Stories of Inner City Youth Told Through Film Project
Calum deHartog is a different sort of commercial film director. In addition to his day job shooting film, deHartog moonlights as a Toronto police officer. He's a member of Special Weapons Team 7 of the Toronto Police Service's Emergency Task Force, a group charged with rescuing hostages and making drug busts in Toronto's inner city neighborhoods. This first hand view of Toronto motivated deHartog to help inner city youth tell their stories through film.
"Working off my belief that everyone has a story, I wanted to tell real stories from the streets, from the people and from the world that I live in," says deHartog. "My creative landscape has always been city life, as a filmmaker and as a cop."
The project is called The City Life Film Project and began last spring with a partnership between Toronto-based Temple Street Productions and The Remix Project, a Toronto charity employing arts and culture to help young people. The Project partners inner city youth with industry professionals who provide them with the guidance and resources to bring their stories to life. Out of 50 applicants 10 finalists were chosen and three finalists were given the opportunity to make their films.
The goal, says deHartog, is "to inspire future filmmakers by providing real hands-on experience in bringing their stories to life. It also reinforces my view that arts and culture are an important component of society in creating dialogue and understanding the world (or city) we live in. One of the finalists shook my hand and said 'I would have never shaken the hand of a cop, until now. Thank you.' That pretty much sums it up."
To produce the three films, deHartog raised $250,000 for the project along with partners Gavin Sheppard, Executive Director of The Remix Project, and Michel Pratte, Manager, Business Development, Temple Street Productions, as well as using his own money.
The project, which will continue to run annually, is being promoted through a pro bono campaign developed by Leo Burnett Toronto. The campaign consists of fake movie poster wildpostings and a fake movie trailer for a fictional film called The Downfall, a film that was never made because the young person who would have made it was killed thanks by stray gunfire. The trailer, produced by Toronto-based Crush, is currently being shown on cinema screens in Toronto. The movie posters point to TheDownFallMovie.com, which also hosts the trailer and the trailer points to CityLifeFilmProject.com.
The three films, created by Ana Astaiza, Rich Acheampong and Ayanie Naseem, had an invitation-only premiere in November at Toronto's Bell Lightbox, the headquarters for the Toronto International Film Festival. The films are also being submitted to film festivals worldwide and are being screened at high schools and community centres throughout the greater Toronto area featuring question and answer periods with the filmmakers.