July 12th, 2024

Local filmmaker gets funding from Telus StoryHive


By Dale Woodard on January 30, 2021.

Herald photo by Ian Martens Local filmmaker Tanner James is working to produce "Chess 4 Life: A Rehabilitation Strategy For At-Risk Youth," a full-length documentary following Lethbridge's very own Chess For Life Program. @IMartensHerald

For Tanner James, it was the right move. Now, the local filmmaker will use his lense to tell a unique story about a program benefitting local youth.
James was selected to receive $20,000 in production funding from Telus StoryHive’s Local Heroes Documentary Edition. The funding will allow him to produce “Chess 4 Life: A Rehabilitation Strategy For At-Risk Youth,” a full-length documentary following Lethbridge’s very own Chess For Life Program.
“Telus StoryHive has been going on for a number of years and it’s a really cool program because it helps emerging film makers, artists, story tellers and professional film makers explore an idea and have the funding and support,” said James, who put in his application for the project back in October and got word he had been approved last week, one of 40 out of 171. “They put out a Community Heros edition for a documentary. That’s where I submitted on behalf of our team a proposal to put together a very hyper-local Lethbridge story I thought was really cool and lo and behold we were one of 40 chosen across Alberta and B.C.”
James found out about Chess 4 Life from a publication called Alberta Views.
“They had a small article called Chess 4 Life and it was based out of the University of Lethbridge,” he said. “It was started by an associate professor and a judge and it was to taking a look at traditional community service for youth involved in the criminal justice system and what they could do differently, effectively and more helpful as opposed to having them do these usual mundane tasks and teach them a life skill that might help them with their decisions down the road.”
“I wanted to be involved somehow and then when this Community Heroes edition popped up I thought everybody was probably maxed out on their COVID news. I said this is an uplifting story. It’s noble. It had some good media coverage, but I thought this would be the chance to tell the story a little bit more deeply. It was just a feelgood story, which is nice these days.”
James’ documentary will centre around a group of organizers and at-risk youth ages 12-18 that gather together every Friday afternoon at the University of Lethbridge to learn the art of chess. These youth are referred by the Crown of Alberta as an alternative to traditional community service to
instead learn the game and the importance of good decision making through the tactical and mindfulness of chess.
“Once a week they would come in and learn about basics about chess,” said James.
“If you know anything about chess, it’s a game of strategy and decision. You take this person who made a bad decision and it teaches them to think ahead and be proactive.”
James now starts the project with a timeline of being completed by early summer.
“The StoryHive Program has some mentorship and a publicist who is there to help you succeed with the project as well,” said James, who grew up on a farm in Taber.
“They’re kind of relaying the program to us and explaining how it all works and the legalities. In the meantime I’ve pitched this project to Dr. Lance Grigg at the University who is one of the co-founders of the Chess 4 Life Program. I’ve contacted everyone and spread the good news and making sure everyone is still excited and interested and giving them a rough timeline. We’re entering the pre-production stages where it’s a lot of logistical housekeeping and figuring out how everything is going to work and how we’re going to pull this off.”
James said the project will be a learning experience.
“With any documentary there are going to be things I find out as I go. You can plan all you want, but there is going to be wild cards. But I’ll tell the story through my lens and have it be visually compelling. Since we do have a budget I’m not opposed to having some animation in there so it’s not just all talking heads. I want it to be fun. It’s a good story.”
James encouraged budding filmmakers to check out Telus StoryHive to aid them in their projects.
“One hundred seventy sounds like a lot of people, but when there are 40 grants given away from $20,000 it’s still pretty good odds,” he said.
“So I would encourage anyone, whatever stage of the game you’re in, they’re very supportive of emerging film makers. Even if you’re not super tech-savvy with a camera, you’ll have the ability to put together a team. There are the funds to hire professional help.”

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