Actors Jacqueline Ambrosia as Harriet Trout and Michael MacEachern as John Muir in a scene from John Muir at Trout Hollow.
A short film about world-renowned adventurer, writer and preservationist John Muir’s time in the Meaford area will make its premiere in the Scenic City next week.John Muir at Trout Hollow will screen at the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library in Owen Sound on Wednesday at 7 p.m.Writer, director and producer Amy Phelan said the 22-minute docudrama short film is about Muir’s two years working at a sawmill at Trout Hollow on the Bighead River from 1864-66. While there have been many biographical films about Muir, hers is different in that it focuses on his time in Canada, before his fame as a writer, explorer and preservationist.“When he came here it was his first big adventure and he was trying to find out what he wanted to do in his life. Those are the kinds of things I explore in the film,” said Phelan.“A lot of people talk about where John Muir went, what he did and how he changed the way we think about the land, but this film explores those things that influenced him – the books he was reading, the things he was thinking about, his changing spirituality and its connection to the land.”Muir is renowned for the work he did to create the National Park system in the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Known as “John of the Mountains” and the “Father of the National Parks,” his activism helped preserve many of the natural areas in the U.S. He was also co-founder of the Sierra Club international conservation organization.Phelan said that while the story focuses on Muir’s time in Grey County, his story is an international one.“I will be able to show it in places like Scotland I hope, because John Muir was born in Scotland and they actually celebrate his birthday,” she said. “There has been recent interest about John Muir.”
Phelan said the inspiration for the film originates from her time living in Meaford about three decades ago. Back then she received a book with a John Muir quotation that has stuck with her over the years.Then, about 25 years after she received the book, when she was looking at properties to resettle in Meaford again, she discovered Muir’s connection to the town.Her research took her to the Meaford Museum, where she came across a series of letters Muir wrote to his friends in the Meaford community in the years after his time there. Those letters, along with the memoirs of William Trout, one of Muir’s closest friends during his time in the area, have formed the basis to her film.When she moved back to the Meaford area about three years ago, and was still a student at Ryerson finishing her film studies, she learned of a grant for a Ryerson student to produce a film, which she applied for and received, paving the way for the making of the film.She had also been fascinated with the beauty and privacy of Trout Hollow for a long time and often walked through it, before finding out the John Muir connection.One day she joined a walk through the area with John Muir historian Robert Burcher, who has just completed a book about Muir’s 300-mile walk through Ontario.“It was funny to find out there was this whole history of Muir and the Trout family, who actually erected a log cabin in Trout Hollow,” she said. “When John Muir came up from the United States he lived there in the 1860s.”
Brian Fray plays William Trout in a scene from John Muir at Trout Hollow.
While most of the cast and crew in the film are from the GTA, local actor and cartoonist Brian Fray plays a prominent role in the film, as the elder William Trout, reading from the Trout family history.Wednesday’s premiere is being presented in partnership with the Scenic City Film Festival. At the event, Phelan will be joined by Fray, as well as Meaford resident Billy Fairley, a Scottish-born musician and producer, who contributed a piece of Celtic music from one of his albums for the film.Burcher will also be present to take part in the question and answer session that will be a part of the evening.