Scott Blurton, a former president of the Glebe Annex Community Association (GACA), has chronicled and gently satirized his foray into municipal politics in a new movie called The Canvasser, which he describes as “a story about an earnest but overmatched volunteer who decides to make a long-shot run for city council before he has to go on welfare.” It pokes fun at many parts of the political process, including gerrymandering, the influence of lobby groups and political legacies.
The film was inspired by Blurton’s 2014 bid to become councillor for Capital Ward. Like the movie’s main protagonist Devon Shire, Blurton found the process to be lonely, tiring and difficult. The parts of the campaign process that most inspired him to create a film were the moments of absurdity – information sessions that didn’t provide actual information (lest it be interpreted as legal advice), the importance of needing a political “pedigree” to be considered a serious contender and the barrage of rules, policies and procedures a candidate needs to be aware of when running a campaign.
While Blurton’s run for office was unsuccessful (incumbent David Chernushenko was re-elected), the experience inspired him to get involved on a community level and to make the movie. (One could argue that the outcome was even more successful than had he won!)
Blurton joined GACA in 2014 to become more familiar with community work, the development process and local neighbourhoods in Capital Ward. He stayed on after the election, becoming the association’s president in 2015, a post he held for two years. During his watch, GACA took Taggart to the former Ontario Municipal Board over the excessive height proposed for 265 Carling, the much-needed revitalization of Dalhousie South Park was planned and approved, and a number of developments were announced, such as the housing for the homeless initiative at 289 Carling and the Booth Street Complex. Blurton was involved in all aspects of GACA – from leading the association and representing it at wider fora such as the Federation of Citizens’ Associations to writing Glebe Report articles, creating promotional materials and, of course, door-to-door membership canvassing, for which he was exceptionally well qualified!
While Blurton was president of GACA, in his (copious!) spare time between work and the association, the movie idea began to coalesce. The screenplay was completed in 2015 with test shots filmed later that year. He and a small team conducted principal photography from 2016 to 2018. Then, Blurton spent the next three years on the long and tedious process of editing, sound editing, sound mixing and all the technical bits it takes to put a film together.
In total, the movie represents six years of effort. In the last year, Blurton has been busy entering the film into film festivals, a significant undertaking in itself. After submitting the film to over 20 festivals, it was accepted into the Maryland International Film Festival which took place in March in Hagerstown, MD. This fall, he will learn if the film will be accepted at the 2022 Ottawa Canadian Film Festival, scheduled for early November at the Bytowne Cinema.
Once the film festival circuit is complete, we hope to be able to show it to GACA residents so they can see their community profiled on the big screen as Bytown Ward. Glebe Annex residents will recognize our neighbourhood throughout the film, with scenes shot at the historic stone wall on Bell Street South, Henry Street and Carling Avenue. Overall, the movie was shot in more than 70 locations across the city, including the Experimental Farm, Dow’s Lake, Parliament Hill, Old City Hall, Nepean Point and Central Park.
While Blurton’s community and political efforts have been set aside, his work as an artist continues. He has written a science fiction novel called Evermore: Call of the Nocturne (which predates this movie) and has his sights set on making another film. We hope to see The Canvasser playing at the Bytowne this November. In the meantime, residents can watch the trailer on Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBaEfCDR8YM.
Sue Stefko is president of the Glebe Annex Community Association and a regular contributor to the Glebe Report.