© ADAM MACINNIS – THE NEWS
Erik Nelson remembers standing at a small church in Olney, England where John Newton, author of the hymn Amazing Grace, once preached.
As he prepared to start the one-person play he does of the minister’s life the church bells rang sending shivers through Nelson, who has spent the last decade portraying the man on stage.
There’s something compelling about the life of Newton and Nelson hopes he can convey that story to people through a movie, But Now I See, that’s being filmed in Pictou this week.
Newton was a man who was despised by fellow seaman so much that he was sold as a slave on another ship, but he would rise through the ranks to become a hated slave captain himself. After years of transporting slaves, Newton had a conversion experience and left the trade and sailing to become a minister. It was while working as a preacher that he wrote the hymn Amazing Grace for a New Year’s Day service. The song has since become one of the best-known hymns of all time.
It’s the transformation in Newton that makes the story so amazing, says Nelson.
”Someone who was known as the great blasphemer to being a pastor,” he said. “I can see the similarities in most people’s lives – some type of transformation from where they were to where they are today.”
After years of doing the play, Nelson said he’s happy that producer John Jackman has taken on the task of making it into a movie, the ship scenes for which are being shot on board the Ship Hector replica in the Pictou harbour.
“For it to come to fruition is just super exciting. We found a perfect location at the Hector,” he said. “It’s a quaint little town. Here everyone is kind of embracing the fact that we’re here.”
Jackman and most of the production crew arrived from North Carolina on Sunday night and said they’ve found everyone helpful and friendly in the Shiretown.
“It’s not always that way when we shoot on locations,” Jackman said. “Everybody’s just been wonderful. We’re glad to be here.”
He said he had talked to practically every tall ship owner in North America in the course of trying to find the right ship to shoot the scenes for the movie on before finally being able to arrange to use the Hector.
“We were just happy to find one that was usable and accessible that we could work out something with,” he said.
The boat will stay docked while the filming is done with camera effects and post production work used to make it look like it’s really at sea. Jackman said they’re also being careful with how they shoot the pictures to reduce the amount of distractions in the background that they’ll have to edit out such as the Northern Pulp mill.
“We actually add motion in the camera for certain shots which are supposed to be on the open sea,” he said. “It’s actually very effective.”
The movie is expected to be released in Feb. 2014. When it does, Jackman said, they will probably have a showing at the deCoste Centre.
They aren’t expecting it to be a blockbuster, but hope that they’ll be able to have a reasonable amount of sales in Christian bookstores and possibly through a limited theatrical release.
Locals will want to watch it to see some of their neighbours and friends who have landed roles as extras or even small speaking parts.
Barry Randle is one person who is getting the opportunity to be on film. The owner of the Stone Soup Café, is not only catering for the group while they are here, but also is acting as the ships cook for one scene.
“It seems kind of fitting,” he said with a laugh.
He said it’s great for the area to have the group here.
“I think we should have more movies be shot here. It’s certainly picturesque enough.”