Three Feathers is a movie currently being filmed in Fort Smith, directed by Carla Ulrich and written by Richard Van Camp. It is a movie about three delinquent youth in a community that beat up an elder and were sentenced to live on the land and learn about traditional skill in order to realign themselves with their teaching and repay the damage done to their community. Eileen Beaver is an elder in the community that was casted as Irene, the wife of Raymond, who are the elders in charge of taking the boys on the land for nine months and to teach them fundamental skills while reconnecting them with their spirituality.They learn about feeding the sacred fire, smudging and what it takes to live off the land.
I caught up with her to talk about her role in the movie and how she got involved with the film. "They had a casting in fort smith and my husband and I went and tried out for it and we were lucky to get it," said Beaver.Beaver found the character Irene to be very relatable and slipped into the role with little effort because how the character was written was already relatable to her own life. "We used to actually have programs going on in the summer with young people about thirty years ago and we lived off the land too with our kids," said Beaver. "We raised them off the land.
It was nice to be able to play that character because it felt quite natural. It was in our field."
Her experiences on set have already been quite positive, that is she says, if you can forget about the camera constantly being in your face or the number of times a single scene has to be shot. Although filming has been easy so far with little lines to remember and most scenes consisting solely of action.
"We're going to be making it in four languages but actually were learning five because Dwight who plays Rupert is actual deaf do he does a lot of hand sign language," said Beaver. "So to talk to him either write or we will use a bit of hand sign language and he'll understand us and were able to joke around with him too."
One difficult aspect of being on set is the amount of different languages being used all the time. As a teacher, Eileen is fluent in Chipewyan and her husband speaks Cree, but when you mix all of the languages together and re-shoot the same scene over and over again it can become confusing and the actors have had to create cue cards to use while filming in the various languages.
"It was difficult but it was also a lot of fun learning languages. It was challenging but I enjoyed it," Said Beaver. "I speak Chipewyan. I teach Chipewyan and my husband speaks Cree. We found that when we were speaking in the language it can get quite difficult. Chipewyan and Slavey is very similar and Cree is quite different than Chipewyan and Slavey. It was difficult but it was also a lot of fun."
The film itself will be shot in intervals over the course of the year to represent all four seasons. They just finished shooting the footage for the late spring and will begin again in June to wrap up the last of those spring shots. They filming is centered around cultural knowledge and will feature hunting for beavers and muskrats and other small animals, along with fishing and preparing dried fish and the young men will participate in all of these traditional tasks and learn to skin beaver on screen.
Eileen says the boys are very natural at it. They are learning but at the same time they are not squeamish and are willing to contribute and learn about every aspect of the preparation.
"You kind of tend to forget too, also that you're being shot in a movie," said Beaver.
"Even making rabbit snares were sitting there and talking and somebody starts yelling 'cut, cut!" and we're like 'oh, okay'. It was really quite interesting. The boys enjoyed it too."
Eileen feels that the story is important for young people to remind them of the importance of being connected to their heritage and remember where you come from. Beaver feels that another aspect of this movie that is important is the idea of it being shot in several different languages.
As a teacher herself, Beaver feels that resources right now are becoming increasingly more available as there are now apps to help people learn indigenous languages. Eileen records audio books in Chipewyan to help people read along and learn and she works hard to be able to help facilitate learning the language both at school and at home.
"It's something that is important to have it in the movie," said Beaver. "So that young people know that is important to know who you are and where you come from and your identity and connect with it."