The Sparky Book a labour of love for Newfoundland filmmaker Mary Lewis

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Mary Lewis film The Sparky Book will be screened during the Nickel Literary Film Series in Woody Point Thursday. Seen here is a screenshot from the film. Submitted photo

Corner Brook -

The charming story of a young women and a special relationship with her dog will be brought to the screen at Woody Point during the Nickel Literary Film Series.

Directed by Newfoundland filmmaker Mary Lewis and loosely based on a short story by Corner Brook native Michael Winter, "The Sparky Book" will be screened Thursday afternoon during the final day of the series, one which kicked off Tuesday.

The 14-minute film deals with the bond between a girl named Bridget and her dog Sparky and highlights the way in which the relationship gives the characters the strength to face some of most difficult moments in their lives.

Lewis admits Winter's story is close to her heart since it was written for her sister Leah - who plays the adult-version of herself in the film - although she said the project isn't a direct adaptation of Winter's work.

"It's a beautiful little story book about a dog because my sister had a dog who was a huge figure in her life," Lewis told The Western Star. "She had dealt with kidney disease and had a transplant in her childhood. His chap book was really just about the dog but I wanted to make a film that was about a girl and a dog and try to get at the huge transcendence that can happen sometimes in a relationship with an animal, especially in childhood."

Lewis said the personal connection was crucial to this project since it was two years in the making before its eventual release in 2006. As someone with numerous acting and directorial credits to her name, she said it's becoming increasingly easier to find projects that strike an emotional chord in her.

"I find now as I'm getting older, you can bring almost any subject close to your heart," she said. "What I know or what I feel I can write about seems to be getting bigger and bigger because there are ways to relate to so many different kinds of stories."

Since its release, the film has won the Golden Sheaf Award as Best Experimental Film at the Yorkton International Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the Flicks International Children Film Festival and has screened at such festivals as the Atlantic Film Festival and St. John's International Film Festival. Lewis believes the universal nature of its subject matter has allowed the film to resonate with a wide variety of audiences.

"So many people respond to it in a literal way because they have a strong relationship with a pet or have had one in the past," she said. "Others respond to it in a less literal way. It's about the bravery that's required to face illness and also to face losing your loved ones. It doesn't have to be a pet."

Count Winter himself as someone who has been touched by the film.

"For one thing, it's really beautiful to watch and it's moving," Winter said. "Through an inarticulate feeling of colour and sound and pictures, the movie presents family love and love in the world that can transcend illness and death. Those are big things to talk about and usually when they're handled by an artist they're very boring or didactic. But this movie is somehow in the kaleidoscope of colour and meaning, touches one's feelings rather than one's head. It's a heartfelt thing rather than something you can intellectualize."

Seeing something that started as his idea but was transformed into an entirely different genre and vision by another artist was something he admits was a surreal experience.
"It's very strange," he said.

"I've had friends who've written stories and people turned into movies and they told me it's the same thing. You have this idea and through no energy of your own someone has made something else out of it. That's kind of a real delightful event to see. I've seen it and its an amazing film and I'm very delighted to feel like anything I did helped make that."

"The Sparky Book" will be screened 4 p.m. Thursday along with four other films at the Discovery Centre in Woody Point. Admission is free and for more information contact Ruth Lawrence at nickelfestival@gmail.com or 709-576-3378

Organizations: Nickel Literary Film Series, Discovery Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Corner Brook, Woody Point Western Star Yorkton St. John's

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