If I Had Wings wraps production in Maple Ridge

Producer Cynde Harmon talks to Playback about the challenges of securing funding for the Canadian feature film.
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If I Had Wings has wrapped production in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.

The 90-minute Canadian feature film is made by the Harmon family, including veteran director Allan, producer Cynde and their actor children Richard and Jessica, along with a number of Canuck actors.

The film tells the story of two teenage boys from different sides of the tracks that form an unlikely bond as they strive towards the goal of running in a track and field championship.

Richard Harmon (Continuum) plays a 14-year-old, who despite his blindness wants to run for the high school track and field team. His parole office father hooks him up with a Native teen (Jared Brand Bartlett of Arctic Air) who lives on a nearby reserve and has gotten in trouble with the law.  The two eventually form a bond that allows them to overcome their individual obstacles.

Making the film was in itself a challenge for producer-director partners Allan and Cynde Harmon, who head up Really Real Films. Cynde  Harmon tells Playback it took six years to get funding to make the film. They received their last bit of funding just three weeks before production began three weeks ago. 

Their first budget success was getting a licence with Super Channel, allowing them to apply to Shaw Media’s Rocket Fund, which contributed 20% of their budget. The Rocket Fund is aimed at children, youth and family programming and will help finance television series, made for TV movies and feature films.

CCI Entertainment, based in Toronto, helped Really Real Films to get a distribution deal and pre-sale with Shaw’s Global TV.

Last-minute financing through an international distribution guarantee was provided by Kim Arnott and her Vancouver-based Two 4 The Money Media.

Producer Harmon, who is Mi’kmaq and an advocate for Aboriginal productions, says the film was a passion project for her.

“We knew that we had to risk everything we had and shoot the project even if we had to put everything back into the film from all of our closest crew friends, actors and family members. It’s a financial risk, but we all do it for the love and passion we feel for certain projects, and this was my pet project from the beginning. I just wouldn’t let it die. In fact, if I never produced another project after this, I would be happy to have done this one, my favourite,” she tells Playback.

Harmon hopes to premiere the film at the Toronto ImagineNATIVE film festival in October and eventually screen at Sundance.

Harmon credits the various players and financing options available in Canada for being able to make the film – tax credits, TV networks, family and friends who were in the cast and crew, the Vancouver Film Studios, and William F. White. “Without their support, this film would not have been possible. We are also very fortunate here in Canada to have labour tax credits, as without them, I don’t think we would have many Canadian producers able to bring any production to fruition,” says Harmon.

Although getting money to make the film was difficult, marketing the film may not be, with well-known Canadian actor Jill Hennessy (Crossing Jordan, Law & Order) playing the role of Alex’s mother and 2009 American Idol finalist Scott MacIntyre writing the theme song. MacIntyre is also blind and was the first blind contestant on the show.

If I Had Wings features the beauty of British Columbia prominently. Scenes were shot at Alouette Lake’s south beach in Golden Ears Provincial Park, in Maple Ridge and at Trinity Western University in Langley.

The script for If I Had Wings was written by Michael Markus and Tim Stubinski based on the book by Michael Markus.