Entertainment Spotlight: Kelton Stepanowich
“As a little boy I would wander, look up at the sky, play with frogs and use my imagination- my greatest tool,” 25-year-old Kelton Stepanowich says in a break from post production for his upcoming feature The Road Behind. “Then as I got older, I always just liked creating stuff and still do. It was in high school when I was like, ‘Oh man, I want to make a movie’.”
Stepanowich says working on a full length piece is a huge step up from making films with his friends and participating in the 48 hour film challenge for the Fort McMurray International Film Festival.
The Road Behind stars Julian Black Antelope, Devery Jacobs and Lorne Cardinal, best known for his role as Sergeant Davis Quinton on Corner Gas and who also collaborated with Stepanowich on the critically acclaimed God’s Acre. “Last time we filmed in Fort Chip but this time he (Cardinal) got to stay in Fort McMurray which is really cool because when we were shooting around town people were posting about in on Fort McMurray Everything Goes on Facebook. It was cool to see the rumblings of it around the community.”
It was his work on God’s Acre that convinced Stepanowich to take the next step for a feature film. “My writing partner Derek Vermillion and I knew if we could make that short film we could go and make our feature and that’s how the dominos fell.”
“My biggest problem is y’know you always have ideas but you want to create something substantial. They take a lot of creativity, ingenuity and planning,” says Stepanowich speaking to some of the challenges of making a film on a budget. “At least in my position, you’re one of the key people in charge of everything. If something sucks it’s really gonna land on you.”
The Road Behind follows the story of an older Indigenous man who lives off the land in the bush but due to the changing of the times has to begin making excursions to an isolated Aboriginal community to get supplies. Stepanowich explains, “On one of these trips of them he passes out and gets Medi-vac’d to the nearest city where he is diagnosed with a terminal stomach cancer. So the movie is about him trying to return home.”
“I wrote it for all the locations in Fort McMurray which was awkward for some people to read the script, and you’re like ‘Exterior - Basketball court behind Moxies’.” Stepanowich credits Fort McMurray overall for being very open to allowing him to shoot over 22 days of filming.
“One night we shut down MacDonald Avenue behind the Provincial Building with a fake police vehicle and tow truck. People don’t realize the access we have up here. It would be cool to make like a location LookBook to show people some of the areas they can film.
Another location that was used was Marshall House and with the lead character inadvertently ending up homeless Stepanowich was careful to be sensitive about the topic but also not to sugar-coat it.
“We wanted to treat it as real as possible but oddly enough it’s really funny.” Stepanowich says he really worked hard to stay away from ‘poverty porn’ or exploitation. “But it was naturally about the steps on how (becoming homeless) can happen.”
The Road Behind is set to make some festival appearances later this year once it’s completed before premiering on The Movie Network in 2019.
Stepanowich credits strong support from fellow Fort McMurray filmmakers...particularly the Nerdvana The Series crew. “There’s so many great filmmakers, but I think there is some kid right now out in the Towers making a movie with his phone and his friends. And that’s probably the greatest filmmakers in Canada nobody knows about and he just doesn’t know what’s available to him. I think a lot of people know what they want to do and it’s not that they don’t have the ability it’s that nobody’s presented the idea that they do.”