Back Home Again is a timely film. Depicting the fortitude of a community confronting trauma, the animated short brings to life one of the largest wildfires and subsequent evacuations in Canadian history, and the ways in which the lives of over 80,000 residents of the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo were transformed by the disaster in 2016.
Wood Buffalo at a Glance
- Population 74,158
- Median Family Income $175,401
- Unemployment Rate 7%
- Residential Vacancy Rate 13.6%
- Life Stress 23.3%
- Sense of Belonging 67.6%
Source: Government of Alberta
“The film provides messages of hope, strength, resiliency, collaboration and unity in the face of adversity,” says Canadian Red Cross vice president, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, Jenn McManus.
Written, directed and created by Michael Mankowski, who grew up in Fort McMurray, the municipality’s main urban centre, and featuring all-star voice talent, Back Home Again is precisely the kind of screen project that Wood Buffalo is interested in attracting.
With access to picturesque settings like the Fort Chipewyan winter road and adaptable warehouses and storefronts, it certainly has the scenic resources to do so. It’s also well-positioned logistically. The area’s hotels and work camps can house talent and crews, and the Fort McMurray International Airport is equipped to receive charter flights from major cities.
But Michael Sieger, vice president of tourism with FMWBEDT, doesn’t want the municipality to become an anonymous backdrop. “We will open to any production company that comes to town,” says Sieger. “But to get supportive funding from us, you’ve got to activate our community.”
And the films keep coming — one based on a Stephen King story being made by an Indigenous production company is currently planning to film in Fort McMurray.