There’s nothing quite like going to the movies—it’s storytelling, but on a grand scale. You go with friends, order popcorn and a large Coke, and then sit back and let the filmmaker do what he or she does best: propel you down a long, winding rabbit hole that is sometimes familiar, and other times alien. The experience can’t be beat.
What comes close, however, is being on set during the filming of that movie. Imagine my delight, then, when I found out that Hollywood was coming to my hometown of Cambridge, Ontario.
For a full week, Cambridge residents could go “Behind The Scenes” during filming for the big budget horror flick, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (the sequel to 2006’s Silent Hill). Windows were muddied or boarded up, shop signs were covered, and the streets were filled with ash. When director Michael J. Bassett yelled “action,” cries of “The demon…the demon!” could be heard. All in all, it was a strange week.
So when filming wrapped, and all those involved packed up and left, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. After all, it’s not everyday that Hollywood pays us a visit; more so, it’s not everyday that the streets we’ve walked countless times before are so suddenly and so strikingly transformed. The experience isn’t just surreal—it’s more than that. It’s an experience of shared imaginative wonder.
With each day of filming, as scenes were shot and re-shot, crowds gathered, commingled, and conversed. These kinds of crowds are relatively common, of course, especially in a city where movies are rarely filmed. The trouble, however, is that we often dismiss such gatherings as a symptom of our preoccupation with celebrities and celebrity culture. That plays a part, sure enough, but there’s more to it than that.
The arts serve as a form of communion. When we read a book, or listen to a song, or gather around a painting, we are communing with that particular artist. This isn’t some hokey telepathy, but a sharing of ideas and emotions through images, sounds, and rhythms—a communion born of the imagination, you might say. And when we fold more and more people into that experience (by passing along a book, or recommending a song, for example), the communion grows.
It is with this thought that I say that the crowds who gathered during the filming of Silent Hill 2 were not simply starved for a glimpse of some Hollywood hotshot. For a short while, as we stood on Main or Dickson St., with ash underfoot and cameras rolling, we came together, compelled by our imaginations and our sense of wonder. It was a bringing together of people who would have otherwise had nothing to say to each other. For that short while, we may have been a community knitted together through a world of make-believe, but we were a community nonetheless.
I don’t mean to oversell the whole thing. The first Silent Hill wasn’t an especially great movie, and I doubt the second will be able to reach much higher. Still, there is power in filmmaking, and not solely from what makes it to the big screen. The creation in and of itself can sometimes be just as powerful.
I’m not exaggerating, then, when I say that this past week will not be one that’s soon forgotten.
Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.