History can tell us volumes. The main shortcoming is that it is sometimes selective in what it wants to tell us. A half-truth is still akin to a lie. Anyone who presents themselves without fault is likely someone who has a major one. This is particularly applicable to countries. To deny fallacy or shortcomings is to admit that you have them to the world. When truth is omitted it is up to artists and journalists to bring these occurrences into the light. Ryan Boyko, Diana Cofini, & Editor Peter Chrapka performed the patriotic task of revealing the truth about the internment camps of World War I in Canada. The love of their country compelled them to create a 32-episode documentary series about this period. This documentary series would inspire a feature documentary to expound on the tale. Only in facing the events of the past can Canada hope to understand and avoid them in the future, a lesson that is applicable to every place on Earth…no matter where you live or your ideology.
“The Camps” is a documentary series depicting the period between 1914 and 1920 when over 8,500 people were wrongfully imprisoned in Canada. Almost forgotten, “The Camps” honors the memory of these men, women, and children by telling the story of their affliction. This production was recognized with an Award of Recognition by Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film and an Award of Merit (Special Mention) at the IndieFest Film Awards. Director/writer/producer Ryan Boyko approached Peter about the project. Chrapka openly admits that the content was as instrumental as the process for him, stating, “After meeting Ryan, the director, I learned of the internment camps for the first time and was shocked as I’d never heard about it before. Ryan saw my previous work and hired me to set up the project and sync all the audio. Ryan noticed the great attention to detail I had in handling the footage and setting up the project properly as well as my past awards and recognitions for work in the documentary genre so he offered me the position of video editor for the ‘The Camps.’ I felt like this was an important project for all of us. There is a responsibility that comes with a career in which you have a line of communication with the public.”
“The Camps” received so much attention and praise that its creators decided to fashion a feature documentary entitled That Never Happened: Canada’s First National Internment Operations. The expanded production team focused on the story of the 8,500 people who were wrongfully imprisoned in concentration camps across Canada, not for anything they had done but because of where they came from, as well as the fact that in 1954 the public records were destroyed. In the 1980s, a few brave men and women began working to reclaim this chapter in history to ensure future generations would know about it. Chrapka and his fellow filmmakers became the next generation in this lineage determined to reveal and discuss the true events while learning from them. Delivering a story such as this is never easy, Peter concedes, “I commend Ryan on his pursuits to tell this story in Canada’s history that has been erased from the history books. He wants this information to reach as many Canadians as possible. This web series has been viewed by thousands of people from around the world and I think the feature documentary will greatly help in reaching thousands more.”
It quickly became apparent to Chrapka that his task would be monumental working on the feature documentary. It involved locating and researching archived clips of the time period. Luckily, the Canadian National Film Board has a fairly large collection of footage from this era which the production was able to license. Of course, most of the records about the internment camps had been destroyed, meaning that no footage specific to the camps was available. Working with a combination of black and white footage from the 1920s as well as footage acquired from private citizens’ camcorders at special events in the 1990s up to the 2000s gave Peter some video but there was a distortion in the resolution as the quality of some of the old footage was not great quality. In documentaries, it is expected that archive clips are of lower quality. These archived clips became an integral part of telling the story and allowed the audience to visualize what the interviewees were referring to. This footage, combined with numerous interviews, gave a strong emotional component to the documentary.
The primary force behind both productions, Ryan Boyko, declares, “Peter’s incredibly important tasks included splicing stories together from the hours of interview footage we shot (which gave him creative control over what conversations made it into the finalized episodes), choosing the music for each episode from a stock cue library, splicing in our 4K drone footage (drone footage was a relatively new concept at the time, and required skill and grace to effectively edit into each episode), and overseeing the work of our color corrector, sound mixer, and other post-production personnel. All this adds up to Peter being an essential member of our crew, and a lead factor in The Camps & That Never Happened: Canada’s First National Internment Operations receiving the incredible critical and commercial success that it has. The web-series has garnered awards from the IndieFEST Film Awards (where the series won an Award of Merit for Best Documentary Short) and Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival (where the film won an Award of Recognition for Best Webisode/New Media). Peter was such a vital component and essential part of the voice with which we delivered this story, I knew that he must be included in the feature documentary when we decided to move forward with it. He is inseparable from the tone we achieved in That Never Happened.”
It’s easy to tell the kind of story which everyone wants to hear; communicating painful self-implicating ones requires bravery and introspection. It’s only by recognizing one’s own flaws that they may be overcome. Peter admits, “As a proud Canadian, I am glad I got to help in getting this story out to the world and sharing a part of Canada’s past that most Canadians have never heard of. I have learned a lot about this event in Canada’s history and have mentioned it to many of my friends and colleagues. They were as surprised as I was when I told them about this part in Canada’s history because it was never mentioned in any of our history classes growing up. I also learned a lot about storytelling and the importance of keeping the audience engaged and interested as a result of working both of these projects. I’m incredibly proud of these productions because I believe that all art is best when it is honest.”