Documentary filmmaker Mark Collings is currently working on a documentary about Red Deer's history.

Documentary filmmaker Mark Collings is currently working on a documentary about Red Deer's history.

New doc sheds light on historical culture divide

With French farmers north of the river and English settlers south of it, Canada’s ‘two solitudes’ were once all-too evident in Red Deer. While it’s not widely known today, Red Deer was once a microcosm of this country’s cultural and linguistic divide, said city resident Mark Collings, who’s producing a documentary on the city’s history.

With French farmers north of the river and English settlers south of it, Canada’s ‘two solitudes’ were once all-too evident in Red Deer.

While it’s not widely known today, Red Deer was once a microcosm of this country’s cultural and linguistic divide, said city resident Mark Collings, who’s producing a documentary on the city’s history.

With these historic rivals staring at each other across the Red Deer River, “there must be some drama in there somewhere, just waiting to be drawn out…” he added, with a chuckle.

The Francophone neighbourhoods that sprang up around St. Joseph’s Convent in the late 1800s eventually became “absorbed” into a predominantly English-speaking community — like what happened in many other places in Alberta, said Collings.

But Red Deer retains connections with its Gallic past through a local Francophone association, the all-French Ecole La Prairie School, and highly popular French Immersion programming in public and Catholic schools.

Collings, of Hwy2.TV, is making a one-hour documentary about Red Deer along with camera operator/director Marcelo Vilhena, a student in Red Deer College’s Motion Picture Arts Program.

The filmmakers are planning to interview local historian Michael Dawe, Ian Warwick of Sunnybrook Farm, Jim Robertson of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, and other city residents about little known but “fascinating” aspects of Red Deer’s past.

Collings hopes to complete the documentary in 2017, and make it available for possible airing on PBS, Shaw TV or the CBC.

But he will also be providing shorter local history lessons to the public starting this fall.

Collings is completing a series of filmed vignettes about destination points along the city’s walking tours. He will be adding them to an interactive map he is creating at www.reddeercrossings.

By going to the website and clicking on each charted destination point along the walking tour map, people who are taking self-guided tours of Red Deer will be able to see one-to-two-minute films about various landmarks — including historic businesses, Ghost sculptures, downtown hotels, the former railway station, war memorials and old military sites.

Collings estimates about 10 vignettes per walking tour will be on the site by September.

The idea is to “flesh-out” the historic factsheet for local residents as well as tourists, said Collings, who took filmmaking at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

Having previously made a documentary about Hull, Que.’s gangster-ridden past, Collings believes this city has its share of colourful characters — such as Rev. Leonard Gaetz, who pulled a fast one when he gave some of this own land to the railway, altering the course of Red Deer’s history and his own financial profitability.

“We want to connect people to the city by exploring some of the stories. We want to engage people in their environment,” said Collings, who has applied for various grants to make the longer documentary.

He said he’s already received a letter of support for the projects from the City of Red Deer.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health Services declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Revera Aspen Ridge on Feb. 1. (Photo by Advocate staff)
Two COVID deaths linked to Revera seniors residence in Red Deer

35 active COVID cases at seniors residence

Red Deer musician Lorry Boschman has written a song about love in the time of COVID-19. Proceeds from his single, Romance during a Pandemic, will be donated to the local United Way. (Contributed photo).
Local musician records a song about love in the time of COVID-19 — for charity

Lorry Boschman will donate some proceeds to the United Way

Preliminary data shows Alberta’s suicide rate declined in 2020 — but some mental health critics say it’s too early to draw any conclusions since more dire pandemic impacts are only now being felt. (metrocreative stock)
Alberta’s suicide rate seems to have declined in 2020

But some experts say it’s too early to credit the pandemic

The union representing workers at the Olymel meat processing plant in Red Deer confirmed the death of a worker on Wednesday. (Advocate file photo)
Union confirms death of worker from Olymel plant

An investigation by the UFCW 401 local has confirmed another death connected… Continue reading

The courthouse in Iqaluit, Nunavut, is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. A Nunavut judge has granted a mining company's request for an injunction against hunters who protested at its site for a week last month, halting the mine's operations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter
Nunavut judge grants injunction against hunters who protested at mine site

Nunavut judge grants injunction against hunters who protested at mine site

A woman walks towards the entrance of the TransAlta headquarters building in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Calgary-based power generator TransAlta Utilities Ltd. says it has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Alberta utility TransAlta vows to be carbon neutral by 2050 as it notes $167M loss

Alberta utility TransAlta vows to be carbon neutral by 2050 as it notes $167M loss

Pedestrians walk past Shell Canada's headquarters before a news conference in Calgary on August 26, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Shell Canada employing ‘agile teams’ to power energy transition and reduce emissions

Shell Canada employing ‘agile teams’ to power energy transition and reduce emissions

A sign board in Toronto shows the closing number for the TSX on Thursdsay October 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Investor frenzy accelerates Canada stock market activity in February, TMX reports

Investor frenzy accelerates Canada stock market activity in February, TMX reports

Falling Canadian dollar coins or loonies are pictured in North Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, May 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
North American stock markets fall as technology takes hit from higher bond yields

North American stock markets fall as technology takes hit from higher bond yields

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservative MP David Sweet joins chorus calling for end to COVID-19 restrictions

OTTAWA — A Conservative MP has joined the chorus of voices calling… Continue reading

The Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade is seen in Lower Onslow, N.S., Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The RCMP says two officers who fired towards a civilian and another RCMP officer during last year’s mass shooting will remain on administrative duties until internal inquiries are completed .THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
N.S. RCMP who shot at firehall on administrative duty during internal reviews of case

HALIFAX — The RCMP says two officers who fired towards a civilian… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Efforts to increase Canada's ability to produce vaccines is among over 100 projects receiving new federal money. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Over 100 new projects to get $518 million in federal research funding

OTTAWA — Efforts to boost Canada’s ability to produce vaccines are among… Continue reading

Most Read