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Revelstoke film examines queer identities affected by small mountain town life

People Like Us is set to premiere on Friday (Dec. 1)
Members of Queer Shred Revelstoke. (Ryan Collins/VIMFF)

On Friday, Dec. 1, the premier of People Like Us will be shown at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre, which is short documentary that explores Queer life in rural spaces, mountain towns, and the snow industry.

People Like Us was directed by local filmmaker, Ryan Collins, and produced by Nat Segal. Collins worked with several groups in town to help highlight the Queer community in Revelstoke. Collins spoke about what he found in pursuing the documentary, what some of the challenges were in filming it, and discussed what the Revelstoke community as a whole can take away from it.

This project grew from another project Collins started while attending Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

“I got a research grant that was about exploring the impacts of professional athletes and outdoor sports coming out on their personal lives and their careers,” said Collins.

Collins’ initial project didn’t pan out, but the idea stuck with him, and Collins said he always wanted to revisit it. When he teamed up with Nat Segal for a pitch at an alternative focus, People Like Us started to take shape.

The two applied for some funding and the project began.

Having worked in the climbing, surfing, and ski industry, Collins was no stranger to the subject of the documentary. Some of those environments, Collins said, left him feeling uncomfortable except for the climbing community.

“I would say the climbing industry is probably the most welcoming. It doesn’t really hold the same. Machismo for lack of a better word that surfing and skiing have,” said Collins.

To create the documentary, Collins spoke with the Open Mountains Project and Queer Shred Revelstoke, both of which are from Revelstoke. The former is a non-profit dedicated to ‘fostering inclusive mountain culture’, and the latter is an inclusive multi-sport group ‘aimed at getting Queers, Femmes, Poly Folk and Allies out and active in nature’. The people that Collins spoke to offered critical insight into what issues the Queer community faces in rural, mountain, and snow industry spaces.

Ryan Collins while filming People Like Us. (Laura Szanto/VIMFF)

“I think the ski and snowboard industry — a lot of people discussed how the kind of marketing tactics that they use, and how the industry portrays itself, is definitely very cis, white, heteronormative,” he said.

Collins explained that this creates an environment that doesn’t allow everyone in the community to feel represented, which feels exclusionary. He gave an example.

“Look at any ski film or events or just at any hill. There’s a serious lack of representation and participation amongst BIPOC people and trans people. I think people should be aware of that, and just kind of be critical of the media that they watch.”

Some of the challenges in filming this project that Collins ran into were both logistical and technical.

Several interviewees talked about feeling a lack of anonymity in a rural place, which can alienate them, and make them feel uncomfortable. As he completed the interviews, Collins said they were often over an hour in length and were very personal. Given that the project was a short documentary, he had trouble editing the film while still allowing people to discuss important aspects of the subject.

The other issue that Collins ran into was connecting the various people he’d spoken to for the film. Realizing that they had nothing connecting them except for him, Collins had to get in front of the camera, which he said wasn’t easy.

“So, we ended up using myself as like a way to stitch it all together. And I think that was probably definitely the hardest part for me. Having to sit down and edit it and listen to yourself for hours,” he said.

Stories often have meaning. Whether it’s a central theme or lesson to the audience, most stories leave people with a parting message. Documentaries are no different, but the stories being told are real, making the message all the more important. Collins said he didn’t start the project as a critique of the ski industry, but the documentary certainly examines it. Still, the message, Collins said, is even simpler than that.

“There are people that live in these towns that probably don’t feel as comfortable as people think they do,” he said.

Being a smaller place in a rural setting, Collins recognized that there was a limit to what the city could do but was clear that there was room for improvement to be a more inclusive space. Perhaps more movies like this, Collins suggested.

“I think people are just unaware of how other people experience this town ‘cause everyone’s, naturally, just experiencing it themselves,” he said, adding “anything that just gets people thinking a little bit helps.”

People Like Us was already featured in the “Best of Fall Series” at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, but its home premier will be Friday (Dec. 1) at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre from 7:30–9:30 p.m. The cost to enter is $20 and the premier will have a panel after the viewing of the documentary.

READ MORE: Revelstoke Mountain Resort to delay its opening due to lack of snow