: How do you think this production will benefit the Indigenous community?
KS: We are bringing the production to our Northern Aboriginal Community of Fort Chipewyan. This is probably the biggest production this far up northern Alberta. We have a youth mentorship program with this local non-profit, The Lake Athabasca Youth Council. Local youth are going to be given on-set film experience with donations of equipment and workshops teaching filmmaking after filming. Giving the youth an opportunity to be a part of something which isn’t common in their community feels great. It shows these kids they have a few different options.
MM: When are you looking to release the film?
KS: I really want to make sure somethings are right with this project. I have a feeling that once we get the proper edit, and soundmix, and visual effects done, it should be ready for the first quarter of 2016. So expect to see God’s Acre very soon!
Kelton Stepanowich is Aboriginal Filmmaker from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Kelton has worked in film and television for the past 5 years. His works include being the director’s assistant on the award winning APTN television series “Blackstone”, as well as a production assistant on “Oil Sands Karaoke”. Amongst other things Kelton has won best director and best film in the RMWB film challenges.