Indian Road Trip rolls through Nicola Valley

By on June 14, 2017
Ajuawak Kapashesit receives acting (or mechanical) advice from director Allan Hopkins. (Cole Wagner/Herald).

The Nicola Valley earned high praise from director Allan Hopkins, after his most recent project wrapped production in various locations around Merritt earlier this month.

Hopkins, who awarded the Whistler Film Festival’s BC’s Got Talent Spotlight last year, was in the community shooting feature-length comedy he wrote called Indian Road Trip.

“The First Nations communities have been amazing here, they’ve been so supportive, many many people have come out,” said Hopkins. “All the Chiefs have just opened up their communities to us, it’s just been wonderful. The local people that have shown up, either on screen or on crew, have been phenomenal too. Couldn’t be happier, couldn’t have been a better experience.”

The premise of the film is centred on “two restless and unruly young Native men,” played by Ajuawak Kapashesit and Paul C. Grenier.

The two lead actors of Indian Road Trip, Paul C. Grenier (left) and Ajuawak Kapashesit (far right) pose with actors-in-training from Kamloops; JJ George (11) and Liam Boisclair (10). (Cole Wagner/Herald).

“The pair are forced to drive a cranky elder across the reserve so she can make peace with her dying sister. It quickly becomes clear that a supernatural force is trying to halt the journey. On the slowest road trip in movie history, the young men learn that life on the Rez is more thrilling and dangerous than they ever imagined,” reads a plot summary provided by the film’s crew.

For Hopkins, who is a member of the N’quatqua First Nation, Indian Road Trip is an effort to showcase the distinct humour, personalities and characters with whom he remembers growing up.

“We don’t see a lot of that in the news, and in a lot of the stories that get wider coverage. So I wanted to bring something that was really light and comedic, and really shows that side of First Nations people and their personalities and their culture,” said Hopkins. “I think it’s really timely, and there [are] a lot of young First Nations filmmakers who are branching out from just focusing on the social justice issues, and on the legacy of residential schools and the problems and pain associated with that. I think audiences are willing to listen, they are willing to show up for stories that are broader and have a different perspective.”

Lunch break on the Nooaitch reserve, where the micro-budget production Indian Road Trip was filming on June 1. (Cole Wagner/Herald).

The script has been in development for over a year, with Hopkins originally submitting a 10-page version of the script to the Whistler Film Festival’s Aboriginal Filmmakers Fellowship program in 2015.

From there, he was invited by the Adam Beach Film Institute in Winnipeg to submit the project to Telefilm’s Micro-budget program — which supports films made under a $250,000 budget.

“That’s not a lot of money to make a film — it sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not a lot of money to make a film. So a lot of the crew — in fact all of the cast — are coming in three or four times less money than they would normally make. I’m just really really grateful for them. The spirit, the enthusiasm, just been amazing,” said Hopkins.

From May 24 to June 4, the crew of Indian Road Trip could be spotted at a number of locations in and around the Nicola Valley, including in Upper Nicola, on the Nooaitch reserve, and around the Lower Nicola valley.

A number of locals were also involved in the production, as extras or on crew. Mise’l Abram, a co-producer on the project, hails from the Nicola Valley.

As for when locals might expect to see their starring roles on the silver screen, Hopkins said he’s hoping to take the film on a rigourous festival tour starting next year.

“Maybe Toronto film festival, maybe even some place like Sundance. But really nice festival run would be amazing,” said Hopkins.

He added that the film isn’t likely to receive a wide theatrical release, but that he aims to make it available online — and aims to also pursue a broadcast license for the project in order to land it on TV.

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