The golden age of documentaries

The \golden age\ of documentaries
Catwalk documentary is possibly the greatest cat video ever
An abandoned farmhouse south of Blackie became the inspiration for a documentary that has won 13 awards at film festivals around the world over the past 18 months.

In 2016, southern Albertas Blake Reid Band spent six days in rain, hail and wind recording the independent documentary No Roads In. The documentary will premiere on documentary channel April 4 at 5 p.m. following last weeks sold-out screening at the Wales Theatre in High River.

“Our current forest pacts that accompany timber management regulation are really not up to 21st century realities,” said Sharon MacDonald, member of the Ghost Valley Community and figurehead of the Forests, Fins and Footprints mini-documentary.

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“We stepped away from technology and we recorded an all-analogue album so nothing was digital,” said singer/songwriter Blake Reid. “We tipped our hats back to music recorded 50 years ago.”

With no windows or shingles on the house, the wind, rain and hail were all part of the recording, Reid said.

The documentary states the effects of clear-cutting can be detrimental to eco-systems, causing species of fish to decline. In Ghost Valley that has meant native cutthroat trout populations have dwindled to five per cent of historic averages.

“The house had great acoustics,” he said. “Everything reverberated off of the walls and ceiling and floor. It was just raw acoustics.”

MacDonald hearkened back to March 2014, in which the Ghost Valley community rallied together to take a stand against clear-cutting, by offering information and support to neighbours and friends of the Ghost Valley.
Catwalk documentary is possibly the greatest cat video ever
Catwalk documentary is possibly the greatest cat video ever

The 78-minute documentary won rave reviews at two-dozen film festivals, winning 13 awards from Best Documentary at the Las Cruces International Film Festival in New Mexico to Best Cinematography and Best Music Score at the Manchester International Film Festival.

“For many of us, it impacted our way of life, our way of earning a living, our safety on the roads, and our confidence that the land we love was healthy and intact,” said MacDonald.
Folk band creates documentary
Folk band creates documentary

Reid wrote the albums 13 songs in a matter of weeks, telling stories of Albertas landscape and the trials of life in rural communities, but his band didnt get the music until they arrived on site for the recording.

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“Typically I would write the songs and work them for weeks and maybe even months before I record them,” he said. “I didnt give the tracks to the band members until we were on location. We learned them together. This way we wanted to have more of a kitchen feel.”

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With the cameras rolling 15 hours each day, Reid said the recording turned into a documentary about band members Reid, Jason Valleau, Aaron Young, Craig Bignell, Jon May and Blackie sound engineer Adam Naugler.

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“It was not just about music, it was a journey about humanity – battling the elements and the faith that they had in each other to pull off the project,” he said. “There was something that happened there that was very inspirational that touched my core. It changed the way that I think about music and songwriting and even life. Its very inspirational.”

Naugler, of Ridgeline Audio, said its an idea hes had for years. – he was just looking for the perfect opportunity.

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“It was always a passion of mine to record an album like this,” he said. “Im a country boy at heart and it was a way to blend those two worlds and this fast-paced crazy city life I live in almost every day. Any musician would have jumped on this opportunity, but I really wanted somebody who understood what this project was about and it was about getting back to the basics, getting back to the roots to not only find the sound but ourselves again.”

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia’s Dori Begley and John Von Thaden, with Submarine on behalf of the filmmakers.

“I was shooting a food show and Blake was there recording his album,” he said, adding hed always been a fan of Reids music. “We were sitting in Roberts (Western World) having a whiskey and the band was just killing it on stage. I blurted out this crazy idea I had. There we are in the music mecca of the world with our backs turned talking about No Roads In.”

Naugler played in several bands in high school and said entering the sound industry was a natural transition. Hes spent years working in the television industry working on shows for the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.

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“I worked on so many of these reality TV shows, you almost get a little jaded,” he said. “For me it was like, Ive got to get back to something real for a change and they only way to do that was to do it myself.”

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Naugler was born and raised in the Blackie area. When he saw the abandoned house in his search for the perfect farmhouse, he was sold.

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“Those really are relics,” he said. “This is our history and its disappearing. I wanted to document that before theyre gone.”

The cast and crew set up trailers in Nauglers field a couple miles away in what they called Shanty Town and set to work.

“It was never supposed to be a documentary,” he said. “What we found as soon as we started this thing was it really wasnt about music at all. This film showcases so much more than that. Its about love and loss and this house was such an amazing beacon for something that we didnt know we needed. I like to say that the house showed us the best versions of ourselves.”

“It turned out to be an extremely personal story for me,” he said. “I was so engrossed in the music I didnt realize they turned the cameras on me. It really turned out to be a personal story. For almost a week we had music almost 24/7, laughing and sharing stories.”

Naugler said hes frequently asked why they didnt use a studio. The answer is simple.

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“I wasnt just going into a house for pretty pictures, it was an instrument on the album,” he said. “I wanted to embrace the wind, embrace the wheat, embrace the sound in the house. Its completely authentic. I challenged my crew to not use the technical crutches we use today.”

Having the documentary hit television screens April 4 is icing on the cake for Naugler.

“Its been all around the world already,” he said. “For us to be able to bring it back home and share it, its going to be pretty special.”

The Blake Reid Band plans to release its debut album No Roads In later this spring.

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For 7-year-old Tenira, career goals include working at a pizza place and at Walmart before becoming a lawyer. Why law?

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“So I can be smart,” said the second-grader. “And because I like having a suitcase. And I like getting on computers and typing really fast like [Mom] does.”

Its one of several choice quotes the 7 in the City project got from Tenira, who lives in Baltimores Cherry Hill neighborhood with her mom and sister.

Seven-year-old Jostin, meanwhile, cant stop talking about a horror movie franchise that debuted decades before he was born. For Halloween last fall, he dressed up as Jason Voorhees, the supernatural slasher from the Friday the 13th series. He smeared a hockey mask with fake blood before making the rounds in his Greektown neighborhood.

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Image caption: Seven-year-old Tenira has big dreams, she tells the 7 in the City students interviewing her.

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