Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Leanne Allison

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Ten Questions with Leanne Allison

Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison (Being Caribou), along with their two-year old son, Zev, and indomitable dog Willow set out to trace the footsteps of one of Canada's most famous writers, Farley Mowat. Their 5000-kilometre trip – trekking, sailing, portaging and paddling from the prairies to the Maritimes – is captured in the feature-length documentary, Finding Farley.

Open Book talks to Leanne Allison about Finding Farley, travelling with her family and Farley Mowat.

The Ontario premiere for Finding Farley is on Wednesday, September 21st at the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival in Toronto. For details on the premiere, visit Open Book's events page.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your film, Finding Farley.

Leanne Allison:

It’s a story about stories set on a five month cross-Canada canoe/sailing trip through the settings of Farley Mowat’s most famous stories. Oh yeah, and it’s about a family! Leanne (mom), Karsten (dad), Zev (2 year old son) and Willow (the dog).

OBT:

What inspired you to set out on a trip to meet Farley Mowat?

LA:

The idea came after Karsten sent Mr. Mowat a copy of the book he wrote about our last journey called Being Caribou. It is about how we migrated on foot for 5 months with an arctic caribou herd. We thought Farley would enjoy the story. He loved it and invited us out to visit him on his Nova Scotia farm. He had always been a hero of ours so we leapt at the chance to meet him.

OBT:

Why did you choose to travel mostly by canoe, rather than fly or drive?

LA:

It didn’t seem right to just drive or fly to meet Farley Mowat given all he stands for and has done. Besides, once we’d cooked up the adventure, it was too much to resist.

OBT:

How did your son, Zev, find the journey?

LA:

Our son did amazing. Better than us most of the time. He was a great model for how to live in the moment.

OBT:

What was the highlight of the trip? And what did you find most difficult about your journey?

LA:

For me one of the highlights was reaching Hudson Bay. It’s such a hallmark of Canadian geography, and I couldn’t believe we actually canoed all the way from Canmore to Hudson Bay. It was quite a thrill. The most difficult part was documenting the film on top of all the challenges of just doing a trip like this as a family. Any wide shots or shots of us running rapids in the film often took up to and hour to just set up! Plus the bugs were insane!

OBT:

Can you describe for us what it was like to meet Farley Mowat?

LA:

It felt like meeting an old friend. We had the greatest time just sharing stories from the trip around his kitchen table. He lives very modestly and still writes everyday. We were impressed by the simplicity of his life and his dedication to story.

OBT:

What was the first book you read by Farley Mowat, and which is your favourite of his books?

LA:

Karsten and I both read Owls in the Family as kids and Karsten still has his copy! People of the Deer and The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float and Whale for the Killing are all favourites.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

LA:

Of Farley’s? Geez that’s hard! Never Cry Wolf, Being Caribou (ha, ha), Paddle to the Sea!

OBT:

What message do you hope filmgoers will take from your film?

LA:

We hope people leave inspired to get out in nature with their kids and try to discover the stories of their home landscapes. That’s what we’re still doing!

OBT:

What is your next project?

LA:

Karsten is spending the winter writing a book (called Finding Farley) and I’m developing another story idea, but it’s too early to talk about it! ;)



The 10th anniversary of the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival, Canada's premiere environmental film festival, runs October 21 to October 25 in Toronto. For more information about the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival, go to www.planetinfocus.org/.

Find out more about Finding Farley at the NFB website.

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