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Wednesday, 26 March 2014 14:21

It’s all Rosies for Rosebud’s Smoke Signal Media

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When Rosebud Theatre actors Royal Sproule, Jordan Cutbill and Aaron Krogman formed their own production company, they could not have guessed a chance meeting with someone from Scandia, Alta. would result in a plethora of award nominations in their inaugural year in operation.

Lo and behold March 20, the 2014 Alberta Film & Television Awards (The Rosies) nominees were announced and the Rosebud trio’s Smoke Signal Media was nominated for seven awards for the film Carl’s Way which is about legendary Scandia resident Carl Anderson. 
According to the official release: “the 35-minute 1930s historical drama details Carl Anderson’s legendary negotiation in which the CPR actually paid the farmers of the Eastern Irrigation District (EID) to take over in 1935. The proof is in the pudding, as the EID is now the largest private landowner in Alberta.”
These nominations included the categories: Best Dramatic Production, Over 30 Minutes; Best Director, Drama over 30 minutes (Francis Damberger); Best Screenwriter, Drama Over 30 Minutes (Aaron Krogman); Best Cinematographer Drama Over 30 Minutes (Wes Doyle); Best Overall Sound, Drama Over 30 Minutes (John Blerot); Best Original Musical Score (Drama) Luke Ertman; and Best Production Designer/Art Director (Royal Sproule).
Sproule was elated and couldn’t believe the attention Smoke Signal Media’s first effort received.
“Absolutely shocked,” was how Sproule described the “Rosie” news. “Francis Damberger, the director told us to send the film to AMPIA (the Alberta Media Production Industries Association). He said the movie was looking good and he joked ‘if you get some nominations you won’t need me anymore.’ So, we threw our hat in the ring.”
They got onto the story of Carl Anderson through a chance meeting. One of the Rosebud trio was talking with B.J. Janzen, who owns the Rosebud Country Inn, but is also a member of the Belles of the Badlands, a marketing group whose official base is in Drumheller, but in reality is comprised of eight women from southeast Alberta. The Belles also includes Sharon Fisk from Scandia.
“Me and Aaron were invited to (Sharon and husband Bob’s) house and ate and they’re telling us this story about Carl and how they wanted to film his story,” explains Sproule and Joe Chomistek of the Eastern Irrigation District Historical Park in early 2011 was also part of the discussions. “We left and then I said, ‘I think we’re hired to do this.’ We were quite fortunate as they wanted us to do this without seeing any (film work). They had said they had seen me on the Rosebud Stage and Passion Play so they felt we could do this.
“It’s always been in the back of our minds. I’ve always been interested in Alberta people. I thought we could do a movie, there’s a lot of rural stories out there. I know a lot of rural people and I know about the importance if irrigation, but I didn’t know what Carl had pulled off ... (the story) was intriguing.
“The neat challenge was to do what kind of movie, just a bunch of photos with a voice over? We thought, let’s bring Carl to life on film. Wow, we pulled out and what we were able to max out of the budget we had...”
Sproule says he talked to a lot of people in Scandia about what they knew of Anderson and was impressed with the range of opinions people had of him. He was particularly floored with the amount of help, co-operation and enthusiasm, local residents had for the project. In fact there are many locals actually within the production including Chomistek, who Sproule thought was outstanding in so many facets including letting the film crew shoot on his land, access different ‘props”, background information and his overall assistance.
There was also the obvious difference in going from theatrical stage to film. Sproule says it was an adjustment, but more so for actors of theatre than the actual production.
“A lot of it is boring administrative stuff. Shooting a movie is very difficult to shoot in order and on a tight schedule overall and daily. So as an actor you can’t work yourself into character. For example, in a film, there’s no hope in being able to nurture a performance in the audition. You’ve got to be able to nail it right away because there’s no time. Even for the main character, time is money, you shoot out of sequence. We shot Carl’s last scene first for example because of a great sunset we had.
“After you roll that film, he better hit it right away.”
The Alberta Government has also supported the project through the Alberta Multimedia Development Fund.
Sproule adds a key to the success was to surround themselves with talented, veteran technical people including Damberger, Blerot and Doyle and the results speak for themselves.
The trio learned a lot about production and are confident moving forward.
In the meantime, they await the awards ceremony. The 2014 Alberta Film & Television Awards will take place at a gala evening presentation on Saturday, April 12, at Calgary’s TELUS Convention Centre.
The first screening of Carl’s Way will be in Brooks on June 14. The general public can view the film at the Eastern Irrigation District Historical Park in Scandia this summer.

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Ryan Dahlman

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