Pitching Hell was a cinch, says Oak Bay filmmaker David Springbett.
Springbett and Heather MacAndrew, of Asterisk Productions in Oak Bay, were perfectly poised for the topic.
“We’ve got a little bit of a track record of doing somewhat off-beat and tough subjects,” Springbett said. “Our previous program was the Fantastic Logic of Eternity and before that we did a series called Apocalypse … When?”
Vision TV gave Hell: A Survivor’s Guide the green light and work started in May for the documentary that airs Monday, Feb. 8.
Hell host Brian Paisely was nominated for the 2013 BC Leo Award for Screenwriting (documentary program or series) for Apocalypse … When? a five-part Vision TV series about the origins, implications and repercussions of Doomsday thinking.
“This one we knew generally they’d be interested in it and they said, ‘Sure give us a pitch.’ The pitch was easy,” Springbett said.
“Making is always interesting because as with any film, sometimes they fall together really nicely and others you have to change course in the middle of it because things don’t go as you would think.”
The exploration of Hell went primarily well. In fact they only axed one bit of cave footage from the wilderness beyond Duncan. They went out with some UVic cavers and despite the beauty and interest, were only able to use a snippet of footage.
The film acts as a travel guide for the underworld, dipping into the history and imagery.
“There are lots of stories about Hell. Sometimes people leave and sometimes people don’t leave. So how about a guide book of it through the history of it?” Springbett said.
Throughout the film, Paisley refers to the fictional guidebook, as he turns to artists such as Homer, Virgil, Dante, Bosch, Doré and Rubens, who created compelling images of Hell. He also talks to scholars, writers and theologians, and to a psychologist who ponders why Hell has had such an impact on our lives. Experts include Oak Bay’s Dr. Laurel Bowman, UVic assistant professor in Greek and Roman Studies, Dr. Shamma Boyarin, assistant teaching professor at UVic, and the two UVic cavers.
The art of finding those minds and voices falls to local researcher Sherry Lepage.
“We come up with a general idea of the kind of people we’re looking for – she finds them,” Springbett said. “That’s a real art and Sherry’s quite good at it.”
Once she finds the minds to be mined, those people need to be pinned down.
They started to edit in August and by early December the film was ready. “Which is fairly quick for us, it’s usually about a year,” the Oak Bay filmmaker said.
Every film is a steep learning curve, he says. It’s also the most enjoyable part of creating a documentary.
“It’s like taking a university course with no exams,” he said. “Well I guess there is an exam because you have to make a film at the end.”
For this film they even visit Hell – Hell, Michigan – a tiny place built up as a travel destination with mini golf, T-shirts and other underworld-related merchandise. A place making light of the name. “It’s a bit of lightness because it’s this little speck on the map,” Springbett said. “It’s a little unincorporated village.”
The world premier of Hell: A Survivor’s Guide runs tonight, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. on VisionTV (Channel 120 on Shaw). After the premier, find it at visiontv.ca under ‘shows.’ Visit asterisk.ca to learn more about the film company.