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“Passing Orion” — a touching portrait by director Sean Thonson

Supply&Demand director Sean Thonson has released a touching portrait of Boyd Stevens, one of the last remaining inhabitants of Orion, Canada – a town with a present day population of seven.

Pacing, sound and compelling visuals blend together beautifully in “Passion Orion,” revealing a modern day ghost town buried deep in the prairie province of Alberta, Canada. A grocery store, post office and gas station/hardware store are all that remains in a town that 150 people called home back in 1945.

Boyd runs “Stevens Hardware and Garage” and he’s a well-known figure in the community – the last caretaker of a family business that’s been in operation for three generations. He ponders his future while recounting his past, lamenting the closure of the town’s school back in 1957: “That was a kick in the pants,” he muses as we see a local, abandoned baseball diamond. “As the kids disappeared it wasn’t so much fun anymore. That was the end of the ball.”

Boyd’s story is framed against the incredibly beautiful and diverse landscape of the Canadian prairies. Abandoned buildings litter the countryside, but there is no time for him to reminisce for too long as the dogged Canuck continues servicing his rural community each and every day. “I got a funny feeling they they’re trying to tell me something – but I don’t hear too good,” says a dry-witted Boyd on the people who died or left town.

Thonson met Boyd one day quite by accident. He discovered the hamlet of Orion while scouting locations across the plains for a Travel Alberta TV campaign.

Running low on gas he spotted a tiny town in the far distance, driving past derelict buildings before finding gas at the local store:

“It’s such a stark landscape, almost devoid of trees and always windy,” he recalls of traveling through the area. “I ended up getting gas from Boyd and we talked for an hour. He was a fascinating guy. I was itching to tell his story for quite some time.”

A busy commercial schedule meant he would wait almost two years before finally filming the documentary. Shooting a job in Vancouver Thonson scored four free days waiting for client approval on casting, and set off immediately for Orion with a motor home where he and his small crew could sleep. “We’d get up at the crack of dawn, shoot time lapse photography and take advantage of the radical summer weather that was constantly changing all around us,” he explains.

Using EPIC DRAGON equipment as well as the Canon EOS-1Dc DSLR system during the shoot, footage was captured at 6K and 4K respectively. “Slowly people would come to Boyd’s store as I interviewed him to buy batteries, a pack of cigarettes – just to get the smallest things and to sit down for a while, come on by and say hello.”

Editor Einar Thorsteinsson at Union Editorial cut Thonson’s footage with exacting precision, a familiar ally after collaborating with the director/cinematographer for over 15 years. Live string music by Asche & Spencer further adds to the film’s effect, helping define the emotional beats in Boyd’s touching story.

“Passing Orion” is a tale as old as time itself. Time, as the Roman poet Horace tells us, pushes us inexorably on toward old age and, in doing so, leaves us smitten by a desire to see again what we had once loved. So is the case for Boyd in the rural town of Orion.

“It’s his stubbornness to hang on to a time gone by, to look back and inward that has kept his family business alive,” Thonson notes. “I was also drawn to Alberta’s and its stark landscape – you can drive past towns like this and never look back. We shouldn’t take these ‘mom and pop’ stores for granted. Drop in and look around. Maybe they won’t be there the next time you circle back.”

Creative Credits:
Director / Cinematographer Sean Thonson
Exec Producer Rita LeRoux
Camera Operator Steve Green
Assistant Camera Schane Godon
Production Supervisor Erin Tobman
DIT Rick Youck
Editor Einar Thorsteinsson, Union Editorial
Assistant Editor Zach Kashkett

Music by Asche & Spencer
Strings performed by The Laurels
Music recorded at Asche & Spencer Studios,
Minneapolis, MN
Post Production Producer Megan Dahlman
Graphic Artist Justine Gordon
Colorist Steve Rodriquez
Sound Mixer Milos Zivkovic

TALENT

Boyd Stevens Stevens Hardware and Garage
Barb Traxler Orion & District Coop, Orion AB
Judy Fulton Southern Ranchmens Inn, Manyberries AB
Gerald Maser Gerald Maser
Various Members Mayfield Hutterite Colony, Etzikom AB