A good son

Filmmaker John Hopkins to screen preview of Timepiece: The Art and Vision of Hilda Woolnough at the Y Lofts in Charlottetown on Wednesday June 9 at 7 p.m.

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 31, 2010
John Hopkins holds Water, a graphite and gold leaf drawing by Hilda Woolnough. The piece was inspired by the late artist's love of swimming. Hopkins will present Timepiece: The Art and Vision of Hilda Woolnough at the Y Lofts in Charlottetown on Wednesday June 9 at 7 p.m. For information or tickets to the screening, call 621-0361. Guardian photo by Sally Cole

John Hopkins is an award-winning P.E.I. filmmaker who has worked with director Atom Egoyan and Canadian film stars like Henry Czerny, Lenore Zann and Justin Louis.

But, 13 years ago, the dutiful son moved home to Breadalbane when his mother Hilda Woolnough RCA, a well-respected visual artist, became sick with cancer.

John Hopkins is an award-winning P.E.I. filmmaker who has worked with director Atom Egoyan and Canadian film stars like Henry Czerny, Lenore Zann and Justin Louis.

But, 13 years ago, the dutiful son moved home to Breadalbane when his mother Hilda Woolnough RCA, a well-respected visual artist, became sick with cancer.

"I had been working in Toronto as a cinematographer. I hadn't planned to stay here very long, but that changed when she started having (other) health issues.

"Over a 10-year period she had breast cancer twice. Mum also had kidney cancer. Basically, I came back to look after her," says the Carleton University/Sheridan College media arts graduate.

Returning to his roots was one of the hardest-yet-best decisions he ever made.

"Mum and I were close. It was great to help her through her illness. And over the course of all that we became best friends," says Hopkins who, since coming home, has directed his filmmaking energies into documentaries and TV commercials including the latest one for Proude's Shoes.

Sadly, his mother passed away in 2007.

But in the months preceding her death Hopkins had the foresight to shoot 25 hours of film footage, in several long interviews.

He also got to film her at her favourite places - swimming in the Northumberland Strait and sitting on the shady banks of the Dunk River.

"As much as Hilda comes across as being really calm in the movie, it wasn't until I put her on a log (under her favourite trees) to interview her, that she lost that deer-in-the-headlights look.

"That log helped her speak freely, from the heart," says Hopkins, who will show his film, Timepiece: The Art and Vision of Hilda Woolnough, during a special preview screening on June 9 at the Y Lofts, corner of Prince and Euston streets, Charlottetown, 7 p.m.

The evening, presented with assistance from the Island Media Arts Co-op will include John Pritchard cuisine and music by Rhythm Rules. Central to the documentary is Woolnough's Timepiece - a collagraphy (printmaking) exhibition - at the Confederation Art Gallery and Museum in 2001.

"The show is a reflection of her values, the way that she saw the world, her place in nature and her relationship with time. I spent hours shooting the exhibition," he says.

To her delight Woolnough got to see a rough cut just before she died.

"She really liked it. But I needed to go back and restructure some things so that I could tell the story better. But when she died it was difficult to edit the new material.

"Every time I saw her picture I would start to cry. So, last year, at the end of the long period, I came back to start editing and to find the film I was looking for," he says.

Hopkins' care in creating the piece is getting positive reaction. Director Donna Davies says she was "touched" when she saw the work-in-progress at the Island Media Arts Festival last month.

"Timepiece is loving tribute to one of Canada's most talented artists. John did a stellar job of portraying his mother's genius. He is a very visual filmmaker and his cinematography was stunning. I think he did justice to his mother's art and to her spirit and I think she'd be very proud," says Davies, a P.E.I. native and co-owner of Sorcery Films Ltd. in Halifax.

While there's hours of work, including a soundtrack, yet to be done Hopkins felt it important to give the community a sneak peak.

"I wanted to get the film out there, create some awareness and maybe get some support from the community," he says.

scole@theguardian.pe.ca




FAST FACTS

Carrying on the legacy
- Artist Hilda Woolnough was an arts advocate. She founded and created the P.E.I. Arts Expo. "When she died her only wish was that the children's art show would have continued at The Guild," says her son, John Hopkins.
- Woolnough was also known for throwing great parties, Hopkins carries on that tradition at his home in Breadalbane. "Hilda felt that good things always happened when you brought people and food together," he says.
- Like his mother, Hopkins advocates for artistic causes. He's currently lobbying to have a tax credit program re-established on P.E.I. as an incentive for filmmakers to build the industry here. "Over 100 films were submitted to the Island Media Arts Festival. We have a strong talent pool on P.E.I.," he says.
- Hopkins acknowledges the support of Tech P.E.I. and the P.E.I. Council of the Arts and the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund in his work.
- Websites: www.squaredeal.ca, www.hildawoolnough.com.