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Stories told in front of the camera

By MEGAN COLE
January 8, 2012 · 2:23 PM
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Amy Bohigian of Watershed Productions at her home office in Nelson. / Megan Cole photo

The wealth of a community is in the stories of the people who call it home.

The stories of those in the Kootenays are told in many ways, but for local filmmaker Amy Bohigian a video camera allowed her to create what she feels is a truly authentic experience.

"I've always loved having a camera around," she said. "It just kind of came naturally to me to capture the experience. I feel like video is the closest thing you can get to real life in terms of sitting down with somebody. Interviewing them and also getting shots of them doing what they're doing in their life, it's as close as you can get to the real thing."

Bohigian has had a camera in her hand since grade school where she began collecting tape of her friends and family.

She rarely turned the camera on herself and focused on giving a voice to those who typically weren't heard.

"I like telling the untold stories like people who wouldn't normally have access to media or a wider audience," said Bohigian. "I feel like I get to facilitate people who are in the minority groups or folks that may not typically be empowered and then video and film brings their story to life and gives them a voice. It's so gratifying to have folks that typically wouldn't be heard be heard because of a project that I'm doing. That's probably the most interesting and rewarding thing for me."

She took the uncomfortable step in front of the camera to tell her own story in Conceiving Family.

"I like a challenge but to put myself in a film, I resisted that forever until people started saying, 'you know your story is quite interesting. Yeah, there's a same sex couple adopting biracial twins from christian fundamentalist foster parents. Maybe you should talk about that?'

Bohigian used footage that she'd taken throughout the adoption process that she and her partner Jane Byers went through.

The film that Bohigian shot feels at times more like a home video because while she was going through the process she had no intention of creating a film.

"Conceiving Family basically follows my partner and I as we decide and then go to meet our children for the first time and shows all of the challenges that we face along the way and overcame with the christian fundamentalist foster parents who had had the children since birth," she said. "We had to basically convince them that we were fit enough to be their parents and they really had quite a reaction and they wondered whether their foster kids were going to be raised properly. We had to live with them for two weeks while we were going through the transition period."

In addition to telling Bohigian and Byer's story, Conceiving Family followed the journey of four other same-sex couples who were also going through the adoption process.

"The good news was I didn't start out thinking that I was going to make this film because if I had I would have gone crazy thinking about the right angle when we met the kids and all that. It would have completely distracted me. I kind of consciously decided no to because I thought I don't want to go through this as a film maker and a parent I want to do this as a parent first or become a parent through this process," she said.

Conceiving Family will be having a second screening on Thursday night with a film Bohigian worked on with Christopher Moore of the ANKORS program Trans Connect called Rural Transcapes.

Rural Transcapes tells the story of four transgendered people who call the Kootenays home.

"Four people came forward to be in the film and we profiled them as they go through kind of day to day routines both really difficult things and really easy and great things about living here," said Bohigian. "We also talked to the psychiatrist and medical doctor that supports that community here and brought it together in a cohesive film. It's a really powerful telling of how people can go through transitioning here and find community here if they are transgendered."

Through Bohigian's production company - Watershed Productions - she also worked with community groups and non-profit organizations to make films that highlight the work beign done.

"I'm working on something for the BC Non-Profit Housing Association right now," she said. "I'm putting together an educational video for them about women leaving abusive relationships and trying to find affordable housing and all the barriers that come from that. They researched women across BC and had them take photos and each woman spoke to each individual photo so it's called a photo voice project."

She is also working with the Columbia Basin Trust on the second phase of a project called Basin Stories, and is creating an awareness video for the Osprey Community Foundation.

The screening of Conceiving Family and Rural Transcapes starts at 7 p.m. at SelfDesign High.

Tickets are $10 and a short question and answer period will follow each film.