Exploring the Hidden Histories of the Ward

ward1 walk

If you haven’t heard of the Guelph Storytelling Project or Hidden Histories, it’s not too late to put it on your calendar. The Guelph Storytelling Project is a collaboration between the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, Grange Hill East neighbourhood group, Two Rivers neighbourhood group, ED Video Media Arts Centre, and the Guelph Film Festival, funded by the Guelph Community Foundation. The project offered a chance for new and experienced filmmakers to create a short film, with equipment and free educational support provided by ED Video. Local people with any level of filmmaking experience (including none!) were encouraged to “investigate and reveal an untold story of a person or place within the Two Rivers or Grange Hill East neighbourhoods of Guelph, illustrating their culture and community”.

Eight short films made through the Guelph Storytelling Project have been selected to be shown at the Guelph Film Festival as part of their ongoing Hidden Histories series.

Jay Wilson and Alison Walton are first-time filmmakers, whose short film is one of those included in Hidden Histories this November. I know Jay Wilson as both a member of Guelph Arts Council, and as a Volunteer Guide on our Historical Walking Tours. On how he got involved with this project, he says “My interest started with Terry Crowley (lead guide) introducing me to The Ward, the historic walks, personal interviews with “ward elders” and then playing in ED Video’s sandbox of film making.”

A storyteller by nature and profession, he is also a musician, and has written and performed the original song for the film he and visual artist Alison Walton have created. Their contribution to Hidden Histories is called “There’s a Factory on Our Street” and follows Walton’s developing pastel portrait of the Northern Rubber plant (now Chemtura) on Alice Street in the Ward. In their words, “more a music video, than a documentary, the film is a tribute to the building.” There is a trailer out now, but you’ll have to see the full thing during Guelph Film Festival, and as part of HATCH.

These two had never made a movie before, and took advantage of the support offered by project partner ED Video in a series of free workshops. But they would “still have to come up with the concept, shoot it, add audio, and edit.” When the film was developing, Jay had been “gathering some stories, interviewing residents and reading up on The Ward” in his capacity as a Guelph Arts Council Walking Tour Guide, he detailed on his blog.

GAC Historical Walking Tour VI: Ward One Pauses at Guelph Carpet and Spinning Mills

From Guelph Mercury Article by May Warren
Photo by Chris Seto

“There’s lots of history, starting with Sir John A MacDonald buying up the land because he heard a rumour there might be a train coming through Guelph.

The train is a prominent feature of the Ward, as is the Speed River, several foundries, textile and rubber manufacturing, market gardens, small business and lots of exceptional people… but the documentary will focus on an activity – rendering a building in pastels (making a picture), all the while discovering what we can about its location, when it was built, who lived in it, what did they do, what was going on in the ward when the house was built and so on. Now, that the walks are done for the time being, it is time to focus on the movie making.”

by jay wilson - train tracks in guelph

Photo by Jay Wilson

While Alison was creating this picture, Jay was “filming and trying to figure out editing”, with support from ED Video, learning such skills as camera use, movie making, and the trials and tribulations that go along with it.

Northern Rubber

Northern Rubber (now Chemtura) by Alison Walton

Their short film may be about a building, but it’s also about the experience of a neighbourhood’s landmarks and its people. Many curious neighbours emerged during filming to ask what they were doing out there in front of the “factory on our street”, as the lyrics go. Something that sounds like it would have attracted attention was the unique equipment set up employed by the new filmmakers.

Jay explained that without proper equipment, it’s very difficult to do a ‘truck’ shot of a building, so improvisations become necessary. He went on to describe how, with a little imagination, a camera mounted on a plant stand and a longboard can get you that long, rolling shot you need, so long as it doesn’t escape and roll into traffic!

by jay wilson ed videos camera and plant stand

Pictured: The instruments of improvisation
Photo by Jay Wilson

Catch “There’s a Factory on Our Street” along with 7 other shorts that make up Hidden Histories at the following locations as part of Guelph Film Festival:

November 2 – Two Rivers Screening
7pm – Tytler P.S. – Free

Film screening followed by Q&A with directors and subjects

November 3 – Grange Hills East Screening
7pm – Community Room@394 Auden Rd – Free

Film screening followed by Q&A with directors and subjects

November 2-8
24hr projection – Guelph Arts Council: HATCH Space – Free

Hidden Histories is an ongoing series designed to give local filmmakers the opportunity to create new works. For 2015 the focus is on storytelling. The finished project includes nine short video documentaries by new and established filmmakers. The videos investigate and reveal untold stories within the Two Rivers and Grange Hill East neighbourhoods of Guelph, illustrating their culture and community. The project began last February, with workshops and mentoring through ED Video, and culminates with the inclusion of the films at the Guelph Film Festival.

Project Manager: Erin Sproule

Participating Artists: Sandy Clipsham, Nick Craine, Dawn Matheson, Elia Morrison, and Jay Wilson.

This project is co-presented by the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, ED Video, and GFF, with support from the Guelph Community Foundation and the Guelph Arts Council.

The Hidden Histories: The Story Telling Project has been co-curated by filmmaker Erin Sproule and Guelph Film Festival Coodinator Carolyn Meili.

Hidden Histories 2015 Teaser from Elia Morrison on Vimeo.

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