The Reel Vancouver – Vol. 20 – Daniel and Erin Northcott

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BE BRAVE – A film by DANIEL and ERIN NORTHCOTT

 

Be Brave is a joyful invitation for us to honor the sacredness of life, to reconnect with nature and with each other. It would be a challenge to dream a myth more perfect for this moment on planet Earth, as we stand together at the crossroads and contemplate our options: reunite with nature or be consumed by it.”

 

Thirteen years ago, Daniel Northcott, barely 20 at the time, took to traveling the world in search of stories to reinforce a strong belief in society’s connectivity with not only each other, but with nature and the universe. He filmed nearly every step of that journey and planned to make the ultimate adventure film focussed on bringing people together. For each significant place he visited, Dan took a keepsake to remind and connect him with his travels; but in April of 2007, Dan was exploring a Mayan burial site and took a bone which was said to hold a possibly dangerous curse. Several months later, Dan began noticing serious and multiplying symptoms and by the time he returned to Vancouver, he was literally unrecognizable to his mom and sister.

“Dan and I had been talking for weeks before he came back, he had mentioned not feeling well, but I had no idea he was as sick as he was until I saw him at the airport.” I spoke to Erin Northcott, Daniel’s sister, over the holidays. “My mum didn’t recognize him. I said, ‘there he is’ and she said, ‘no, that’s not him.”

Dan was very quickly diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia found in his bones and after an intense three rounds of chemo, the doctor delivered the news that Dan’s prognosis was not much more than three months. But instead of putting his work on hold, he turned the camera back on and began to document his tumultuous battle to survive a devastating disease.

“Most of us just wanted the camera turned off” Erin explains, “we were used to him filming everything, so it wasn’t that, we just wanted him to relax, but Dan felt this was part of his journey, the story was taking a very unexpected turn and he wanted it all on tape, so we just agreed and let it go.” 

In 2009, Dan passed away leaving over 1000 hours of raw footage, a 40minute sketch of his intended film, and a wish that his sister, Erin, would complete his project and help in telling his story.

 

Daniel and Erin

“This is my dream, but only a taste of the bigger picture. There is a whole underlying vision, philosophy, goal and message behind these sketches. A lifetime of ideas that I would like you to see someday. The film I want to make in the future will speak every language, cross every country, all of time, and make the journey personal to anyone who who watches it. Please help me… I have scraped together every penny I’ve ever had to make these sketches an open invitation to this epic adventure. Join me and learn what you already know, once and for all; we are the same, we share the same origin, the same apparatus; flesh, bone, blood. Be brave, and help.”

I wrote Dan a poem when he was in the hospital, he kept it by his bed; one of the lines in it read, ‘if the time comes when you need to dear brother, trust in me, place dreams in my hand.’ I just felt honored and that he’d made the right choice.” 

Since then, Erin has teamed up with Californian production company Elevate to bring Daniel’s dying wish to life in the form of a feature length documentary.

The greatest challenge was getting the nerve to go out there and try to make this happen, and the second greatest challenge has been learning to let go and trust. It’s such a huge responsibility to carry forward someone’s dream that is no longer alive and able to advise you on what they want. I love my brother so much and that makes it easier as his dreams are now my dreams, but I’m not a filmmaker so I need to depend on others to carry forth his vision.”  

The story of Dan’s life is impressive, to say the least: a larger than life personality on a quest to capture the essence of human spirit and bring us closer together by way of honest storytelling. But it continues to verge on supernatural when you take into account Daniel’s possibly life changing decision in April of 2007 when he removed a sacred bone from a Mayan burial site. And while there is no way of proving whether or not the bone was responsible for his death, Erin and her family deeply respect the sacred lines crossed when the bone was taken.

“He was warned profusely not to take the bone,” Erin explains in a piece she wrote, “but he took it anyway. When asked why, he said, ‘to be forever linked to the Mayan world.’ In a way that’s why he collected most natural items: to keep the world and it’s history close to him. While part of him knew he shouldn’t take the bone, he felt the gods would understand. He also admitted to the natural human feeling of just wanting to test the boundaries of the known and unknown – he wanted to see what would happen.”

She and her family recently returned to Mexico to put the issue to rest and grant themselves some closure on the issue. They filmed their experience and plan to use it as the connective tissue in Daniel’s story.

Be Brave is the incredibly true, and larger than life story of Daniel Northcott, a unique filmmaker with an eye for colourful characters and the oneness we all share. It’s only fair that the legacy and film he leave behind is as spectacular as the lifetime it captures. Erin, along with the amazing team at Elevate are nearly there, but they still need your help. Daniel’s passion was people, and that’s who will make his film, Erin and Elevate are seeking support via the ever-popular crowdfunding platform, IndieGoGo. To make a contribution please visit the campaign site: http://www.indiegogo.com/Be-Brave

“I’d just like to mention how much it means to us each time someone joins us in helping to create Be Brave, each contribution, even if it’s just a dollar, makes the foundation that Be Brave is being built on that much stronger. We really want this to be a movie we the people make possible, we welcome everyone to join us and be a part of this adventure.” A message from Erin and the Be Brave team.