By Chris Illich
We all know that life is not easy. We’re always faced with challenges that may range from as small as not knowing what to wear to as large as having a drastic life changing event occur. We all know that both good and bad things are going to happen within your lifetime, but it’s how we deal with these events that ultimately shape who we are and what we’ll become.
That notion, about how you approach situations and how you learn from them, is what Adrian Thiessen and his team at Fourgrounds Media Inc. wanted to capture with their first feature film, The Hotel Dieu.
The Hotel Dieu, in essence, is a coming of age film about a young person who’s faced with some pretty big challenges and he’s not ready to deal with it. The main character loses his eyesight in a near fatal accident early on, and it sets the tone for the rest of the film.
“The story isn’t necessarily about that challenge in particular, but about how people approach problems in general,” Thiessen explained. “This character is looking for a solution to his immediate problem, but the people around him are trying to help him through it. It’s a slice of life kind of story.”
The film evolved from a short story that Michael Krasney created, who is a Writer and Producer of the film. The short story was very similar in concept to the film, but for the feature they needed to take the concept and expand the world around it. One of the interesting things about making a film is that the final product quite often ends up being very different than what you initially expected.
“It definitely evolved through post-production as we were able to develop a little bit more ambiguity as we were cutting it, but it evolved a lot along the way, for sure,” Thiessen said.
The film began its production in 2013 when they were able to land the Hotel Dieu Hospital as a shooting location. As the hospital was being decommissioned, Thiessen was able to secure permission to shoot there.
“We sort of realized how great the opportunity was and then that’s when it turned into a bigger project,” he explained. “We were literally running around grabbing things out of the dumpsters and asking if we could keep equipment to recreate a hospital wing.”
At that point, everything Fourgrounds Media Inc. had been doing had been leading up to their first feature film. They had been gathering both experience and equipment, and had been receiving worldwide recognition for several short viral videos that they had created.
On a day-to-day basis, Fourgrounds acts as a commercial and corporate video production suite. When they have a chance to do something creative, they relish in it and invest themselves into the project.
“It was really rewarding getting a big team together and having everybody buy into the idea and help create it,” he said. “We created a bunch of jobs and had a bunch of people from Niagara working on it.”
To gain the necessary funding for the film, Fourgounds crowd-funded on Indiegogo, offering different packages for a variety of funders. All of the money raised was put directly on the screen – on actors, locations, equipment and employees.
“That meant for post-production and everything after shooting the film we were pretty much on our own. We knew we could do it all in house, but it became a project that we had to stay focused on during our day-to-day operations as a company,” Thiessen said.
“Our core team spent months and months afterwards working evenings and weekends on free time to get this project done.”
Thiessen explained that the most challenging part was staying creatively engaged on the project for so long. It made it difficult to look at it with fresh eyes. The team would take weeks away from the film so that they would be able to see it from a new perspective in order to better understand the pacing and flow of the storyline.
“Most creative people are onto the next thing right away. You always want to do new things, but film doesn’t quite work like that,” he said. “You have to stay with it for a year or two just to get it done.”
After toiling on the film for several years, The Hotel Dieu is reaping the rewards that Fourgrounds set for themselves. After just receiving the award “Best Producers of a Feature Film” at France’s St. Tropez International Film Festival, The Hotel Dieu is set to screen it’s Canadian premiere at the Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF).
“To have an up and coming festival that is looking to be on a global scale in your backyard, that’s willing to show your film is awesome,” Thiessen said.
“We had two goals that were really important to us.We really wanted to play the film somewhere outside of Canada, and we wanted to play it here in Niagara. It’s really cool to say we’re playing our film in the town that it is shot in.”
The Hotel Dieu screens in part of NIFF at Landmark Cinemas on June 20 at 3pm.