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South Surrey filmmakers to explore Canada's identity

South Surrey-based duo to travel across country for interactive documentary film.
Ryder White and Alexandra Caulfield will travel across Canada for their interactive documentary.

Two young South Surrey-based filmmakers are soon to hit the road in pursuit of the elusive ‘Canadian Identity.’

It’s been a while since the topic – argued extensively in the 1970s – was a hot one.

But that’s one of the reasons Alexandra Caulfield and partner (in film and life)  Ryder Thomas White think the time is ripe for a new exploration.

Armed with infectious enthusiasm, the SFU film-program grads are taking a new tack, involving both old-school and new film technologies, for their interactive project, Canadian Framelines.

Travelling and living in a specially-equipped former school bus that they purchased last year, the couple will journey to communities across Canada where they will train participants in basic film-making workshops, before handing them old Super-8mm cameras and a cartridge of film on which to create their own brief visual essays of what it means to be a Canadian.

“Part of the reason behind that is that it’s a very cheap medium,” said Caulfield, who grew up in South Surrey and graduated Semiahmoo Secondary in 2006.

“Another great thing is that it comes in cartridges that are just over three minutes long. A lot of younger people are used to shooting digital without any limits, but with this, everyone has a finite amount of space. You really have to condense your ideas.”

The grainy and gritty results, which Caulfield and White will process on the bus, will be digitized and assembled into what they visualize as a travelling installation.

But there’s another branch of the project that will be high-definition digital documentary footage they will, themselves, shoot of the trip and project participants.

“Potentially, if we get the right type of footage, it could end up being a multi-part documentary,” Caulfield said.

But in true documentary style, she added, they’re going to let events and circumstances help shape the final product, rather than pre-plan every frame.

At the beginning of July, Caulfield and White launched a fundraising campaign for their project on in which they are soliciting donations from those who want to help their enterprise – ranging from as small as well-wishers can afford to as a high as a generous benefactor wants to go.

With the deadline to raise a projected $30,000 barely a month away, they’re continually adding fundraising options, including a ‘donate-a-thon’ to raise 100 individual donations of $1 in one day, which they’re promoting through Twitter and Facebook.

However much they raise, the trip will still be on, Caulfield said.

“We’ll still be doing it, but it will be a whole lot easier to do with some money behind us.”

Ironically, Caulfield said, she never set out to be a filmmaker.

“I was a competitive swimmer as a teenager. I applied to the film program at SFU on a whim – the deal was if I got into a really competitive program I could go to university. It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.”

Not only did she discover an affinity for film, she also met Ryder, who originally hails from Albuquerque, N.M., and was in the program at the same time.

Canadian Framelines evolved out of extensive discussions between the pair.

“About two years ago we were talking about what we were going to do when we graduated. Ryder told me about his idea of travelling and making films at the same time.”

The couple have not been sitting around waiting for contributions to roll in. They launched the project – in which they’ve already invested $15,000 of their own money – with a well-recieved interactive display on Granville Island on Canada Day, and they have been busy shooting interviews on what it means to be a Canadian, as well as updates on the progress of their project for the website.

They’ll also be promoting it during the Spirit of the Sea Festival in White Rock on Aug. 4 and 5, with presentations geared both to adults and children.

First stop on the trip will be Vancouver Island, Caulfield said – her brother played hockey in Sooke when he was a teenager and they still have connections there.

Their plan is to reach out to different city councils to establish various communities’ interest in the project and, ultimately, help determine the itinerary for the trip.

“It would be really nice to have an invite so that we’re going where we’re wanted,” Caulfield said, “ so we don’t have to spend the first week running around saying ‘we’re here.’”

But there’s an appealing element of the unknown to the project, Caulfield admits.

“I really feel excited about it – every day I think, is this really happening?”

To help Canadian Framelines get on the road, go online.


About the Author: Alex Browne

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