How Fredericton filmmaker Britany Sparrow’s debut full-length feature is beating the odds, one weekend at a time.
Britany Sparrow has been making films for nearly twenty years. Since joining the New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Cooperative in 2006 she has worked on more than 75 film projects including nine as director. Earlier this year, she took the leap most filmmakers only dream of and began shooting her debut full-length feature.
Still Your Song tells the story of a fictional high school indie rock band called Low Tide. After years apart, the members of Low Tide plan to reunite and perform at their high school reunion. As they prepare for their first show together in years, each member is forced to face the demons of the past, ponder what the future has in store, and find a way to reconcile who they were, who they are, and who they want to be.
“I have always wanted to write a story about a high school reunion,” said Sparrow. “There’s something really compelling to me about the friendships you make when you’re young and trying to figure your life out, and how those relationships do or do not transition into adult relationships. I also love art about making art, so a movie about a band just seemed like a fun time.”
Sparrow started working on the idea following a night out with some friends. After spending a long overdue evening with a group involved in one of her earlier film projects, that real life reunion became the inspiration for the fictional one she’s working to tell now.
“We hadn’t gotten together since the wrap party so we went out for drinks to catch up, and after those conversations I went home and started writing,” said Sparrow. “It was meant to be a short film, like everything I had done before that, but after writing the introduction to the band members I realized it needed to be a feature.”
Work on the script began in 2019. The following year Sparrow teamed up with friend and producer Kayla Ossachuk to help make her dream a reality. Tackling a number of challenges along the way, Sparrow and her team began shooting Still Your Song earlier this year and expect to continue filming into the fall.
“I read this script early on in the process and was excited to tackle it with her,” said Ossachuk, on her involvement with the project. “While I am fairly new to the role of film producer, I do own my own company and have had the opportunity to produce shorter content for different mediums. But this is certainly a unique experience.”
The unique aspect Ossachuk is referring to may have something to do with the way this film is being made. Six months is a fairly extended production window when compared to most other New Brunswick feature film projects. But it’s also an unavoidable reality when working with little to no budget.
“We applied for major funding from outside sources, but when we were not successful we decided we wanted to make this movie anyway, said Sparrow. “In February 2023 we raised $10,000 through a crowdfunding campaign and we are now about 25 percent of the way through shooting. We are planning to shoot 11 weekends between April and September. Once that is done, we are going to try and raise another $10,000 to pay for post-production and distribution costs.”
Making a feature film for $20,000 is almost unheard of. But nothing is impossible. With technical support from the NBFC as well as the involvement of 13 actors and a crew of 15 – all volunteers – Still Your Song is taking shape. To date, shooting for the project has taken place in and around Fredericton at various locations including the Crowne Plaza, the University of New Brunswick, and Wilser’s Room at The Cap.
Like so many film projects actualized in the province, Still Your Song speaks as much to the strength of the film community as it does to Sparrow’s proven ability as a writer and director.
“Some of the people I am working with are old friends I have worked with many times before, and some of them I had not met before we started working on this project,” said Sparrow. “I like to think people are doing it because they believe in the story, they believe in me, and because they are getting a positive experience out of the joy of making a movie together.”
Ossachuk feels the same way, having witnessed first hand the support and dedication the local film community gives to the many projects that take place each year. From five minute shorts to larger endeavours, filmmakers – at least in Fredericton – seem to share a collective passion for making things happen despite the countless obstacles and challenges encountered along the way.
“People who are in the film community in New Brunswick know how tightly knit it can be, so there is often a lot of crossover between different film projects,” she said. “It’s no surprise that there are so many people who have worked on past projects with us who were eager to jump onboard as volunteer actors, crew and meal makers.
“Whether or not we received any funding, we wanted to see this through until the end. We’re so happy we were able to do some crowdfunding to help feed our fabulous cast and crew and we’re constantly looking for more funding opportunities throughout the process.”
With four months of filming still to come, and the mountain of editing and post-production that will follow, Sparrow and her team will have accomplished something truly remarkable by the time Still Your Song makes its debut.
“That’s the magic of the New Brunswick film community,” said Sparrow. “Everyone here is here because they want to be, because they love making movies. I’ve dreamed about making a feature film since I was in high school and while it would be nice to be doing this with more of a budget, I’m not surprised that this is the way it has worked out for me. But I feel incredibly lucky.”