A Cranbrook-raised filmmaker has returned to the East Kootenay to produce his first short film, a modern take on the legend of the Mad Trapper.
Kaio Kathriner grew up in Cranbrook, graduated from Mount Baker Secondary, and moved to Vancouver to attend film school at Capilano University. He has a blossoming career in the film industry and has worked on films, television series, music videos and commercials.
Now Kathriner is back in town to film a story in the Perry Creek back country.
“It is a 20-minute short film. It’s a personal project of mine that I have had in mind for a long time. It is loosely based on the story of the Mad Trapper from the 1930s up in the Northwest Territories,” he said.
“There was a lull in the industry in 2013 so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take three months off and write, produce and shoot this movie out here in Cranbrook.”
Albert Johnson, aka the Mad Trapper, was a recluse living in the Northwest Territories in the 1930s. Accused of tampering with the nearby First Nations’ traps, RCMP took out a search warrant on Johnson’s cabin. However, when they tried to enter the cabin, he opened fire on them, injuring one. The Mounties returned a week later and blew up the cabin, but Johnson continued to shoot from a dugout beneath the cabin. The RCMP retreated, and Johnson took off.
Over the next few weeks, Johnson fled through the bitter winter wilderness with the Mounties on his tail. At one point, he shot and killed an RCMP constable. The search party caught up with Johnson on February 17, 1932, and the Mad Trapper was shot and killed.
No one has ever been able to prove who Johnson was or where he came from, surrounding the man in deep secrecy.
“It’s one of the only Canadian outdoor stories that I really knew of growing up,” said Kathriner. “He is now a legend, a mystery. No one really knows who Albert Johnson really was and where he came from.”
Kathriner turned the legend into a new story and wrote the 20-minute short, “The Hunt for the Mad Trapper”. Last week, he brought 10 cast and crew from Vancouver to Cranbrook and, along with five Cranbrook cast and crew members, has been filming for six days. They used snowmobiles to get to the Perry Creek set, they have filmed on the frozen St. Mary’s Lake, at Fort Steele, and at local businesses.
“Many Cranbrook businesses and the community helped with production from catering to locations to snowmobiles to wardrobe,” said Kathriner.
It was important to him to use locations near his home town to tell the story, Kathriner went on.
“I wrote the film and brought a crew from Vancouver to shoot the landscape. It’s kind of the lifestyle I had growing up because I was an avid hunter and outdoorsman.
“I’ve always wanted to mix the two – my Cranbrook upbringing, and the new things I’ve learned in Vancouver.”
Kathriner cast several of his high school buddies in roles in the film. While Vancouver actor Blake Stadel plays the lead, a local conservation officer, Cranbrook’s Darren Adams plays the CO’s son, Orrin Hawke plays a taxidermist, and Nathan Berry plays the Mad Trapper himself.
“The trapper is a mystery man and we only reveal his face at the very end,” said Kathriner.
“I’ve worked with them before and I really wanted to put them in front of the lens and direct them as a filmmaker who has come a long way since my high school days.”
Once the film has been through post production, it will be shown in a Cranbrook screening in several months time. From there, Kathriner will enter “The Hunt for the Mad Trapper” in Canadian and international film festivals.
“I’m getting very excited about it because it really has potential,” said Kathriner. “It has the production value of the top films of those festivals.”