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Photos courtesy Thousand Year Films Photos courtesy Thousand Year Films

Father of Nations brings about the apocalypse

By Troy Hasselman, September 24 2019 —

The apocalypse is coming to Alberta. Father of Nations, an upcoming film from Calgary production company Thousand Year Films, uses a fully Albertan cast and crew to tell the story of a group of survivors in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event and their hunt for a stable life in their resource-depleted, marauder-infested world. The movie begins principal photography this month and was originally formulated over a decade ago by writer and producer Nathan Horch.

“Initially I was wanting to do a simple film with only a small cast,” Horch says. “I wanted to do one on the last few people on earth and exploring what it would be like to be on the edge of extinction. That’s where it started. Over the years, as we’ve been developing, it’s been growing a little grander in its scale, though a lot of that intimacy is still there right through until the end.”

The use of an entirely Albertan cast and crew is a testament to the growth of the film industry in this province in recent years and shows the creators’ role in trying to build the industry. The film also showcases the landscape of our province by being entirely filmed here, as is explained by Father of Nations director Aleisha Anderson.

“We are wanting to build and be a part of the community in Alberta so it was definitely our intention to keep it as much homegrown Alberta as possible,” Anderson says. “The diversity of the landscape is just so incredible across Alberta. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the badlands. It is so beautiful and we do have a lot of rural history here as well. The locations play an incredibly important part of this story, in that it’s a journey film and we get to showcase the changing landscape and rural life, old schools and buildings and use them as our setpieces.”

The soundtrack for the film was composed by Horch in 2017, unusual for a film, as most soundtracks are composed after shooting is finished. Horch sees the soundtrack as an extension of the creative process that goes into the movie and a way of sonically illustrating the themes of the movie.

“I love music and I feel that music plays such a massive part in the film and the story and the evoking of emotions,” Horch says. “That soundtrack is essentially a concept soundtrack for me — it’s not necessarily going to be the final one. But I love writing music while I’m writing and developing the script and they go hand in hand. Aleisha likes — out on location — playing music that sets the tone for what we’re doing for the cast and crew. The images come out of the music and then I write more music and then the music comes out of the images, and I think there’s a really beautiful symmetry when you do that. When it comes to the final film, I’m going to do all the edits that we require to fit in the actual pacing for the movie as well as some new music and it’s a good tonal experiment to create the soundscape.”

The always-unpredictable Alberta climate came into play when a massive wildfire shot through one of the movies’ shooting locations days before filming was to take place. The disastrous fire ended up playing into the movie as locals urged the filmmakers to continue shooting in the area to make something out of the devastation created by the fire.

“We were looking for some old buildings out in the rural community of Hilda, Alberta, located about 45 minutes northeast of Medicine Hat,” Horch says. “The week before we were going to shoot, a fire got out of control and destroyed thousands and thousands of acres of farmers’ crops. There were multiple homesteads and many heads of cattle that were lost. It was a devastating thing for this community. We were very cautious at that point, as you don’t want to ask anything of people who had just lost so much. But, they were the ones who were really adamant about us coming to film and they wanted to see something beautiful come out of what was lost. The community is still very involved right now, we’re going to be out there in the next couple weeks here. They’re really hands-on in providing locations, some are even donating meals to the production. It’s been really humbling to be a part of it and rewarding too.’’

“It really speaks to that rural Alberta community and the strength there is,” Anderson adds. ”I think sometimes, living in a larger city, you forget that there’s a lot of strength in these smaller communities, even if the town has eight people and a church and that’s it. They’re still such a strong community and they’re still excited to be a part of this and have something beautiful come from out of the ashes of what’s lost.’’

The growth in Alberta’s film industry is reflected in the recent influx of high-profile film shoots that have shot in the Calgary area.

“That is the key — the realization that we do have talent here,” Anderson says. “We do have a qualified and technical crew. We do have actors and artists. People are realizing that they don’t have to leave in order to make films.”

“We would definitely love to see more funds from grants put into this province comparatively to others,” Horch says. “It’s still growing and it’s a great time for independent films as well as other big productions that come in. Ghostbusters was here recently, Jumanji was here recently, The Revenant was here a few years ago. It’s a place that’s growing and building for sure.”

Despite the concept being conceived over a decade ago, the ideas behind Father of Nations still feel current. Anderson and Horch see the movies’ themes as timeless and speaking to some of the big, universal questions that everyone faces in their life.

“I think that conceptually, it addresses some of the big questions that we have as human beings and in society, whether it’s culturally or spiritually,” Anderson says. “These are some of the big questions that are interesting to explore because we don’t have the answers. It’s your imagination that takes you there in terms of what would this be like.”

“Using that backdrop lets you really explore those things like where is value in life,” Horch says. “What is meaning? Is there meaning? Is there a purpose to all of those or not? I think putting it in that post-apocalyptic landscape where you’re stripping away all of the commodities and the comforts we have in life is a great thing. It’s a great stage for exploring those timeless things that people throughout history, I think no matter where our technology goes and our advances, people still wrestle with these questions often. I know I do. It’s cathartic in a certain way, you’re wrestling with yourself in art.”

The local support for the film has extended to its distribution, with Calgary theatres like the Globe Cinema and the Plaza Theatre already signed on to screen the film when it is released.

“The theatres were really supportive of it,” Horch says. “We were showing some of our concept stuff for the bigger chains too. The support and encouragement we got from them was really great too. They can’t commit to showing anything until the film is done but it was a very positive interaction. We hope to have a larger distribution when the film comes. We want to do not just the independents — which we love because there’s a classic character to them — we want the film to be seen in some of the larger venues across Canada and in the United States and the rest of the world.”

The creators are aiming for Father of Nations to have an Autumn 2020 release. The film will star Horch alongside Calgary actors Kyra MacPherson and Griffin Cork in what promises to be an engrossing, powerful and moving story about hope and survival with a local backdrop.

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