Local filmmaker captures the story behind Medicine Hat's National Historic Site.
Medicine Hat's Medalta in the Historic Clay District had hard-working hands, eager minds, and persistent community members who were instrumental in transforming it into the National Historic Site it's become today. Medalta withstood many misfortunes, including two fires and a flood, but there was always a group of passionate people there to pick up and rebuild the broken pieces.
Luke Fandrich, the artist behind the production company Editing Luke, partnered with Telus to capture the voices and people who were actively involved in preserving the ruins of this industrial heritage site, namely Medalta Potteries. The approximately 90 minute documentary, Clay, Creativity & the Comeback brings many of these key players and their efforts to the forefront of the Medalta story.
"I had done projects in the past with Medalta and already had a vague understanding of the history, but when I really looked at the work I'd done with them, I realized I didn't really know the complete backstory — how it was saved or why it was there," says Fandrich. "The challenge is when you look at the history on paper, it's mostly just dates. Medalta closed in the 50s, but there's been so much that's happened since then. That was the mystery. There was a hidden story there."
This documentary was unique in that it was the first time all of these people had been pulled together into a single project to share their perspectives on what had happened. Fandrich recognized that it wasn't just a good story, but that if he didn't do this now, he might run out of time to even tell it.
"Here we are talking about key individuals, and there was already an awareness that the story was on the verge of being lost in some respects. If you wait too long you lose those voices, and what you're left with are facts, but not necessarily the context for why people did what they did or why it was important to them at the time," says Fandrich.
Fandrich credits this approach in getting people to care about the history wherever they live. "History is not only about dates and facts, there's a big emotional component to why people care about these things and why they become meaningful to our community. If we lose that, we lose a part of our local identity. That's a fascinating part of any project to explore."
Clay, Creativity & the Comeback was released in 2019 and inspired Fandrich to reconsider whether there were more Medicine Hat stories he could develop. His latest feature-length documentary 'Your Cinema Needs You' has been his most ambitious undertaking to date, and takes a closer look at Canada's oldest surviving cinema, the Monarch Theatre.
Fandrich specializes in filmmaking and travel photography, which has taken him all over the world - all 50 States, Europe, and Japan. But after every trip, the born and raised Hatter returns to Medicine Hat every time.
"It's a nice place to come home to, particularly because the business is about half travel photography and half production. A lot of the time throughout the year I'm in other places, and Medicine Hat is this little enclave that's secluded from everything. It's a really nice place to decompress and a good place to bunker down if I've got a lot of editing ahead of me. It's also a bit untapped. That's probably why as a storyteller I've really resonated a lot with Medicine Hat.