John Lent takes a moment to ponder during an interview with Curtis and Silmara Emde for Why We Write, a documentary about Vernon writers. (Silmara Emde photography)

John Lent takes a moment to ponder during an interview with Curtis and Silmara Emde for Why We Write, a documentary about Vernon writers. (Silmara Emde photography)

Documentary filming at Vernon’s annual Spoke Fest

Curtis and Silmara Emde are in the process of filming Why We Write, a documentary about Vernon poets

George Orwell’s motivations behind his craft were simple: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose.

The acclaimed author believed those four motivators rings true for every author. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, Vernon is home to a high concentration of poets and bookmakers. Curtis and Silmara Emde, with the help of numerous local writers, are out to see why there is a concentration in the small, North Okanagan city and uncover whether or not Orwell’s beliefs remain true for those who live outside the scene through their in-progress documentary, Why We Write.

“It seems disproportionately high that there’s this small city, certainly not what we think of as a literary centre, that has such a high population of writers,” said Curtis Emde, a Vernon Secondary School product who now lives in the Lower Mainland.

“We started to think about why. I’d read their (Vernon authors’) stuff and it was always great. We had this idea that it can’t be great if it’s not from Toronto. I had that prejudice for a while, but there’s a wealth of talented writers from Vernon itself.”

After talking shop with Hannah Calder — a Vernon-based author, English teacher at Okanagan College and one of the organizers behind annual Spoke Literary Festival — Emde said it was time to start filming.

“That was really the catalyst for me to do something about these ideas we had,” Emde said of Spoke Literary Festival. “Once I had that idea, I was ready to get started on making a documentary.”

Related: Spots open for Vernon’s Spoke Literary Fest

Filming began earlier in the year when the Emdes, alongside filmmakers Elton Hubner and Michelle Lee, came to Vernon to interview locals involved in storytelling such as Harold Rhenisch, Tom Wayman, Sharon Thesen, John Lent, Shelby Wall, Jason Dewinetz and Bill Cohen.

“We were able to go to Vernon and were able to set it up. It was just right. Now that I’ve started, I have to finish,” Emde said. “For the first time, I felt like I had a crew. I could just direct,” Emde said. “It was great.”

The duo, who recently toured their documentary Out of the Interior, plans to continue filming throughout the summer and fall with a highlight being at the place that sparked it all: the Spoke Literary Festival. The documentary will focus on poets, oral storytellers and publishers.

Related: Survival of the independent cinema

“We have to cut it off at some point,” Emde laughed. “We’ve got a good number of authors, but it will never be exhaustive.”

After filming wraps up in the fall, Emde said he will dig into the audio editing while Silmara tackles the video editing in the new year with hopes of premiering the film in Vernon in fall 2019.

“It pays to step back and let it float in my mind a while. The longer I leave it, the more it ferments. When you come back, you almost have a fresh set of eyes,” Emde said.

While many of their subjects have agreed with Orwell’s submission behind the motivation of writers, the question behind why Vernon remains.

“Almost all of them have mentioned it’s the silhouette of the mountains at sunset at the lake. There’s this special environment that calms the mind,” Emde said. “But I’m not sure there’s an answer. In some ways, I don’t know if I want to find out.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.