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L.A. Beat

Local film maker brings Chess 4 Life to screen with Telus Storyhive grant

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Local musician and author Tanner James Holthe is thinking a couple moves ahead by debuting his new film “ Chess 4 Life,” Sept. 22 at Casa,

 He won a $20,000 Telus Storyhive grant to make his 20 minute documentary on an innovative new program to teach at risk youth haw to play Chess instead of doing community service.


“I read an article in Alberta Views about this program that started at the University of Lethbridge by a professor and a judge who started this program for at risk kids to each them how to play the game of chess instead of doing community service by picking up garbage on the side of the  highway,” said Taber born Holthe, who spent 14 years in Calgary, before moving back to Lethbridge last year right before the pandemic, which is when the Telus Storyhive opportunity came up.


“I bookmarked the idea and when they announced their Local Heroes documentary edition, I thought it would be a great idea,” he said, adding he received the full $20,000 grant to make the documentary between February 2021and June 2021. He had to submit it by July.


“It was a pretty tight turnaround. I was editing parts of the film at the same time I was shooting other parts,” he said.


 He’ll have the special screening at Casa for the cast, crew and friends, but Telus will release the movie to the general public in a couple months on  a variety of platforms including Optik TV and their Youtube channel.


He used to be in alternative rock band the Nix Dicksons and is a regular performer at Taber Cornfest. He has a new Calgary based band Kid Cali, which has just released their first single “Third Eye.” He also released his first book in 2017.


 Like everything else, he taught himself to make movies.


“It’s very punk rock. Before this project,  I made a lot of bad horror movies with my friends just to learn how to do it. But this is my first professional film,” he said, adding it clocks in at 23 minutes and includes approximately a dozen interviews.


Making “Chess For Life” was a learning experience as he used the $20,000 budget to hire a nine person crew and recruited others to learn special skills. All of them stepped up to the challenge of making a movie during a pandemic.


“I hired a friend of mine to do some stop motion. He’d never done stop motion before, but he learned how to do it for this project. For the amount of money I paid him, it wasn’t worth his time, but he stepped up to the challenge,” he said, adding shooting in the middle  of a pandemic was a challenge.


“It was a challenge making a film in the middle of a global  pandemic. it lead to a  lot of stressful nights,” he said.

 “Everybody was so excited to be part of it. Their enthusiasm was contagious, not in a Covid way, but their excitement. It will be really cool to see everyone’s reaction to it, he continued.

He enjoyed watching the story unfold.

“They are studying the program to see if and how it works. I’m not sure if it is because of the mentorship or because they’re learning something new, or that Chess is  about thinking two and three moves ahead in life. It’s a great program,” he said

 He is looking forward to giving his cast, friends and family a sneak preview, Sept. 22

“ The preview at Casa is a go. You’ll still need a vaccine passport, what else are you going to call it. But it will be limited tho the cast and friends,” he said.

 “The people I hired are people I’ll probably be working with for the rest of my life. They’re going to be my artistic posse,” he said.

—By Richard Amery, L.A. beat Editor

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