A&E » Arts

Hard work, dedication and a stroke of luck



Little Brother of War a local success story

What: Little Brother of War

Where: Village 8 Cinema

When: Sunday, Dec. 7, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $8.50

Independent dramatic feature filmmaking requires hard work, perseverance and dedication. A little luck here and there doesn’t hurt either.

For Little Brother of War producer Andrew Hamilton, good luck struck just at the right time.

An ambitious undertaking for an independent project, Little Brother weaves a mystical aboriginal legend about how the game of lacrosse was used to resolve conflicts between warring factions with a modern day story of a young lacrosse player trying to make sense of the world after his loving parents are senselessly murdered. For all the work Hamilton and the film’s director Damon Vignale did on the script, the financing, the pre-production, when it all came down their film was entirely dependent on finding a child actor capable of the emotional range of such a role.

According to Hamilton it was a mere two weeks before shooting that nine-year-old Brett Sherwood was cast as Jay. Sherwood’s understated, honest performance, completely void of the contrived precociousness that poisons many of his Hollywood contemporaries, is easily the highlight of the film. And even more remarkable, after Sherwood was cast it was discovered he was a lacrosse player, one of the stars of his team.

"A total fluke," says Hamilton. "The cards were right I guess."

When the film screens as part of the Whistler Film Festival this Sunday it will mark a homecoming of sorts for Hamilton, who lived in the area for 10 years before selling house and truck and making the move to Vancouver in early 2002 to pursue production of the film.

Vignale and Hamilton met through film industry connections Hamilton gained while living in Pemberton and working with Canadian Snowmobile Adventures. He says Vignale approached him with the Little Brother of War script in early 2001. It "struck a chord" and over the next year and a half the two worked on moulding the concept to their vision.

"He (Vignale) was very passionate about it and good people are hard to find," says Hamilton. "So once I knew he was very driven to go through with it I decided the same."

Hamilton’s instincts are proving trustworthy. He deems the response to the film since its debut in September at the Montreal International Film Festival "overwhelmingly great," from industry types for Sherwood’s performance, but also from lacrosse fans and players who are excited to see their underdog sport represented. The aboriginal community is similarly impressed with the film’s treatment of their traditional game.

For that, Hamilton credits the director.

"Damon was a lacrosse player himself, and he’s kind of a spiritual guy so I think he’s had the story in him for a long time," says Hamilton.

While the two are now turning their creative attentions toward upcoming projects, there is still much ahead for Little Brother of War. Applications are in progress for other festivals in Europe and North America and Hamilton says he’s trying to secure distribution. He admits there’s something special about the screening this weekend, when he’ll be returning with the project that took him away from the area where he spent 10 great years.

"I always feel like Whistler is one of those places where everyone goes to follow their passions and their dreams," says Hamilton. "It’s the same thing that made me feel like I could pull off a movie of this size."

Little Brother of War screens on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. as part of the Whistler Film Festival. Tickets are $8.50, available at the festival box office on the lobby level of the Blackcomb Lodge, Tourism Whistler’s Information and Activity Centre and at Nesters Market. For more information call 604-938-3323 or check out www.whislterfilmfestival.com.