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Lights, camera, dreams: Vernon woman embarks on making a feature film

Britany Sparrow is making her first feature-length film after 20 years in the film space
Still Your Song Director Britany Sparrow is spending weekends and evenings working on her first full-length feature film being shot in Fredericton, New Brunswick. (Lance Kenneth Blakney Photography)

Britany Sparrow has been writing her whole life. Her first short story came to be at the age of seven, an adventure story about a killer whale and dolphin best-friend duo.

Her passion for storytelling carried through her youth and into adulthood, and her stories grew and matured alongside her. As she put it, she wrote more “angsty” things in high school, and has now settled into the relationship genre. Sparrow writes about both romantic and non-romantic relationships in all forms, covering the human element of what it means to have a place in the world.

Now, two decades after she first began applying her story-telling passion to film, she is making her first full-length movie.

A Vernon native, Sparrow began her post-secondary journey at Okanagan University College (now Okanagan College) where she studied creative writing for two years and eventually landed at the University of New Brunswick in 2004, when she was 20. Switching coasts cemented her passion. While studying in N.B., she took a film course as an elective and discovered film was what she wanted to do.

In 2006, when she was done university, she joined the New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Cooperative, an organization for filmmakers and creatives to collaborate. The first film she worked on was, ironically, a no-budget feature film.

“It was a horror film. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights on it for four months, mostly in a parking garage. It’s a slasher movie where they paid homage to Halloween (the move),” she said.

The first film Sparrow directed herself was titled The Perfect Cliche, a story commenting on how, as a person figures out their life, their relationships change.

“It’s the story of a young couple. They’re childhood best friends and then they fall in love, and it’s as the relationship sort of progresses and then falls apart,” Sparrow said.

When she isn’t on set, Sparrow works as an archivist for the province of New Brunswick. Her day job doesn’t put any brakes on her passion though, and definitely hasn’t stopped her from starting up her own feature film, a movie operating on approximately $10,000 in raised funds currently shooting at locations across Fredericton.

Sparrow’s film is called Still Your Song, taking inspiration from the Goo Goo Dolls’ song sharing the same title. The song is about a man singing about a past relationship in which he made mistakes. Though he isn’t seeking forgiveness, the song is still for his past love.

The idea for the plot line was largely inspired by a night of drinks and catch-up Sparrow had with some friends. That night, they discussed art being made about art, such as a movie about making a movie.

“I’ve always loved that idea of art about art, and I started thinking it would be cool to write something about a band. I’ve also always wanted to write something about a high school reunion, but I’ve just never found the story in the idea. Those two things came together in my brain and when I got home I just started writing.

“It’s about five young people who were in a band in high school, and now they’ve come back to their small town for a high school reunion, and they have drama that has carried over. They have adult drama that is unresolved, and there’s a lot of conflict within the band and their families. It’s all sort of about who they are, who they were, who they want to be and how they can reconcile all of that,” Sparrow said.

Sparrow said filming is expected to finish in September, and the post-production process is expected to be lengthy.

When asked what she would tell her seven-year-old self now that she’s found her place in the film world, Sparrow offered a simple sentiment.

“Don’t be scared. It’s everything I hoped it would be,” she said.

“People have asked me, saying ‘I wanna make a movie but I don’t know what to do,’ I always say ‘just do it.’”

Sparrow hopes to do what she calls a “hometown tour,” of her film once it’s finished, stopping in Vernon and Winnipeg, Man., the hometown of her producer.

Eventually she wants to enter it into film festivals across Atlantic Canada.

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