Monthly Archives: May 2013

Sanding Dorothy and Screening Tees

Tony Grove boathull painting

We have some exciting news to report: a lovely breakthough for your favourite indie filmmakers:

Between Wood and Water – the documentary about the restoration of Dorothy, B.C.’s oldest and most beloved sloop – has attracted support from the National Film Board in the form of a filmmaker’s assistance grant!!! I heard that competition for the grant was particularly stiff this year, so the news is extremely heartening and we are well chuffed (English term) that a jury of Canada’s internationally esteemed film institution believes the Dorothy story is important. We thought so too!

The amount of money is not huge, (about 5% of what we need to complete production), but every little bit helps, and we are extremely grateful to the NFB for selecting this project.

(if you’ve never had the chance to check out the NFB’s unparalleled library of documentaries, animations and ground-breaking Canadian films, you really should, they are free online within in Canada. If you don’t know where to start, go to their curated playlists here.)

So as we prepare for our first major shoot of the restoration phase of this story in June, some things are going down:

1. Tony begins wooding Dorothy’s hull next week, stripping and sanding off the paint, to  reveal what’s going on and how extensive his work will be;

2. I am practicing my pitches for major networks congregating at the Banff media festival next weekend. One of them is of course the Dorothy documentary,  another is a maritime history and adventure series called Waterway Queens that was inspired by the research I did for Dorothy. The story of my opportunity at Banff can be read here, in an article in the Gabriola Sounder (this is what happens when you live on a small island: you make the local paper way more often.)

T-shirts-Dot-photo3. We are working on a fundraising campaign to raise needed production funds this summer. It MAY involve silkscreening “I love the Dorothy” T-shirts to sell (at right). Would you be interested in one? The graphic design is being done by one of the best designers I know, and Tony Grove himself drew Dorothy’s lines (see his artwork at top.)

Sanding Dorothy’s hull will be an arduous, dirty, dusty job, but the end, will result in the revelation of her beautiful wood, those ancient cedar planks that have stood the test of time. This very wood is what inspired me to pursue this story: the enduring relationship between wood and water.

Asking for money and running a fundraiser is not going to be particularly easy, either. But I know we have a great team to produce a great film, and so in the current climate of my industry, I have to be brave and find people and organizations to contribute. And this will result in relationships and connections to will last a lifetime, and I will be only one of many who can say “I produced a film” – because we ALL produced this film! It’s in this spirit of collectivity that many of the successful films are being made today.

The usual administrative hurdles remain to be overcome. As a production company, I may not actually be able to receive “gifts”, so one workaround might be simply to sell goods of varied pricing. (Coming soon: Dorothy T-shirts ranging from $25 – $200!) Hopefully I’ll have things worked out by next week, so those of you who have expressed interest in donating, thanks for your patience.

But when I think of the end result, I know it’s going to be worth it. We will have a film that speaks for those who love British Columbia’s maritime history. It will convey the passion of those who sacrifice so much for the vessels they love – wooden or otherwise. It will highlight the work of a wonderful contemporary artist – Tony Grove, and the art of boat restoration. It will promote the work of the B.C. Maritime Museum in Victoria, which is home to Canada’s largest library of nautical archives and has been keeping the maritime flame lit for over 40 years.

And it will speak to and inspire a new generation of men and women who, like the Teacher in Proverbs, find:

“There are three things that are too amazing for me,

four that I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,

the way of a snake on a rock,

the way of a ship on the high seas,

and the way of a man with a maiden.”

(Proverbs 30 18-19)

Victoria Classic boat fest poster2

A surprise shoot for spring

Tobi Elliott: Producer and occasional shooter. May 17, 2013. Photo by Tony Grove

Tobi Elliott: Producer and occasional shooter. May 17, 2013. Photo by Tony Grove

On Thursday this week, Producer Tobi Elliott grabbed camera and gear for an impromptu filming adventure as Dorothy‘s restoration expert, Tony Grove, headed to Victoria B.C. to meet master caulker Ted Knowles. Knowles had worked with boatbuilder Brian Walker for years, eventually taking over his boatbuilding shop off the Gorge waterway in View Royal. Walker had built many of Frank Fredette’s boats, who had been in turn an apprentice to J.J. Robinson, one of Victoria’s first shipwrights and Dorothy‘s builder in 1896.

Ted Knowles' 80 year old boatshop. Photo by Tony Grove.

Ted Knowles’ 80 year old boatshop. Photo by Tony Grove.

The Walker/Knowles shop is a shipbuilding gem, having been built sometime in the 1940s, and it truly offers a fascinating glimpse into history. It’s also a bit of an anomaly since its the last remaining shop along the waterfront of that part of Victoria. There used to be a number of small boat yards on the harbour, and Ted’s is the last. More importantly, it is one of our last ties to the west coast tradition of the fisherman boatbuilder, who built and maintained his own boat in his own yard. There are a few of these guys left, but mostly they have turned to building.

Tony Grove & Ted Knowles outside his shop in View Royal. screenshot ©Arise Enterprises

Tony Grove & Ted Knowles outside his shop in View Royal. screenshot ©Arise Enterprises

Tony wanted to see this shop before it closes up forever:

As with many workshops, the way these spaces are set up, designed and the tools used in them tells a story. Some might even say these spaces reveal the soul of those who worked in them. This story means that much more when the shop is almost a century old and has gone through many hands and personalities. 

When these shops are dismantled they reveal their hidden secrets; when they are demolished forever, that time in histroy is also erased. In this case, perhaps only this film recording will be the hard evidence of its existence, while the people who lived their lives in these spaces eventually fade along with the memories.

For me I love seeing these old shops: they teach me new ideas – which are only past ideas rediscovered and developed in a different era, when things weren’t available on demand – and show me the resilience and ingenuity of the people from our not-so-distant past.

Ted graciously showed us around the maze of maze of tools, large equipment, wood he’s been collecting from around the world (Mahogany, Honey Locust, Pacific Yew, Douglas Fir), generators, saws, designs, glues, varnishes and every manner of paraphenalia related to boatbuilding that he had been unearthing and organizing for months. It is a beautiful, functional space, and it was a privilege to see it before it changes hands at the end of June.

After doing a good bit of exploring, Ted showed us the second gem we had come to see: a stack of beautiful 100-year old Teak from first growth Burmese forests (now Myanmar) that had been salvaged from the decks of the Union Steamship CardenaBuilt in 1922, the hardworking, reliable S.S. Cardena provided marine service up and down the British Columbia coast for 35 years, bringing supplies to the resource communities up the coast, and returning to Vancouver and Prince Rupert with canned salmon for export around the world.

She was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1961, and Knowles rescued the precious teak from her decks for re-use. He felt some of the wood could be useful for Dorothy‘s restoration, because it’s the type of wood that would have been used to trim her in 1896 when she was built, and it was harvested in that era.

Ted is a very practical man, both when assessing the takedown of his historic shop, and the purposes and function of wood. He had this to say about using this wood on Dorothy:

“It’s not like,’Hey let’s throw a whole bunch of teak on Dorothy… because Dorothy isn’t a teak boat. It’s a boat that was built of native woods and built well and it’s lasted well, and it doesn’t need teak to be Dorothy. You don’t want to use teak as a pretentious geegaw or a flashy item, you want to use it for things that are really necessary, like maybe hatch slides. Or the top of a sliding hatch. Or companionway steps. Things where you touch, or you see, or you feel, and teak is appropriate for. It doesn’t have to be teak just because it’s teak.”

Thanks for the reminder, Ted: using the right wood for the right purpose is probably why Dorothy has lasted so long. I’m sure it’s a principle that Tony and the Maritime Museum will adhere to in her present restoration.

And thanks for the amazing tour of your historic shop. It’s one we won’t forget.

– Tobi Elliott

Engaging the power of community

Dorothy on water-sepia

So I told you last week I would reveal the “plan” I have up my sleeve for getting this doc produced. Well, ideally I would still love a broadcast partner to come on board. That’s the best case scenario because then we have a place to show the film once finished, and we could produce it under a more realistic budget. As I go to the Banff Media Festival next month, the Dorothy film will be one of the projects I bring to pitch, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

But my other plan – because dang it! we’re going to make a film about Dorothy, aren’t we??!! – involves partnering directly to our audience to make the film. In this day and age of indie filmmaking, the practice of crowdfunding through sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter has become immensely popular. Instead of relying on one or two big funders, we have potentially 1,000s of “little” funders who can contribute whatever they feel able towards the film. It all depends on outreach and building community, but thankfully that has become easier with the advent of social media.

PerksSome call this age the democratization of media because as slots for independent films on television become fewer, the cost of actually making films also continues to decrease. In some ways, filmmaking is actually getting a lot simpler: instead of going through 3rd party channels like expensive studios and distributors, we can partner directly with the people who want to see the film made. Producers are beginning to turn more and more to regular people to fund production in exchange for “perks” – everything from a merchandise and film-related swag, to an executive producer credit in the film.

Some big studios are even catching on to this. You might have heard in the news lately about the producers of The Veronica Mars movie, who aimed to raise $2 million and instead pulled in $5.7 million. The highest proportion of backers (23,227 people) put in just $50 to get a host of swag, including a DVD of the movie with a behind-the-scenes documentary and special bonus features. Another example: Zach Braff’s recent campaign for his indie feature “Wish I was Here” garnered $2.5 million with 36,000 backers. Now, these projects both have high profile actors and a cult following, so it’s easy to see how they could be successful.

But I would argue that Dorothy has an equally strong following – albeit local, and a relatively niche group – of passionate watercraft lovers who want to see her restored and celebrated as she should be. And it just takes a few of us – a few dedicated “super fans” who are willing to spread the word – to pull in a wider community of people. And before you know it, we have a collective force that can do a lot more together than a few of us can accomplish alone.

My approach to filmmaking is that I don’t have all the answers, and I like to work with a community to source out the answers I don’t have. I also have only limited resources. I work hard to do a good job telling the stories that come my way and honour them with my talents and a lot of energy. But if we go the unconventional indie route, we need more than just “Tobi and Kate”. We need a whole community to make this happen.

Our immediate need is to cover 3 essential shoots this summer and fall – one of which is coming up very soon in June when two of Dorothy’s previous owners (David Baker and Angus Matthews) visit her and go over her history with Tony. Another shoot will take place in Victoria as we catalogue the archives and conduct interviews with the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, as well as some interviews at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where she was berthed for so long. And a 3rd this fall at the Victoria Classic Boat festival where we hope to capture the vibe of the classic boat community.

To cover these, I plan to launch a small fundraising campaign at the Ladysmith Maritime Festival on June 8th, to run through the summer and culminate with the Victoria Classic Boat festival Aug 30/31-Sept 1. We have a few ideas up our sleeves (silkscreened “I Love the Dorothy” T-shirts, anyone?) of merch to sell as fundraisers and gifts, and we welcome all suggestions. If you are associated with a company that produces something we’d be able to resell, please get in touch.

That’s all for now! Hope you’re all enjoying the beautiful west coast weather and getting out on the water as much as possible.

Happy Sailing!

Tobi Elliott, Producer BETWEEN WOOD AND WATER

classic boat fest race2011

Picking up the story thread

Poster for Classic Boat Festival 2007 featuring Dorothy under sail.

Poster for Classic Boat Festival 2007 featuring Dorothy under sail.

It’s been exactly four months to the day since we spent a beautiful January morning filming John West and Eric Waal – trustees for the B.C. Maritime Museum – as they visited Dorothy on Gabriola Island where she resides in queenly estate at Tony Grove’s shop. Four months! How the heck did that happen –??

But in all fairness, we’ve been busy in the meantime: Tony had a few other jobs to do, including completing a beautiful door and set of curved outdoor benches for the new Gabriola Community Health Centre (some examples of Tony’s custom doors here) and Kate Bradford and I (Tobi Elliott) had other stories to chase in the grand adventure known as documentary filmmaking. (Forgive the cross-promotion here: I’m producing another film based in B.C.’s northeast called The Trapper of Peace River about the conflict over the rich natural resources of the Peace region, and developing a few TV series ideas. I’ll be going to Banff Media Festival in June to pitch some of them, one of which is a history series I’m calling Waterway Queens – inspired by my research on Dorothy of course!)

But there is nothing so satisfying as a detour when you know you have a great story like Dorothy waiting for you when you get home! Dignified she stands, with her century-old wood and her elegant lines, patiently waiting for us mere humans on our hourly timeclock, knowing that as we scramble after other opportunities and chase our tails, she will inevitably draw us back. She is indeed a beloved boat, and I fear even my objective journalistic mind is falling romantically under her spell!

And so I find myself at this juncture pondering the way forward. We have been at a crossroads about this documentary for some time. Decisions need to be made – and soon, for Tony is about to pick up hammer and claw again to get down to business. For us as filmmakers, the decision is not whether to continue filming – the Dorothy story is a fantastic one and her restoration resonates on so many different levels that I feel we have a duty to tell it – but how to proceed in making the documentary without a broadcaster.

Last winter we had been in talks with network X – our favourite broadcaster and clearly the choice for us to work with – but we couldn’t come to terms. Suffice it to say the network would be more than happy to acquire a film about Dorothy once it is completed, but could not get behind it at this point for the much more expensive license fee. Which is discouraging, to be honest, because getting a license from a broadcaster is traditionally how you get films made in Canada.

Luckily, we have other options. The plan I’m forming will take independence, guts and no small amount of relish for risk, but I think it can be done. There is hope! I’ll cover this idea in a post next week, promise! I know I’ve been terrible about keeping up with Dorothy news but really, did you want me to clog up your inbox with non-news?

But in the meantime I have one small request: if you are reading this, can you send me a quick email at dorothysails@gmail.com , pretty please, with your postal code or your city of residence? 

When I set up the sign up feature on the Dorothy homepage, my overworked brain didn’t think of setting up a way of figuring out where you are all located! It’s helpful to know where our audience is for later down the line when we want to distribute the film, so we can set up screenings in your area and connect with your organizations.

And let me know a bit about yourself. Are you a boater, sailing enthusiast, armchair wooden boat fanatic, member of a yacht club or maritime organization or…? In short, who are you? 

I promise not to spam you or give away your email addresses – as a member of dozens of newsletters I know what it’s like to click delete 20 times until I get that one I’m genuinely interested in. I just want to know who is legitimately interested in the project or in receiving updates.

So hang tight, rest assured the producing wheels are clicking away in the background, and that Dorothy and her wonderful story of redemption and glory will get told somehow, some day!

Cheers for now and happy sailing to all! ~

Tobi, Kate and Tony

Tobi, Tony & Kate wrap first day shooting, Nov 2012- photo by Tony Grove.

Tobi, Tony & Kate wrap first day shooting, Nov 2012- photo by Tony Grove.

Kate Bradford in playhouse waiting for the shot.

Kate Bradford in playhouse waiting for the shot.

Tobi's excited for the first shoot day - way back in Oct 2012!

Tobi’s super excited for the first shoot day – way back in Nov 2012! Photo by Klint Burton