Opinion » Alta States

Conrad Schapansky – The Man From Carrot River



'All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.'

- TE Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia)

He's a plumber and a gas fitter. Grew up in a tiny little prairie burg in a remote corner of eastern Saskatchewan. Didn't see a mountain until he was 21. Didn't get to Whistler until the turn of the new century. So what gives? How the heck did a 40-year-old mountain-bike fanatic with zero experience in movie-making ever become the darling of Whistler's homegrown filmmaker scene?

I mean, talk about improbable. Talk about forging your own path. Still, spend a little time with this year's 72hr. Filmmaker Showdown winner and it all starts to make sense. Unconventional. Imaginative. Curious. Disciplined. Competitive. Fresh. Funny. Irreverent. Cheeky even. They're all part of the Conrad Schapansky zeitgeist. He obviously understands what hard work's all about. Knows what it takes to get things done. And yet he also knows how to have fun with it all. Maybe that's why he inspires his crew and cast to raise their game along with his.

There's nothing easy about filmmaking — particularly the kind that Conrad's gotten involved with at Whistler. The ultimate all-in team sport, it provides ideal conditions for Murphy's Law to thrive and proliferate. In other words, whatever can go wrong will probably go wrong when you can least afford it. It takes enormous patience to direct a film under these conditions. Unlimited optimism as well. And a vision that can blast through obstacles like a laser through rock.

All this, of course, while working with a bare-bones budget that usually requires a lot more creative solution-making than with conventional big-money efforts. It's like climbing without a rope, riding a new line in scary terrain, swimming out past the reef. Very easy for things to get out of control... fast!

But none of this seems to faze the tattooed filmmaker. It's almost like he enjoys the rush of striding into the unknown. Of not knowing, exactly, how it's all going to turn out. And given that he's entirely self-taught — "Never attended a film class," he says, "Never cracked a book about filmmaking" — it's doubly impressive that he keeps attracting the judges' attention each time he enters a Whistler-based film contest.

OK. So maybe there are only two Whistler-based film contests — the aforementioned Showdown and the inimitable B-Grade Horror Fest — still, director Schapansky is the only movie-maker to have won both! And won them in style.

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