“What are you working on these days?” asked my friend Andrea.
“Oh, this thing on happiness.” (I suck at the elevator pitch. Plus, I’m a bit superstitious about over-sharing a work-in-progress – as if you can squander your excitement for a project by communicating it verbally to someone, and then when you sit down at the page, you’ve forgotten everything you said about it.)
“You should meet Journey.”
She told me about a remarkable Whistler student who was working on a documentary as her thesis project.
A few weeks later, my amazing editor Mike Berard sent me a link to Journey’s instagram account – “sidebar?” he suggested. Cue Twilight Zone soundtrack. I mean, it’s straight up magic – these coincidences, these cosmic intersections of awesomeness.
So I had the most wonderful conversation with an 18 year old girl, and am excited to announce that her film premieres to the world at the Audain Art Gallery on May 24.
This is the sidebar –
People tell Journey Hope Smith that she’s inspiring. “You must have so much hope,” they say. The eighteen year old was born with hydrocephalus, or a build-up of fluid on the brain, and had a stroke as an infant. She has had more than thirty surgeries in her life – many of them brain surgeries, some of which she was not expected to live through. The doctors wrote her off. Her family was told that she would probably never walk or talk.
As her thesis project for her final year of high school, Smith decided to tackle her experience head on. She also grew compelled to send a message back in time to her eight year old self.
Smith partnered with a friend, wedding videographer Andi Wardrop, to make a documentary about hope. The 20-minute piece asks six different people about how hope played a role in their journey through adversity. Smith’s neurologist, a support worker in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, a widow, a cancer survivor and the father of Smith’s friend who dies of a brain tumour at the age of nine to open up about their lowest moments. And together, they uncover a truth: there is no formula.
“Hope is different things to different people,” says Smith, teasing out how her perspective evolved over the course of filming the documentary. “Sometimes things feel hopeless. But you will pull through. It’s hard. And sometimes you won’t want to keep going. And it’s okay. And there will be people along the way who’ll help you through.” That’s what eight-year-old Journey needed to hear. And when Smith stands in front of her school, on the verge of graduating, and screens her documentary, she’ll offer everyone the courage to endure.