As a local filmmaker, Stephen Gray of At First Sight Films knows the beauty of using film to tell a story.
"There's a lot of impact you can have with audio, there's a lot of impact you can have with visuals... and when you direct those to go together in a certain way, there's a lot of power in what you can portray in a film."
That power is one that Gray and At First Sight co-owner Chris Radke have been channeling through their work since before their first major film, Discovering Heaven.
At First Sight Films first started out as a Winnipeg wedding videography business (their name comes from the phrase 'love at first sight'). Since their inception, however, Gray and Radke have transitioned out of nuptial videos and have since been pursuing commercial films and even television.
"That's kind of what we love, is really high-end visuals," shared Gray. That love is what launched the small company into the world of commercial films and eventually into the documentary projects the pair are now pursuing.
"In our view, there aren’t any stories more powerful than those of people coming to know God." -Stephen Gray
Being a local film company often requires the ability to wear many hats at once, a concept that Gray is incredibly familiar with.
"I do everything the filming side of it, to editing, all the post-production," says Gray. "The best way of learning is by doing, whether that’s by getting a hold of some inexpensive equipment and creating or collaborating with others who are already in the industry."
The hard work is paying off, as Gray and Radke have been seeing over the past two years. Since the release of their short documentary, Discovering Heaven, the local filmmakers have received several awards and nominations, including the L.A. and New York Film Awards, and have participated in several festivals.
Gray is excited to see the continually growing film industry develop in Manitoba and Canada at large, from Hollywood movies being filmed in Winnipeg to more aspiring filmmakers taking a chance to share someone's story on-screen.
Faith, however, is what Gray says is the difference for himself and Radke when it comes to telling stories.
"We don’t always get an opportunity to share our faith in film, but when it happens it’s really an incredible opportunity, " shared Gray. "In our view, there aren’t any stories more powerful than those of people coming to know God."
What's next for At First Sight Films? A new venture into the world of television.
"Since [Discovering Heaven's] release, we’ve teamed up with two Hollywood producers and are in the process of turning it into a television documentary series," Gray shared. Together with Radke, the pair is aiming to tackle one of life's biggest questions - what comes after death?
Despite their international success, Gray and Radke remain proud of Canadian stories and talent. Some of the films that come to mind when he thinks of Canadian talent include Capote, a film that won "Best Picture" at the 2005 Oscars and was filmed in Manitoba. The latest film from DeVon Franklin, Breakthrough, which has just come to Canadian theatres also features several scenes filmed in Winnipeg.
April 17 is National Canadian Film Day.