Filmmaker focuses on military families

Filmmaker focuses on military families

The Land of the Sun crew on location in Vancouver, with Sasha Popove filming (center), Melissa Flagg (far right), and Jason Segal (far left).

Leaving loved ones behind is an all too familiar experience for any military member, and Victoria director Melissa Flagg portrays this in her new film, “Land of the Sun.”

The 17-minute short follows the story of a Canadian military family struggling to make it through a long separation when husband Shale is away on tour in Afghanistan.

It is the deep longing followed by the joy of reunion that Flagg’s film so accurately captures.

“I wanted people to identify with the struggles of a Forces member who must leave what they love, and to give people a sense of how hard it is in military families – what people actually go through when they spend time apart,” she says.

Flagg grew up in Victoria and became interested in photography when she was in high school, printing and developing her own photos in the school’s darkroom.

From there, she started experimenting with digital media and film.

After a number of small student films produced during her time studying at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Flagg produced her first independent film, “Finding and Fraying”, in 2008.

The medium of film became the perfect creative outlet for her through the solitary time spent script writing and the cooperation during production and post-production.

“What I love about film is that I have time to be alone with my ideas, but I can creatively play with others,” she says.

“And what amazes me about the collaborative aspect is that everybody who contributes something makes the project so much fuller and richer. It’s not something I could have ever made on my own.”

Flagg’s idea for the military-themed film started to percolate when she was finishing post-production on her last short film, “Liminal.”

She’d heard a story about a soldier coming home, and that brought to mind the idea of homecoming.

“The sense of walking through the threshold of your door after being gone was a very powerful image for me.”

She started writing a script in February 2010.  Little did she know she would be consumed with writing and grant applications for two years.

“The most challenging part about this film was having to do all of the fundraising myself. It was difficult to stay motivated and committed to the project, because I was having to wait upwards of six months to hear back about funding, and whether or not I could move forward. The long process felt, at times, like it was sapping the creativity out of me.”  

She received a grant from the B.C. Arts Council and brought on Brie Konicek to produce the film.

About a year later they gathered a small crew together to begin production.

With her trusted producer, they hired seven actors and a production crew.

They built a plywood set in a spare room at Konicek’s housing co-op to film the majority of the military indoor scenes.

Other sets for the film included a gym, and the home of Flagg’s friend.

But the rainy and vegetation-dense Vancouver environment made re-creating an Afghanistan landscape impossible, which led them to Kamloops for the military patrol scenes.

Though Flagg says the main characters Shale and Kate are not autobiographical, they are drawn from bits and pieces of people she knows, including her younger brother Master Seaman Ryan Flagg and a military friend of his, both of whom Flagg interviewed in-depth.  

Flagg wants her audience to not only  have an appreciation for the emotional toll of deploying, but to see it within the larger vision of military service and war.

“We’re often thinking about the actual battlefield and what goes on there, but there’s a whole other piece about what’s happening at home, what’s going on with the people we love,” she says.

Post-production for the film ended in August 2014, and shortly after, “Land of the Sun” debuted at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Flagg is especially excited to screen her film at the GI Film Festival in Washington, DC, in late May.

“It will be the first screening in the U.S., so it will be a completely different audience,” she says. “And I want to be a part of that festival because I want my film to connect directly with military viewers.”

To help cover transportation costs to and from the festival, Flagg has organized an Indiegogo campaign (

For those looking to support Flagg’s trip, please visit:


Rachel Lallouz
Staff Writer

Filed Under: Top Stories


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