When I pointed my old Sunfire east in 2008 to return home to Prince Edward Island after an exhilarating year at Vancouver Film School, I had no clue what awaited me. I left my soul behind in that mountain-hugged city—my son, the promise of film and television work, new friends, great coffee. I was scared to death.
I chose to take a chance on carving out a career in film on my beloved island, but there was a sickening crunch in my belly at the idea of coming back to a place where film work was virtually non-existent.
My belly’s crunched ever since.
Stories have been rolling around in my head forever. I cannot recall a time when some imaginary tale I told myself didn’t lull me off to sleep. For a few years after Vancouver, I made client films—docs, web videos, etc. but my dream has always been to shoot a feature drama, which has proven challenging to fund. Frustrated, I turned to writing books.
Suddenly I was writing an epic drama (about, um, friends who meet on the set of a television show, ahem). Today, the twelve-book Drifters series captivate readers worldwide. And I wrote it in little old PEI! Some days are still a struggle, because I haven’t given up on my film dream, but I’ve come to realize that the fight is with myself, not with where I live. It’s up to me to keep trying.
A year ago, a screenwriting mentor suggested I move to Toronto. He said I was ready. I’ve got a screenplay on the market, but I’m determined to work here where I’ve found peace, against the backdrop of endless beaches and healing sunsets. I see so much film success happening around me these days. It’s a reminder that other Island filmmakers haven’t given up. They’re my inspiration.
In one of my books, Josh says to Jessie, “Every Prince Edward Island sunset has your name on it.” I’ve decided I’m very blessed. As a seasonal camper in Darnley, I am graced by a lot of surreal sunsets. I think I’m the one whose name is written in the sun.
It’s not the place that’s restrictive. It’s me. As an Island filmmaker, I may not be where I want to be just yet, and maybe I don’t always feel as supported as I could be, but I’m a front line fighter, and even if I don’t win—if I don’t get my film made—then hopefully I’m at least clearing paths for those coming behind me.
Prince Edward Island might not be the easiest place to get a film funded, but if I can face the going down of the sun on a place that wants me, in a place that needs me—writing stories I cherish—then my heart is joyful, and my life, complete. And when the day comes that my feature drama makes the big screen, it sure is going to be pretty.
—Susan Rodgers, a Summerside writer, is the author of the popular twelve-part Drifters series. Her screenplay Still The Water is her latest film project. www.susanrodgersauthor.com