Calgary-shot film humanizes those in the oil industry
Circle of Steel takes a page from the 2015 mass layoffs
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It’s natural that many oil stories come out of Alberta, the energy province, but director Gillian McKercher hopes to bring a unique perspective with her inaugural film.
Currently shooting in Calgary, McKercher’s Circle of Steel is a coming of age story about a young engineer in her first field position – and the disruption she witnesses when layoffs are announced.
It’s a semi-autobiographical story based on McKercher’s own experiences working as an engineer for several years at an oil and gas company.
“A lot of people in Calgary, we sort of have a chip on our shoulder about being vilified by the rest of the world for having such a high intensity fossil fuel industry,” she said. “When I worked there, I really felt the guilt, but I also was so in love with all the people I worked with. There are some really great people there. It’s not as simple as other parts of the world make it seem.”
“I think it’s a lot of good people who don’t have the time or the privilege to make these massive choices.”
McKercher aims to show a sympathetic view of the workers on the ground – but it takes a somewhat darkly comedic tone. The time frame borrows from the period of mass layoffs in the industry beginning in 2015.
Production has been made possible by the Calgary Film Centre’s Project Lab Grant. McKercher was one of six to win production grant money.
Although jumping from engineering to film making can seem like quite the pivot, McKercher always had a love for film, and felt her background skills actually lended themselves fairly well to directing.
“I think engineering is so complementary to film,” she said. “Engineering, a lot of it is muscling through problems, so you’re not the one creating the formula – you’re the one taking the formula to practically accomplish something, which I think is a lot like filmmaking.”
Circle of Steel will continue shooting in and around the Calgary area over the next few weeks.