After two years, The Change Agents is ready for the big screen.
But the film — which is the first of its kind — isn’t just an L.V. Rogers project. In preparation for the premiere on Thursday, the major motion picture was flown to Belgium and shown to people from 30 countries.
The Change Agents — originally titled Project Turquoise Snowflake — centres around the story of 17-year-old Carly Dutoff who has a Doukhobor activist background.
Dutoff and her peers find themselves in the midst of family difficulties while coming of age in an era environmental degradation that has not ever been faced by previous generations.
As the cast and crew of The Change Agents prepare for the big screen debut, the silver screen seems to be dominated by themes which have inspired the film.
“What we’re finding as we share this story internationally, is that what we’re doing as Canadians matters,” said executive producer JoAnn Lowell. “The fact that many Canadians care and have a different opinion that what our government is doing around the tarsands and having no national water policy shows that Canadians care.”
Lowell said as she brought the film to Belgium to be viewed by a test audience, people were in tears and approached her afterwards asking how the could be come a Change Agent.
In partnership with the premiere of the film, a website will be launched promoting a social campaign asking how you are a change agent.
“It’s not just a high school production that we made and is watched once,” said Lowell. “That’s what a lot of people may have thought because it is was little baby, and now this will premiere on Thursday and show the community what we have spent the last two years focusing on.”
Producer Alecia Maslechko began the journey with The Change Agents in Grade 10 as a student in writer and director Robyn Sheppard’s LVR film class.
Sheppard created the class as a way to train students under the membership of people who had worked in film and television.
For six month the students learned about the various facets of film and from the first day. Maslechko said she was hooked.
“I thought it was so interesting, fun and thrilling to be on set, and not acting as I had normally done,” she said. “Now acting seems like a minor role compared to the work the backstage people have to do.”
It wasn’t just the love of the work on the project Maslechko enjoyed, but also the message behind it.
Unlike movies such as An Inconvenient Truth, The Change Agents focuses on the voice of the youth driving change.
Maslechko said the fictional story of the movie makes the message more accessible to the general public.
“I think it’s very important that youth are the focus in this film, seeing as youth are the future,” she said. “We are the ones that have to fix-up the earth and whatever choices our generation makes is going to make or break what happens in the future.”
Both Lowell and Maslechko said the themes behind The Change Agents are driven by a sense of urgency where people are questioning the status quo of what is being done on the planet.
“Whatever we do and end up deciding is really what is going to decide the future of the earth,” said Maslechko. “I think by showing adults who have either helped create the situation we’re in or ones who have helped fight previously, it could be inspiring for some of them to see that the youth really do care.”
As the audience follows the story of the characters, they will see the relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter. But they will also see the changing relationship between Dutoff and her environment.
“They are coming of age and are being handed a world that’s environmental degraded,” said Lowell. “No other generation has ever been given that. I — as an older person to these young generations — say shame on us, what have we done. This is not the way. No other species on the earth would do this to their younger generations.”
As the film was shown in Europe, it was simultaneously translated in six different languages, and Lowell said after it had finished the translators were in tears.
“The beauty of this film, and I see this in life, I am surrounded by a lot of really great young people and our young people are often elders in young bodies and they are saying wake up and do something and if you don’t do something, we are going to do something,” said Lowell.
In addition to the international, social and environmental impact of the film, the experience has also effected the futures of the students involved.
During the summer, Maslechko had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver and work for three weeks in an animation studio.
“I have heard of a couple other possibilities of me working there again. They aren’t confirmed yet,” she said. “It is opening doors for me which is very exciting.”
While Maslechko was involved in the creation of the film from pre-production to post-production, it was the final stages she found most interesting.
“I’m one of the few students who worked through the post-production,” she said. “Most of the people were involved with the filming on set, but I’ve really enjoyed the afterwards stuff with the media, the editing and just being part of the producers. It’s been a really interesting journey.”
As a teenager growing up in a world of the tarsands, Enbridge Pipeline and the BP oil spill, Maslechko thinks it is important to have a film like The Change Agents that makes the message accessible to her peers.
“I have friends in Calgary who aren’t being taught anything about these issues,” she said. “Many of them know about the tarsands, but don’t have any clue about what’s really going on and the impact of them. I think it’s an important thing to share with people in an interesting way.”
Maslechko, who is now in Grade 12, is hoping after she graduates this year she will head off to Vancouver for a year at the Vancouver Film School and hopefully eventually Los Angeles.
The Change Agents will premiere on Thursday night at the Capitol Theatre. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.