Movie lovers were treated to a special screening of the Canadian film Guitar Lessons, along with a Q and A visit from its director, Aaron James. The event was held at Reel Attractions in Humboldt on Saturday night. The film continues playing in the theatre until Tuesday. 

The film follows the relationship between a misanthropic guitar playing oilfield worker and a wayward, but earnest protégé. The additional characters provide humour, warmth, and passion in their struggles to come to terms with their own narratives. 

James is a musician who drew inspiration for the original story from his own life. He says the movie, shot in and around High Level, AB, was the result of a happy set of circumstances. The community advanced the idea of doing a film to James, who saw Guitar Lessons as the perfect fit. 

“They didn’t know what they were getting into, but they jumped on board,” James told the audience in a post screening chat. “They just dug in, saying if you need my house, here’s my house. If you need my shop, my car, my kids, my snowmobile, my boat - whatever.”

The movie, which features Canadian musical icon Corb Lund, was shot in just 18 days, but in that time, James says the communities involved were energized and simply “over the moon” about the prospect of seeing themselves and their stories told on the big screen. Since High Level has no movie theatre, James and the crew converted the lounge at the Flamingo Hotel into a makeshift venue so people in the community could watch the film.

Since then, Guitar Lessons has been gaining word of mouth traction, mostly through independently owned movie houses like Mike and Shannon Yager’s Reel Attractions. In those small venues, the film has beaten out attendance for blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick and Wakanda Forever. Eventually, those numbers caught the attention of Cineplex in the Edmonton and Calgary markets where the film will be making an appearance. 

Since the DVD/BluRay Market has fallen away, distribution for small independent films remains a challenge, says James. Powerhouse streaming distributors like Netflix may not gravitate toward smaller independent works, regardless of their quality and merit. James is hoping that an alternative streaming service, will ultimately provide a channel for wonderful smaller budget Canadian films like Guitar Lessons and James’ previous release Hank Williams First Nation. The site is currently under construction, but the hope is that independent productions will find a home with the fledgling service.