Thumbs up for kind Canadians
For Shannon White and Eric Elgar, what began as a guerrilla-style documentary ended with a lesson in what it costs to cross the country – two thumbs and about 35 kind Canadian citizens.
Rob, Gabriel, Gordie, Jimmy and Winston are only a handful of the people who helped White and Elgar, two Ottawans collectively known as The Dream Team, compete in last summer’s coast-to-coast, car-to-car Thumbs Out Canada hitchhiking race.
One of six pairs, The Dreamteam was tasked with travelling from Halifax to Vancouver in the back seat of good will and say that, as they wrote July 7, 2006, “It’s amazing how far you can go relying on the kindness of strangers.”
“At one point Shannon dropped her cell phone as we were getting into a car and this guy Winston drove back to pick it up,” Elgar says. “He went a half-hour out of his way and was like, ‘honestly, don’t worry about it.’”
Despite sun burns, stress, and self-induced sleep deprivation, The Dreamteam say nothing could put a damper on philosophical theory with Marty, hitchhiking-101 with David, jammin’ to Rob Zombie with Bob and meeting Fred Clark, the right man for the wrong situation.
“We got caught in a storm in New Brunswick and had no place to stay and nowhere to pitch a tent because it was pouring rain,” says White. “This guy named Fred Clark, who runs a care-and-share program, picked us up, rented a hotel room and gave us $20.”
More than merely moments lost in space and time, evidence of the good will of Canadian citizens like Fred Clark will be available in film format, as footage shot by the 12 contestants is to be released as a documentary this summer.
Kim Sison, who is in charge of producing and editing the documentary between classes at Ryerson, says that, though cutting 250 hours of tape down to “about two” is a daunting task, it’s well worth maintaining “an independent feel.”
“The entire project is, essentially, created by starving artists,” she says. “There are so many people out there trying to express themselves artistically but never get a chance because of corporate hurdles.
We wanted to prove that making a documentary film could be done at the grassroots level.”
Nicole Lipartiti and Andi Mallard, Team or Bust, completed the 8000-km trek in 34 rides over two weeks.
The Ottawa-based collective says that, while dealing with unpredictable weather patterns was a challenge in itself, the people they met along the way outshone any storm in their forecast.
“You never know where you’re going to be at any given time, especially during long legs of the race, so it’s hard to keep your spirits up when you know there’s a storm coming or it’s been raining for the last five days and you have another 700 km to go,” Mallard says.
“But then you meet people like Pastor Bob,” Lipartiti says. “He drove us all the way to Andi’s house in Sudbury and just before we got out of the car he said a prayer and wished us well.”