Filmmaker documents Vimy 100 commemoration

A Nation Soars Producer Tim Joyce of Sound Venture Production (left) and Canadian comedian/actor Dan Aykroyd, who worked as an English narrator on the three-part documentary series that highlights the work of the Vimy Flight Group and the role of aviators in The Battle of Vimy Ridge. Photo credit: A Nation Soars

A Nation Soars Producer Tim Joyce of Sound Venture Production (left) and Canadian comedian/actor Dan Aykroyd, who worked as an English narrator on the three-part documentary series that highlights the work of the Vimy Flight Group and the role of aviators in The Battle of Vimy Ridge. Photo credit: A Nation Soars

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

On April 9, when five First World War replica aircraft soar high above Vimy Ridge marking the centennial of the famous battle, a Canadian film crew will be there to document the moment.

Ottawa producer/filmmaker Tim Joyce of Sound Venture Productions and The Royal Canadian Geographical Society are behind a Department of Canadian Heritage sponsored trilogy of films commemorating the largely unheralded contribution Canadian aviators played in the Allies’ victory in the First World War.

As the replica Nieuport 11 biplanes fly over the battle site tiny GoPro cameras affixed to the wings, cockpits and helmets of the pilots will provide what Joyce calls “spectacular coverage of the event.” They will also capture the fly-over from great vantage points on the ground at the actual ceremony site.

This, along with footage captured with the pilots throughout the Vimy 100 week, will be the final scenes for their third documentary entitled Flight Path of Heroes, which is targeted for release November 2017 on the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC).

The A Nation Soars trilogy showcases the bravery of Canadian pilots and soldiers who fought in France. The final episode will present the history side to the story, along with a chronology of the commemorative squadron Vimy Flight, who will show off their magnificent flying machines to a crowd of over 20,000.

A Nation Soars and all its parts is by far the most ambitious project I have ever worked on, and filming the final documentary at this once-in-a-lifetime event is going to be an amazing experience,” said Joyce. “Then, seeing Vimy Flight and A Nation Soars return to Canada to start its cross-Canada biplane tour in May will be the icing on the cake. This will not only bring the important message of Vimy 100 home to all Canadians, it will also bring to light a founding moment in our history as we celebrate Canada 150. All in all, I am very proud to be creating a historical legacy that will be passed on to present and future generations of Canadians.”

The first two First World War documentaries have already aired on CPAC: Drawn to Victory which focused on the importance of aerial reconnaissance, photography and mapping undertaken by Canadians in winning the war, and Wings of Courage, an in-depth look at the courage and successes of Canadian airmen and their flying machines.

Joyce says the first two parts of the commemorative trilogy have already created important teaching tools for 18,000 educators across Canada networked with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. A host of innovative educational resources is in distribution, including poster maps, educational videos, feature stories in Canadian Geographic aerial photography kits, and two 8 x 11 metre travelling floor maps (available on request) depicting the Western Front and Vimy Ridge.

The films are also available on CPAC’s website, and are narrated in English by Canadian comedic actor Dan Aykroyd, and in French by Quebec explorer and mountaineer Bernard Voyer. Joyce travelled to Kingston, Ont., to work with Aykroyd in a studio run by Tragically Hip drummer Johnny Fay. Joyce noted Aykroyd, who also starred in the movie The Arrow, portraying the making of Canada’s famed fighter jet, was fully behind the A Nation Soars trilogy from the get go.

“He showed up at the studio with Lattes and snacks for everyone; he was extremely eager to work on the project and we hit it off right away,” said Joyce. “Mr. Voyer was also an amazing individual who is very committed to teaching. It was so delightful to work with both these people who share the same passion about the importance of Vimy and our First World War aviators.”

Their passion is also shared by the pilots of Vimy Flight who will participate in the ceremonial fly-over on April 9, and showcase the two static display Sopwith Pups throughout the Vimy 100 week-long celebrations.

One of the pilots flying high above Vimy Ridge will be Comox Valley resident Major (Retired) Dale Erhart, who will be the Vimy Flight Team Leader. Erhart enjoyed a 28-year military career as a pilot and flight instructor and credits the collaboration between Vimy Flight, A Nation Soars, Veterans Affairs Canada, and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) for helping their dream take flight.

“He [Joyce] raised the level of professional credibility to our group through his efforts to involve various levels of government in the project,” said Erhart. “It was a big story that we wanted to tell and I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job than Mr. Joyce.”

Both Joyce and Erhart said Vimy Flight would not have been possible without out the assistance of Veterans Affairs Canada, who helped facilitate the transport of the seven planes to France via a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster plane March 15.

The planes are now in Lillie, France, ready to take flight for history and film.

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