Bashaw filmmaker Ben Wilson had a night to remember showcasing his most recent film about Bashaw resident Ed McFadden.
Called The Art of Living, Wilson premiered his 27-minute short on March 24 at Bashaw United Church with a decent crowd, including the star and subject, 90-year-old Ed McFadden. The short documentary was the result of two years of work and countless hours behind the camera and in the editing room.
The story follows McFadden and his love of dancing at the jam sessions held at the Majestic Theatre. But it’s also about a man who continues to live and love life despite having to deal with age-related macular degeneration.
McFadden’s response about being the subject of the short film was humble. “I’m not really used to things like this.”
Despite being considered legally blind, McFadden tells the story of his full life and it shows how he continues to enjoy experiences that seem to ripple and affect those around him. He paints, plus he draws personal cards for his friends. And, he dances.
McFadden finds any opportunity to dance at the Majestic Theatre jam sessions that occur from time to time. “I enjoy it and it seems like most of the ladies like to dance with me,” he added.
For him the biggest surprise of the whole experience was being filmed and interviewed with the camera grinding away and Wilson asking a multitude of questions.
Wilson’s interviews of McFadden present a candid and heartfelt life story of the man who was originally born in Bashaw and then travelled when he turned 18. He’s been back in town for the last 20 years or so.
From Wilson’s perspective there was so much to McFadden’s life that came out of the interviews it was a challenge to know what to keep and what to take out.
McFadden goes into deep detail of his life telling about the times when he worked in an area where Cree was the only language that people spoke, so he learned it. Plus there’s the one where McFadden hunted a moose to feed a starving village.
Those are all key aspects of his life, said Wilson, and yet, after watching the tapes, the above stories didn’t make the film because Wilson wanted to keep the focus on the dances and Ed.
With hours and hours of audio and video, the actual story started to take shape during the editing process. During the interviews and taping process it was difficult to find the theme he was looking for because of the many technical aspects of the production; often times it was only Wilson and maybe an assistant.
“Evening after evening at home, going through the raw footage, just listening to stories…really getting deep into who this person is and what Ed’s life is all about,” said Wilson of when he started to find a theme.
“What was good about that was that Ed was able to be more vulnerable in those conversations because it was just me,” he added.
This premiere was the first time McFadden had seen the film. And his review? He said he quite enjoyed the film.
Wilson presented McFadden with a poster of the movie signed by all the attendees and in turn McFadden’s family presented Wilson with one of his paintings.
Along with Wilson’s premiere were several short films, all with a theme related to elders. The hope is to create an annual short film movie night.
With help from an Alberta Foundation of the Arts grant, Wilson was able to complete the film and present it in his home town.