May 30, 2024


Typical 19-year-olds worry about last call at the bar on a Friday night, not about their curtain call on a Thursday. However, for Zak Whitford, taking a bow on stage was on his mind a lot up until Sept. 27.

That date will be forever etched in his memory because it was the day the second-year Conestoga College broadcast-television student saw his first full-length documentary, entitled The Tree of Inspiration, premiere at the Gorge Cinema in Elora. The film focuses on Asa Boxer, a Montreal poet, and how he inspired approximately 14 artists from Elora and Guelph to create their own works of art. The documentary also features Boxer’s biggest influence, his father Avi, and the effect he had on his son’s writing.

Whitford’s good friend, Peter Skoggard,  approached the teenager about the documentary idea with a rough vision already in mind. Skoggard needed a motivated individual to bring the piece to the big screen and Whitford jumped at the opportunity.

“I knew there would be good energy,” said Whitford. Skoggard essentially became the project manager and young Whitford handled most of the directing, filming and editing.

Most of the work for the three-month project was done over the summer, but once September hit, Whitford was overwhelmed.

“It came down to crunch time when school started. The second week was like no sleep for like a week. I was just working on the video.”

With the Sept. 27 premiere date in the back of his mind, he would work on the documentary one night and on  schoolwork the next and so on.

Whitford was beyond excited to have his own production in a movie theatre for others to view. “Seeing it and watching other people appreciating it was definitely one of those surreal moments.” He said the experience was interesting in a way that was hard to describe.

There were about 25 people who attended the single showing at the Gorge Cinema at 5 p.m. Whitford said that time slot limited the number of people who could attend. He hopes to have another viewing on a later date with a more suitable time later in the evening.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure how many people would be making it. But I would estimate around 40 to 50 people.”

Whitford plans to fix the documentary in some areas in order to enter it in a few film festivals.

Daniel Bratton, a professor of English literature at Conestoga College, told Whitford that he thinks the film is definitely award worthy if there are a few minor adjustments made.

Whitford is also into photography. He created his own business, Through The Lens Productions & Photos, about three years ago, but it has taken a back seat more recently due to his heavy involvement in film and commitment to school.