PONTIAC June 2, 2021
Two filmmakers, one from each side of the Ottawa River, are teaming up to produce Heart of the Valley, a documentary film featuring 15 unique residents of the Ottawa Valley area, including four Pontiacers.
Tyson Burger, 25, of L’Isle aux Allumettes and Josh Murphy, 26, of Pembroke, Ont. have produced several films together in the past, but this is their first plunge into a full-length feature film.
“We’ve made a few horror movies, kind of horror comedies. I’ve lived in Montreal for the last six years … and I moved back just for the pandemic,” Burger explained. “But yeah, I’ll come back every now and then and we’ll do a project together. But this is our first kind of feature length and really serious project, and definitely the one we’ve put the most time into.”
Murphy said that the idea behind the project was inspired by a film they both came across focused on telling the stories of a collection of Florida residents through a “loose narrative” that didn’t follow a linear plotline. With the looseness of the film striking both of them as an opportunity to have further creative freedom with the interview subjects and interview material, the two decided to adopt a similar approach to making Heart of the Valley.
“I wanted to do a portrait of the people who live here, in a way,” Murphy said.
“After [watching that], I had the thought of, ‘That would be the perfect way to convey this area’,” he added.
Having both grown up in the area, Burger said it wasn’t too difficult deciding who to choose to interview for the film, and they had no issue with finding people who were both willing and wanted to be interviewed.
“[With] asking them questions, it was just kind of like very conversational, I had a few opening questions but follow up questions is where most of our content came from,” he added. “If somebody started talking about a passion they had randomly then [we] would pursue that in the interview.”
Representing the Pontiac side of the valley are Dan McGuire and Ryan Venasse of Chapeau, and Jane Lemure and Serena Leroy of Waltham.
McGuire built a solar-panel car and frequently drives it around Chapeau and Pembroke, which made for a uniquely cool subject, according to Burger. The duo ran into Venasse at the skateboard park and thereafter interviewed him. Meanwhile, Lemure and Leroy are mother and daughter.
“The only rule we had going into this, or one of the only ones, is to have a diverse base of subjects,” explained Burger. “[So] people of different ages, different races, sexualities, gender orientations, more wealthy or less so, and yeah so I think it came together to make a really kind of complete, but also diverse chorus of voices of people in the valley.”
Having not spent long periods of time in the Pontiac since high school, Burger said that aside from the experience being an enjoyable return, it has also had some unexpected effects on his perception of the place he grew up in.
“For me, it’s like I’ve been away from the valley for six years, and this is kind of my first formal re-engagement with it,” he explained. “And I think, for both of us in a lot of ways, it’s been a really interesting reintroduction to the valley for us, and it’s changed a lot of our perspectives and assumptions. And I think it’ll probably do that for the viewer too.”
I’ve been living in Montreal and maybe think of Pembroke as a bit more of like, a close-minded space, less progressive or less creative and yeah, I’ve just been proven wrong in the course of this and I’m really happy about that,” he added.
The filmmaking duo tentatively are planning to screen the finished product at the end of August, with several possible venues lined up for the film’s premiere including Festival Hall and the Riverwalk Amphitheatre in Pembroke. They said they’re also considering having it put on DVD or Blu-Ray, which would mean the film could be physically released sometime next summer.
The filming portion of the process took place last summer, and the pair said that a significant-forty minutes of the documentary has been edited so far. Burger said that one of the biggest challenges throughout the process was taking the “mountain of footage” and sorting out how to put it together concisely.
“I think that it’s established that we’re not trying to paint a comprehensive view of the valley, but by showing glimpses into people’s lives we at least get a better idea of what this area is and who these people are who live in this area,” Murphy added.
It’s almost like against the comprehensive view of the valley is kind of what we’re doing in a way,” Burger said. “Like interviewing people who you wouldn’t normally think of when you think small town and it’s just been really nice to hear their perspectives.
A trailer of the feature-length film is available on YouTube and is titled The Heart of the Valley (2021 documentary) - Trailer #1.
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