Two London filmmakers are $1,000 closer to bringing London’s history to life on the big screen.
Their film was one of five projects competing for January’s grant from Awesome London. The announcement took place before a crowded room at Poacher’s Arms pub.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel is an upcoming documentary by long-time friends Mark Drewe and Steve Charles.
The feature-length film explores the lives of four individuals who came to London in the mid-1800s (some as escaped slaves) and how each contributed to the multicultural history of southwest Ontario.
The movie began as an attempt to document the relocation and preservation of the 165-year-old African Methodist Episcopal Church, known for its role aiding fugitive slaves in the 1800s. While researching the chapel, Drewe (a videographer) and Charles (an architectural drafter who helped plan the structure’s move) became engrossed in the stories of the people connected to the church.
“There’s so much in London’s history here that we just don’t hear about,” Drewe said. “These people had really interesting stories and we want to show the whole picture, good and bad.”
Drewe and Charles think viewers will be surprised at some of the connections and events revealed in their film.
The two men admit turning old photos and interviews into a compelling film for modern audience can be a challenge. They plan to use the $1,000 to digitize more historical photos and animate the most significant ones.
“This money from Awesome London is going to let us really bring some of the key happenings in the movie to life,” Drewe said.
When their project was named as the winner of the grant, Charles became emotional. “It’s just amazing, what’s going on in this room tonight; people helping people. That’s why I got involved with this film project, and I’m so grateful.”
Charles explained that the film was inspired by his volunteer work with the slave chapel, and that he was inspired to volunteer by memories of man who once helped his father in a time of need.
“He helped my father, helped my family, and I never forgot it,” Charles said as he thanked the Awesome London trustees who each contributed $100 towards the $1,000 cash prize.
One of those trustees was Dave Mitchell. “The movie is really sharing something special about London, and we want it to be the best it can be.”
The Light at the End of the Tunnel is due to be completed in 2016 and, according to Drewe, is already attracting attention from outlets in Canada and the US.
For details about Awesome London including how to apply for a grant, see www.awesomelondon.ca.
Chris McInnis is a volunteer with Awesome London.