OLDS — The director of a hit all-Albertan made film says he’d like to do more films in the province and there was a hint one of those places could be Olds.
Aaron James, director of Guitar Lessons, conducted a question and answer session after the movie was shown twice at the Mayfair Cinema on Jan. 15.
It was presented by the Mountain View Film Group (MVFG) and Mountain View Moccasin House Society and attracted some of the largest crowds the MVFG has seen for its showings.
The film is a comedy/drama about a 15-year-old Metis boy who inherits his father’s beat-up guitar.
He asks an aging, cranky oilfield contractor and former rock star played by Alberta country music star Corb Lund to teach him to play, which Lund's character reluctantly eventually does.
The movie was shot in High Level a couple of years ago on a very low budget. Since being released, it’s been shown in 66 towns.
“We’re the number one grossing Canadian film of 2022 at the box office,” James said.
“This is a real example of an Alberta-made film. It’s something we can do more of, it’s something we might want to do more of,” he said. "We could make one of those here in Olds, couldn’t we?”
The crowd said, “yeah!”
“This (creating and showing Alberta-made films) doesn’t need to be a one-off. Like, right now, this only happens once every full moon; once when then lightning strikes,” James said.
“We’ll always need Hollywood and we like Hollywood, but if we can get in the habit of having two or three of these every year, it would be nice, to have some of our own.”
James said Olds “feels so much like home for me.”
"I like smelling cattle when I’m walking up and down the street every once in a while, when the wind’s just right,” he said, sparking a bit of laughter.
James said at one point, coming out of the theatre, he asked a kid on the street where he could get some good food.
“And he said, ‘oh, the auction mart,’” James said, again sparking laughter.
“I like a town where the auction mart is (a good place to have breakfast),” he said, spurring more laughter. “This is sounding like my kind of place.”
James was introduced to Town of Olds Mayor Judy Dahl who attended the afternoon showing.
“I’d like to thank you for bringing this to the town of Olds. You’re welcome back here any time and we’ll certainly show you all the hot spots that you’ve missed,” she said, also spurring laughter.
“Well thank you. And again, I’m not being glib when I say how much we appreciate this,” James said.
“So I think because the film is doing so well and because you are here – we keep drawing audiences – we're going to get the chance to do this again.”
One woman in the audience said the film did a good job capturing Metis humour.
James said that’s not by accident.
He grew up in northern Alberta along with many Indigenous and Metis people. He loves their sense of humour.
He recalled a time when he did a question and answer period up in northern Alberta after releasing his first film, Hank Williams First Nation.
“This big Kokum comes up to me, grabs me in a bear hug, lifted me right up and put me down again. Never seen her before in my life.
“She said, ‘I’m 78 years old. This is the first time I’ve seen my land and my language and my people up on the big screen.’
“I’ve never forgotten that, that she thanked me for that," James said.
“And I think we all need that. We need to see our land and our language, our kids – ourselves -- up on the big screen. So let’s do some more of this, I’m going to need your help.”
There’s a scene in the movie where Lund’s character re-strings a guitar. At the end of the guitar, on one of the tuning pegs, is a small pair of vice grips.
James was asked why those vice grips were left on there.
He said years ago, he saw that guitar, complete with the vice grips on there at a farm auction in northern Alberta.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got to have that.’ So I did, I bought it and I’ve had it ever since,” he said.
"I’ve thought about going and fixing it (but) no, there’s something about having vice grips on it. Whoever did that, the original, I’ve got to be loyal to that,” he said.
James said Lund was paid $15,000 for his part in the show but declined to keep it and instead donated the money to seed a fund to help finance Indigenous kids who want study art. Others involved in the film chipped in some money to that fund too.
A shout-out was given to the Craig family for owning and running the Mayfair Cinema for more than 35 years until last month, and to its new owners, Dean and Theresa Cassidy.