Train’s passengers served as sounding board for screenplay

Madison Thomas used Winnipeg talent to produce post-apocalyptic film

U of W film student Madison Thomas came up with the idea for her film This Is Why We Fight while traveling in Europe. Cheyenne Rae

What would life in Winnipeg be like if the world went down the drain?

Madison Thomas is exploring this idea through her post-apocalyptic film This Is Why We Fight.

The movie is 20-year-old Thomas’s final project in the University of Winnipeg’s Filmmaking II class, the equivalent of an honours program for film students.

Thomas, who studied film at a summer program in Prague, came up with the idea for her project on a train ride after the program was completed.

“There was no TV, nothing like that; I had a computer with me but obviously no Internet access,” she says.

With hours to kill on the train, she just started writing.

“When people would come into my compartment who were English speakers, I would bounce ideas off them,” she says. “They actually have credits in my movie as collaborative writers.”

Just under 30 minutes in length, the movie follows protagonist Caleb Jacobs, who sells moonshine and cocaine to get by in this future Winnipeg, but still does his best to be a good guy.

“He has this strong set of rules that he lives by that he believes keeps him a decent human being,” she says.

The character’s dedication to his principles results in some difficult decisions.

When people would come into my compartment who were English speakers, I would bounce ideas off them. They actually have credits in my movie as collaborative writers.

Madison Thomas, filmmaker

“One day he finds this woman passed out in his driveway, and because of this set of rules, if he leaves her there, that’s inadvertently killing her, so he takes her in.”

Thomas got most of her costume pieces by asking for thrift store clothing that couldn’t be sold.

“I spent my Christmas break bleaching things, sandpapering things, ripping things,” she says.

Another adventure was shooting scenes right on the river in the middle of winter - the crew taped a heat pack to the back of the camera’s viewfinder to keep the fluids from freezing.

A similar tactic was used with a seven-year-old actor: sticking foot-warming packs around the inside of his jacket kept him warm and frostbite-free.

“I won’t miss filming in winters in Winnipeg, that’s for sure,” she says, referring to her plan to move to Toronto to pursue her film career.

However, for now, Thomas intends to enter her movie in the U of W’s student film festival, which takes place in April.

The other 11 students in Thomas’s class are making a variety of their own films, from comedies, fact-based dramas and even one in which a young man wants to give his soul to a mannequin.

“We’re a very versatile class,” she says.

Published in Volume 66, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 1, 2012)

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