OLDS — On Sunday, Jan. 15, the Mountain View Film Group (MVFG) and Mountain View Moccasin House Society will be showing a movie shot entirely in Alberta with an all-Canadian cast and crew.
The film, called Guitar Lessons, 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 (Alberta country music star Corb Lund) to teach him to play.
As with all Mountain View Film Group monthly presentations, there will be two shows: at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Mayfair Cinema in Olds.
It’s rated PG (parental guidance) as it does feature some “coarse” language.
Calgarian Aaron James, who was born near Peace River, directed the film and the MVFG says he’ll be in attendance Sunday to talk about it.
During an interview, James said he got the idea for the film during the height of the pandemic. At that time, he found himself teaching school in Alberta instead of working in Los Angeles.
James said during that time, one of his students, who was often in trouble, did some research on James and found out that at one time, he used to play in a rock band.
So he brought a beat-up old guitar to school and asked James to give him some guitar lessons.
That inspired James to write a short story about that.
“I was kind of moved by this rotten kid who wanted guitar lessons,” he said.
Shortly afterward, in June 2021, some friends who live in High River contacted James saying they wanted to make a movie in the area and wondered if he could help them.
So he took that short story and transformed it into the Guitar Lessons film script, changing some of the details.
"It’s this kind of nice little coming of age story about a 15-year-old Metis boy and a 50-year-old oilfield contractor from opposite sides of the tracks who grow up together over guitar lessons,” James said.
The film was shot in 18 days during the summer of 2021. A year was spent editing it.
“I’ve actually never heard of something happening so fast,” James said.
Since its release, Guitar Lessons been shown in several theatres around the country and been a big hit. James and colleagues are now getting ready to roll it out nationally on Feb. 24.
The entire cast and crew are Canadian.
“Half the cast are from the local north Peace region and have never been in a film before, so that’s fun.
“And yeah, it’s challenging. But as a director, I’ve always liked working with first-time actors and a lot of directors do, if you cast carefully,” James said.
“Acting is one of those things. People sometimes just have it. And if you spot it and direct them appropriately, you can do that.”
James said Kaden Noskiye, who stars as the 15-year-old boy, is one of those naturals.
"He’s fantastic. He’s one of the strongest parts of the show,” James said.
He said 33 15-year-old boys from across Western Canada auditioned for the role, two of whom were from the North Peace River area.
“It was a hard choice and I settled on Kaden and have never been sorry for it,” he said. “He’s an uncommonly talented young actor.”
James said he’ll probably cast Noskiye in another future movie.
But he may have some competition for his time. Noskiye has formed a friendship with Lund who has introduced him to some of his former music instructors at Grant MacEwan University.
Lund and James are friends and James was aware that Lund had landed some minor acting roles before, so he was pretty confident he’d do well in a major role – and he did.
“Corb’s a good artist and a consummate professional and took it very seriously; worked very hard, learned his lines and studied and approached it with the same professionalism he takes everything in his music career,” James said. “He did a great job.”
James, 54, was born in Dixonville, near Peace River and loved to play guitar.
At age 15, he left home to play in a a rock band.
“I thought I was going to be a rock star,” he said with a laugh. “And I was for a while and I made music and made some records and toured with bands and that was great.
“But I woke up in my 30s at some point, still living in the back of a van and not a very nice one and I thought, ‘this didn’t go the way I wanted; maybe I should go straight.’"
So James got into teaching and worked in the oilpatch for a while, but found that he really missed the arts.
During his music career, James had made a few music videos so he decided to pursue that business.
In 2004, he made a film called Hank Williams First Nation.
“It did really well. It played all around the world and won a bunch of awards and set me up for a little career as a writer and director,” he said.
That film resulted in offers from the film industry in Los Angeles, so since then, James has split his time between L.A. and Calgary.
He’s just in the final process of finishing another film about four generations of women who hunt and slaughter a moose in the traditional manner in order to feed their families.
So in a sense, getting marooned in Alberta as a result of COVID restrictions has been great for James’ creative juices.
"It’s oddly turned out I’m having lots of fun and making lots of stuff in Alberta since I got stuck here,” he said.