Films

Hearts of the West

MYRNA KOSTASH April 19 1976
Films

Hearts of the West

MYRNA KOSTASH April 19 1976

Hearts of the West

It was inevitable that Fil Fraser would produce a feature film in Alberta. You name it, he’s done it. From writing for the Mont-

real muckraking paper Midnight to radio in Ontario and Edmonton, from publisher of a weekly in Regina to program manager for Metropolitan Edmonton Television Association (now ACCESS). He’s still host of a long-running open-line show for radio station CJCA in Edmonton and head of Fraser Films Ltd.—which is where feature films come in.

“The notion that the West can’t sustain a film industry is bullshit,” he says. “Film is a highly entrepreneurial business and Alberta has a better climate for entrepreneurship than anywhere else in Canada. There’s a hell of a lot of money here looking for a place to go. More than that, we feel, damn it, we’re going to show those guys down east that we can do it here.”

And so Hanna, Alta., is the scene right now of a $800,000 six-week production of Why Shoot The Teacher. The script, by Edmonton writer James de Felice, is based on a book by Max Braithwaite and tells the story of a young teacher in rural southern Saskatchewan during the Depression. The director, Silvio Narizzano (of Georgy Girl fame), has been brought in from England, the cinematographer, Marc Champion, from Montreal, and the two stars, Bud Cort (Harold And Maude, Brewster McLeod) and Samantha Eggar (The Collector), from the United States, but the workers at a “second-level capacity” are Albertans. For all Fraser’s optimism about the investment climate, however, Why Shoot The Teacher is being partly financed outside the province. Fraser and CTV are partners in developing properties for feature film production and together they’ve set up a production company for the film and jointly hold a 50% interest in it. The rest of the money has come from Famous Players, Ambassador Films of Toronto, the Canadian Film Development Corporation, the CTV network and “a guy in Toronto.” After months of negotiations, the Alberta government finally came through with $150,000 on a last in, first out basis. Fraser turned them down.

“In 1977,” says Fraser, “Rudy Wiebe is going to write the screenplay for The Temptations Of Big Bear for us and in 1980 that’s going to be the big screen Western epic. Mordecai Richler is working on the second draft of Cocksure and we’ve been having conversations about Fraser Films doing that. There are ideas about doing Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed.” It’s a promoter’s talk. Now, if Fraser can actually persuade people to see Why Shoot The Teacher, we can call him a producer.

MYRNA KOSTASH