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Launch delay for made-in-the-County movie Drifting Snow

– M. Lindon photo on location of Drifting Snow

Story by Sharon Harrison
For Cherry Valley filmmaker and editor Ryan Noth, of Fifth Town Films, his latest project, an independent film called ‘Drifting Snow’, was set to launch at The Regent Theatre in early May.

The film was almost finished, with only essential post-production elements, such as sound-mixing and colour grading, needing completion prior to release to the public. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, derailing Noth’s plans.

Filmed in and around the Prince Edward County between January and March 2019, Drifting Snow features many of Noth’s favourite spots, discovered since he moved to the County in 2012. He describes it as, “a desire to put some of those places on the map, and then it became a story.”

M. Lindon photo during Drifting Snow filming on the Glenora Ferry

There are plenty of recognizable spots in the movie, such as the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, the Glenora ferry and Black River, where the car crash scene was filmed.

“It’s locally-made and it’s about the local area,” says Noth, “And I think people will enjoy it and find some laughter and some poetic moments in it.”

“Whether it’s Essex county or Prince Edward County, you don’t get the chance normally to see stories about your home town in film especially I find, so to me, it’s made locally, almost 100 per cent shot locally (with a glimpse of the Gatineau hills), and it’s meant to reflect this community, and it’s not trying to be a Hollywood movie.”

Actor Sonja Smits plays the lead role, and she brought Colin Mochrie on board (they are husband and wife in the movie). “She also brought in other great actors like Linda Goranson and Patricia Phillips,” says Noth. There’s Jonas Bonnetta, who brought in his sister from Los Angeles, Rachel Bonnetta (they also play brother and sister in the movie), as well as Jessica Salgueiro, among others. “It was just amazing, the energy and the professionalism.”

“Sonja Smits was tremendous to work with and this was one of the first movies she has done in a long time,” said Noth. “We were lucky to work with her as she is a professional. She was so enthusiastic too, and it was unreal because on the set it was minus 20 degrees Celsius and it was like, I can’t believe she’s in our little indie project.”

As writer and director, Drifting Snow is Noth’s debut feature film. It follows two strangers (Smits and Bonnetta) on different paths dealing with different challenges; it involves a car accident, a road trip and a snowstorm where parallel experiences are revealed as they discover their real destinations in life.

“They are both dealing with loss; one’s younger, one’s older and they have a car crash at night where they share the ride and basically get to know each other on the drive in the winter,” he says. “They reminisce about some of their past winters in the County and how he is dealing with the loss of his mother and taking care of her own home, and she is dealing with the loss of her husband and trying to start a new life.”

The other half of Fifth Town Films is Noth’s partner, Tess Girard, an award-winning cinematographer (she is behind the camera in Drifting Snow), also a filmmaker and director of photography in her own right. In eight years of County living, the couple has produced five short films, and are currently in post-production on Girard’s latest feature, Prison Farm.

Graduating from Queen’s University in 2001 with a film studies degree, Noth worked his way up and became an editor and a producer, making his own films on the side. The pair has been making heritage minutes as well as some shorts, where Noth spends much of his time in the barn studio editing for other people on various films, features, shorts or whatever it may be.

“Basically I’ve been wanting to make a film about the rural roads and the highways, like the 401 in Ontario, for about as long as I have been interested in cinema,” he says. “When we started, I would be editing Tess’s films or she would be shooting stuff for me, and we moved together out here and some projects came up and we formed our production company, Fifth Town Films.”

The launch of Drifting Snow scheduled at The Regent Theatre for early May has been postponed, for now. A farm-to-table reception (to include cast and crew), another fundraiser for the project, also put on hold, for now.

Tess and Ryan on set.

Noth is very aware this is not a good time to be seeking donations for his project and feels awkward asking for support.

He knows these are uncertain times for many and he is reluctant to call upon his community. Having come this far, abandoning the film isn’t an option, so the show must go on, but it will be delayed until September or October, or whenever life returns to something close to normal.

Produced with financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Drifting Snow has also received financial support from a micro investment from Uncle and Ante arts incubator.

In order to put the finishing touches to the film, so it can be released in festival, theatrical and digital formats this year, he needs to raise funds to cover the post-production costs.

Drifting Snow was due to be premiered at the Kingston Film Festival, but was cancelled two days beforehand; a theatrical event in Toronto also cancelled.

“We have lost about $10,000 in box office alone from all those things in our planning and estimates and that’s been a really harsh blow for us.”

“Our original budget was about $75,000 total for production, and we need maybe another $20,000 or so for post-production costs.”

Noth had to cancel an online Kickstarter fundraising project with a goal of $10,000.

“This whole movie was made with community support, so I am grateful for everything that has been contributed so far.”

Noth brought in friends, neighbours, and retired industry professionals who worked for very little. “It was great how all these people popped up locally; it was pretty amazing and I was blown away by the support.”

He also noted a number of local businesses stepped up to help, allowing Fifth Town to film at their location, whether it was Mad Dog Gallery, County Traders or Stowaway Vintage. “All these places I know and love and really wanted to be part of the film in some way were kind enough to open their doors to us.”

The kickstarter campaign offered small ways to help contribute to post-production costs, including a pre-order a digital copy of the film and soundtrack for as little as $12.

Drifting Snow painting by Stewart Jones

Wellington artist and friend Stewart Jones painted a 30 x 40 inch oil on panel painting for the movie. ‘Drifting Snow’ features in the film. Jones suggested the painting could be auctioned off to raise some funds for the production.

“He managed to sell the painting privately for a good amount of money, and that was really unexpected,” said Noth. “That was his painting, he didn’t have to do that; it was a moment of kindness and he just let me know we are all in this together.” Limited-edition prints (18 x 24 inches approx.) of Drifting Snow were available on the campaign for a minimum pledge of $100, with free shipping in North America or for local pick-up.

Learn more about Fifth Town Films at https://www.fifthtownfilms.com/projects or contact Ryan and Tess at info@fifthtownfilms.com for more information, or to make a donation to support the release of the film.

 

 

 

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