St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Elora was a long way from the Big Apple last weekend for a New York film crew but it was home turf for their director Olivia Peters.
“I remembered St. John’s because I had been there before and a few of my friends that live in Elora go to that church,” said Peters. “It is also affiliated with my high school St. John’s-Kilmarnock.”
The NYU film school grad pulled some strings with SJK’s assistant headmaster who is also an active member at St. Johns.
“I know Ian Hornsby who kind of set me up to use the church, which was great,” she said. “It is the perfect size for the scope of the film and also I love the architecture in it and the colours.”
The short film, Thou Shalt, follows the experiences of a young woman who joins a convent only to fall under the spell of a coven of witches living in a nearby barn. The barn scenes and some of the exterior convent scenes were shot at Pine Breeze Farm in Rockwood, which is owned by Peters’ uncle and aunt Otto J. Ferber and Anita Berkis.
Peters grew up in the country north of Guelph near Moffitt where she developed her love for filmmaking.
“Dad gave me a camera at an early age and I guess, living in the country, there wasn’t that much to do so it kind of challenged me creatively,” she said. “My sister and brother and I would always make really dumb films. I have hard drives full of home videos and random photos.”
Photography and filmmaking remained her passion but pragmatism took hold at the end of high school and she applied for business school at McGill University.
“I also applied to a couple of film schools in the US, NYU and Chapman, just to see,” she said. “When I got into NYU I was screaming because I really wanted to go there and here I am now. I am graduated so, that is pretty crazy.”
Peters had been scouting for locations in upstate New York to complete her NYU thesis film but changed her plans last October during a weekend trip to visit family in Guelph.
“I brought along one of my friends, Maya McCullough, who is also the fashion designer on the film and I was showing her around my aunt and uncle’s property,” said Peters. “She was like, Olivia why don’t you just shoot the film here? It has everything you need.”
She assembled a small crew and colleagues from a group she formed with friends Caroline Rugo and Sofia Dieck called The Rat Poison Collective and scheduled the shoot to run from Dec 14 – 18. They have launched an Indiegogo campaign to promote and share information about the film, https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/thou-shalt#/
“I really tried to keep the crew small for this film,” said Peters. “I personally really love small sets and I love working closely with the people I am on set with.”
They wrapped up shooting on Wednesday and Peters headed to Los Angeles to do the editing but she will be back in the summer to shoot another film.
“It follows a 12-year-old girl and it is partially based on my childhood living in the country and coping with my father being diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “He has made a recovery but I think that was just a difficult time in my life and I would like to make a film about that.”
She hopes to cast a young actor from the area to play the lead.“The main thing is finding a 12 or 13 year old girl,” she said. “I think what I really loved about this film is that I cast it locally for the most part. I ended up finding some really great talent so, I hope to do that for this next one as well.”