Brent Foster wants to share the stories of ordinary people doing great things. Hailing from Wallaceburg, Ont., the filmmaker says he’s always loved the idea that people could tell their own stories through video, and he’s created While I’m Here: The Legacy Project to help them do it.
Three of six videos have already been produced while raising awareness and even funds for the subjects’ own campaigns (watch one of them above). With the next installment set to film in Northern Canada, Canadian Geographic caught up with Foster to learn more.
You’ve dedicated this project to Frank Dymock, who sharpened skates in your hometown and inspired you to go on this journey. Why?
Frank was truly a staple of the place I grew up. I remember him so fondly. The garage where he sharpened skates would have you sweating the second you walked in due to the wood burning in the fireplace. Dusty pucks with local and professional team logos lined the walls of shop along with the many carvings of ducks he would craft during quieter times. And there was always candy!
As kids, every week or two, we would visit with our hockey skates to be sharpened. My dad would always try to pay him, but Frank would never take a dime. He did this for everyone in our town, and it always stuck with me.
Telling Frank’s story was something I had always promised myself I would do. I felt like his story deserved to be told. Unfortunately, I let work and time get in the way and the chance to tell Frank’s story came and went when he passed away in December 2013.
I felt frustrated, but it really got me thinking about how many others must be out there doing incredible things in a similar fashion. So I decided to start the legacy project.
How do you choose the characters to feature?
There are so many incredible people out there doing amazing things for others. It’s extremely inspiring hearing stories and receiving nominations from people who have seen the project. To be honest though, it’s been incredibly challenging. These stories are very visual, so we’re trying to find subjects who are still “living that legacy” everyday. We’re also spending a fair amount of time with each person, so they need to be ready and willing to have us around for a few long days of filming. It’s a big commitment for the people we’re profiling and we’re very thankful to the three amazing people we’ve worked with so far.
You funded the first three documentaries yourself. Why ask for funding now?
We wanted to get the project off the ground and retain creative control to choose the subjects, and tell the stories in a way we thought honoured them most. If we started to pitch the idea around, it may have taken months to find the right home for it, and we didn’t want to hold off any longer. This was and is a passion project, and we felt it was worth investing in.
Now that we’ve wrapped up our first three stories, we’ve decided it’s time to reach out and ask for support. I was very hesitant to do so, but had a lot of encouragement.
We set the campaign goal at a modest estimate of $15,000, which should hopefully cover the costs to get ourselves and our gear to our subjects’ locations for the remaining three projects.
And at least one of those three locations will be in Canada?
Yes, we couldn’t be more excited to be bringing the project to Canada’s North. Our goal when we started this project was to tell stories of everyday people, doing extraordinary things throughout North America. We set those boundaries for ourselves mainly because we wanted at least part of the project to take place in our own back yard, and also because we are funding this ourselves, so it would help to set a geographical limit on our search for prospective heroes. It’s important to us to keep the project diverse with both our characters and the geography.
Our goal is to produce the next three projects through the 2016 calendar year. Depending on our travel schedule, that may extend into the early part of 2017, but time will tell. When all six videos are finished, we plan to put them together as a collection, and hope they continue to find new audiences and serve the people featured in the stories well.
There are four days left help fund While I’m Here: The Legacy Project on Indiegogo.