Film honours father's cancer experience

Key Meek plays host to screening and fundraiser

Brain Maker: short film and fundraising event, Saturday, Jan. 30, 6:30 p.m. at Kay Meek Centre, 1700 Mathers Ave., West Vancouver. Tickets: $10/$7 at

Eighteen years ago, when Emmett Sparling was still in utero, his father Lawrence received some devastating news.

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"The day after my parents announced that they were pregnant with me, my dad had a seizure and was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumour," Sparling says.

Lawrence was told he had a very slim chance of survival, but he was eventually offered the chance to undergo a risky surgery. To help ease his fears about the medical procedure, he imagined that, rather than being a patient entering the operation room, he was an astronaut heading into deep space.

"The surgery was his mission, and there was no room for failure," Sparling says.

The operation was a success and today, Sparling, a Bowen Island resident and Grade 12 student at Rockridge secondary in West Vancouver, is paying tribute to his father's inspiring story with a short film. "I was a huge part of the motivation for my dad to keep going, and so I wanted to honour that story," says the largely self-taught filmmaker.

Entitled Brain Maker, the 20-minute movie has been in the works since the fall of 2014. Sparling spent several months developing a script and then started planning sets and costumes. He assembled a crew and a cast that includes Christian MacInnis playing his dad and Carrie Lehman as his mom.

He also set up an Indiegogo campaign that raised $16,000 toward his project budget.

"My cinematographer and I spend two weeks building a full-sized Mercury space capsule in my backyard," Sparling recalls.

Brain Maker was shot on Bowen Island last summer with a Black Magic cinema camera and edited over the fall and winter months.

Half set on earth, half set in space, the story is told from the perspective of Sparling's father as a cancer patient and imagined astronaut.

"A poem that my dad wrote while he was sick kind of ties it together," Sparling says.

When Brain Maker debuts at Kay Meek Centre on Jan 30, Sparling's dad will be there to kick off the screening with a talk.

Following the film, Sparling and director of photography Shane McLachlan will speak about the making of the film and show a behind-the-scenes video. A reception will follow with food and a cash bar and attendees can mix and mingle with the cast and crew.

All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

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