Ten years ago, Cst. Scott McLeod helped produce a documentary on the pitfalls of substance abuse, making a connection between a small town in BC and Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Since then, the Aboriginal Policing officer has been helping students stay safe and educating them on how to make good choices in life.
Education and awareness through the film industry has been a recurring theme for McLeod. The impact of that first documentary has led to a sequel currently in production.
“It is used to explain what substance abuse is all about and how it can affect their lives based on someone who lives in the downtown eastside,” McLeod said. “When I showed it at A.W. Neill, the students asked if (Steve), who was interviewed, was still alive.”
McLeod found out he was, made some connections and was able to feature the Steve’s current views on substance abuse for the new documentary.
“This film blows off the myths of what substance abuse is all about,” he said. “It will be controversial but it shouldn’t be. It’s truthful.”
After the first film was made with the help of ADSS students, McLeod took them on a trip to the Lions Gate Studios (now called North Shore Studios). He struck a friendship with the president, who offered to host other classes from Port Alberni. Since then, a couple other high school classes have toured the studio to get a chance to find out what career opportunities are available in the film industry. On Monday he returned to Vancouver with another class, this time a group of Grade 7’s from Haahuupayuk Elementary School. For the younger students, the trip was an eye-opener, and for some, the first time to travel to Vancouver.
“They were engaged and excited about it,” said teacher Nancy Logan. “We had a tour of the studio and they saw how a replica airplane was created inside the building from scratch.”
The class also saw some filming take place and were most interested in the famous actors who worked on the set, including those from the X-Files and 21 Jump Street.
“I am a huge fan of Johnny Depp so that was cool,” said Semiah Bennett. “Robin Williams was there before and I loved him.”
Harold Epp has an interest in writing and drawing and said he learned how his skills could be used in the industry.
“I also learned that there are different sets that are not reused all the time,” Epp said.
The class got a taste of what goes on behind the scenes, including set design, lighting and what it takes to be an actor.
“I want to be an actor, so it helped to go there,” Bennett said. “They stay there a lot of hours and it is hard because the camera is watching them all the time and if they mess up they have to do it all over.”
Following the studio tour, the class went to Capilano College, home of the only Indigenous Independent Digital Film Making program in Canada. There they watched students film part of a project and viewed a student movie in the theatre.
“This trip was all about trying to inspire the students to look to their futures,” Logan said. “They have skills and passions and they have to realize there is a reason they are doing all of this work in school.”
McLeod hopes the trip gave the students something to think about when it comes time to deciding on career paths.
“Next year they will be going to the high school and will have a few years to think about their careers,” he said. “Perhaps this field trip will help them consider one in the movie industry. When you see the credits at the end of a movie, there are one to two hundred people supporting the film. That represents one to two hundred different careers. I want to give students the opportunity to be exposed to that.”
The trip was made possible by funding donations from the Tseshaht Market and Braker Electric.