Local film to open Nov. 3 BMFF screenings
Like millions do every year, in August 2010, Doug and Karen Urquhart visited the Canadian Rockies.
Back home in Atlanta, Georgia, however, their relationship with the Rockies had just begun. Having shot a short time-lapse film, Doug searched Google to locate a photographer who might be able to identify the peaks, lakes and other mountain features captured in his footage. Banff photographer Paul Zizka answered his inquiry and agreed to help. Somewhere along the line, Zizka and Urquhart decided they might like to work together on a project, “someday.”
Fast-forward to November, 2012, and their project, Mountains in Motion, a spectacular 13-minute time-lapse film that exquisitely captures the flow of the seasons as they unfold amidst the Canadian Rockies’ landscape, will be the first film audiences see at 9 a.m. on Nov. 3 in the Eric Harvie Theatre and Rolston Recital Hall at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
Both committed Rockies lovers who chose to live in Banff full-time after several summers of working at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on the shores of Bow Lake, Zizka and his wife, writer Meghan Ward, attended their first BMFF in 2007.
“After a year and a half of work on this, we’ll take any chance we get to show this to as many people as possible,” Zizka said. “But it feels especially great to be able to show the final product to our home crowd and to many others who share our passion for the Canadian Rockies and their history.”
While Zizka grew his photography career and Ward established herself as a writer – and editor of the Bow Valley’s Highline Magazine – both were inspired by the writers, photographers and filmmakers whose work they admired each year at the Banff Mountain festivals.
Filmmaking, however, was an entirely new venture for both of them. Several months after their initial communication, Urquhart contacted Zizka again to initiate creation of a more substantial Rockies-based time-lapse film. Urqhart made the first of three project-specific visits to Banff in the winter of 2011, followed by trips in July 2011 and March 2012.
Ward was recruited to assist with a script for the narration of the original trailer, and later invited to write the actual film script. As the project progressed, Urqhuart recruited long-time colleagues Michael Wynne and Guy Thorsby to create the musical score and field logistics, respectively.
For Urquhart, who works full-time in the film industry, Mountains in Motion represented a new challenge too, as he’d never before created a time-lapse film with a story line.
Between Urquhart’s visits, Zizka continued to collect time-lapse sequences. Among numerous photo sessions, he skied to the summit of the Wapta Icefields’ Mount Rhondda in the dead of winter carrying heavy photography equipment, hiked to the summit of Mount Rundle in summer and also assumed the responsibility of replacing memory cards in remote solar-powered cameras at various locations.
Overall, the project required about 18 months to complete, including all the post-processing and sending out to festivals – all on a shoestring budget with volunteer hours. Thus far, Mountains in Motion has earned the Best Cinematography award at the Dixie Film Festival in Athens, Georgia, and best Documentary at the Atlanta Shortsfest in Atlanta, Georgia. It has also been accepted at the Asheville Cinema Festival in North Carolina, which runs Nov. 2-3, the same weekend the film screens at the BMFF.
Among the biggest surprises of their new filmmaking venture, Zizka and Ward said, was how much time was required to produce a relatively short film.
“There is so much footage we didn’t use. It’s unbelievable,” Zizka said. “Beyond the challenges of dealing with heavy packs and unfavourable shooting conditions, the main challenge for me was definitely to find time for a side project that became more demanding every day.”
Ward agreed, since the film was a “side project” for her as well.
“Also, I have never written for the screen before, nor really written to be read aloud,” she said. “This presented new challenges to me as a writer, but I thoroughly enjoyed working in this medium throughout the whole process, from writing and editing and revising, to listening in on the sound booth as the team was recording the final script.”
Zizka and Ward agreed working with Urquhart from a distance incorporated an additional challenge.
“We spent many hours discussing ideas, watching various takes and providing feedback to each other, all by email,” Zizka said. “It was an arduous process. We might have set a record for the most emails sent in a year.”
Being accepted by the BMFF, they both admitted, was theirs and Urquhart’s ultimate goal for the film.
“The festivals are one of the highlights of my year,” Ward said. “They represent everything I live and breathe for – in my work, personal life and future aspirations. So, to have made a contribution to this amazing annual celebration of mountain culture means so much. To sit shoulder to shoulder with my community to watch the film at the festivals is the icing on the cake.”
To view the Mountains in Motion trailer, visit www.mountainsinmotion.ca
For film festival info and tickets visit www.banffcentre.ca/mountainfestival/
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