Christian, a 40-year-old artist, used to live in New York City selling paintings to wealthy New Yorkers. He now lives in a kitchen-less apartment in Windsor where he makes $100 a week.
Stuart, a middle-aged factory worker, used to work at the AbitibiBowater pulp and paper mill plant in Grant Falls, N.L. He now runs a government sponsored cranberry farm that won’t see fruit for at least three years.
These are the stories of Canadians dealing with what some call the worst economic crisis since the great depression, and the National Film Board is following, capturing and sharing these stories with their latest project, GDP: Measuring the Human Side of the Canadian Economic Crisis.
The project, which is the first large-scale collaboration between the French and English departments, is an interactive website featuring documentaries and photo essays about Canadians dealing with the recession.
“(The project) is a huge experience for all of us, it’s completely different than what we usually do,” producer Marie-Claude Dupont said from the NFB’s head office in Montreal.
The NFB has been creating traditional documentaries for the past 60 years, but as part of a new digital strategy, is taking things online and interactive.
“The people are part of the project,” Dupont said, adding that users will not only be able to comment on the stories, but also upload their own anecdotes, images and videos.
The project follows 15 Canadians for a year as they adapt to new circumstances and reinvent themselves in the face of the recession. Each week, a new chapter of their story is added to the site as a four-minute documentary shot by local filmmakers.
The characters come from across the country and from diverse employment backgrounds. Communities that aren’t following characters all year, will share their stories through photo essays shot by local and regional photographers.
As part of a national strategy to tell engaging stories about Canadians to Canadians, the NFB says all content on the site is available in both French and English. The idea for the interactive documentary stemmed from a desire to create a dialogue about the crisis as well as establish a historical record of the era.
“It will be something like a time capsule,” Michelle Van Beusekom, assistant director general of English programming, said.
“For us, it’s a way of sharing our stories and seeing how other people are affected. But in the future — 50 years from now, 100 years from now — people can look back.”
• GDP: Measuring the Human Side of the Canadian Economic Crisis goes live this week and will run for the next year. gdp.nfb.ca