By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, August 2022)
Scott Blurton, a former president of the Glebe Annex Community Association (GACA), has chronicled, and perhaps slightly satirized, his time running for city council 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 gentle fun at many parts of the political process, including gerrymandering, the influence of lobby groups and political legacies.
The film was inspired by Scott’s 2014 bid to run for Capital Ward Councillor. Like the movie’s main protagonist Devon Shire, Scott found the process to be often lonely, tiring, and difficult. The parts of the campaign process that perhaps 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 even the barrage of rules, policies and procedures a candidate needs to be aware of when running a campaign. While Scott’s 2014 bid was unsuccessful, with the incumbent David Chernushenko remaining Ward councillor, the experience inspired him to both get involved on a community level, as well as to create a movie about the experience. (One could thus argue that the outcome was even more successful than had he won!)
Scott joined GACA in 2014 in a bid 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 then Ontario Municipal Board over the excessive height proposed for then 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 St. Complex. Scott was involved in all parts 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!) – and more.
While Scott was still president of GACA, in his copious amounts of spare time between work and the association, the idea of the movie 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, Scott spent the next three years on the long and tedious process of editing, sound editing, sound mixing, and all the parts that make a film so much more than just a series of shots. In total, the movie represents six years of effort. In the last year, Scott has been busy entering the film into film festivals – itself a significant undertaking. After submitting the film to over 20 festivals, the film was accepted into the Maryland International Film Festival which took place in March 2022 in Hagerstown, MD. This fall, he will learn if the film will be accepted at the 2022 Ottawa Canadian Film Festival, which will take place in early November at the Bytown 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 St. South, Henry St, other parts of Bell St. South and Carling Ave. 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, Central Park and more.
While Scott’s community/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 Bytown Cinema this November – in the meantime, residents can watch the trailer on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBaEfCDR8YM.
Scott Blurton’s debut as film writer and director spotlights his home community of Glebe Annex as well as city politics in a satirical film called The Canvasser.