Dianne Whelan is an award winning filmmaker, photographer and author who lived, until fairly recently, in Vancouver. At the time of this interview she was in New Brunswick, in the midst of a project she calls “500 Days in the Wild.”
“It’s what I do for a living. I do these adventures, make films and then I write books about them. Sometimes I do websites as well or interactive projects,” she says.
Last July 1, after having temporarily divested herself of most her belongings, renting out her house and selling her car, she stepped out onto Mile Zero of the Trans Canada Trail in Victoria, B.C.and began a long walk across the country.
“I usually follow other people’s journeys, but this time, because it’s the Trail – the longest trail in the world – and you kind of need a person, too, I’m like the character in my own story.”
Having only reaching New Brunswick by March, she now concedes that it will probably take more like “1,000 days in the wild” to complete her 25,000 km hike. The end result will be a documentary film and, eventually, a book.
There are other people attempting this feat, and she says she hopes to meet some of them, but it’s not a race for her. It’s about the journey and the people and places she encounters along the way.
The project is not continuous, however. In April, for instance, she will be flying to the Yukon to take part in the Yukon Writers’ Festival, which takes place April 20-24. As the Public Library Branch’s contribution to the week long event she will be travelling to a number of Yukon communities, doing readings and speaking with groups about her work.
She says that she will eventually make it back to the territory as part of her long walk, especially since the Yukon is one of the places that has completed its trail.
Previously she has had considerable success with “40 Days at Base Camp,” a film shot on Mt. Everest. This was followed by a book called Base Camp: 40 Days on Everest.
On another project she joined 7 rangers (both Inuit and non-Native) to raise a flag on the northernmost tip of Canadian soil. This journey resulted in the National Film Board documentary called This Land; a book, called This Vanishing Land; and an award winning multi-media web project on the same subject.
Whelan says she sees herself primarily as a storyteller and has a focus on visual storytelling, though she is a lifelong habitué of hand written journal writing, and her creative process often begins with a combination of journal entries, film footage and photographs.
She anticipates filling more than 20 journals during her trans-Canada walk. Each journal begins with the same mantra, which she quotes from C.S. Lewis, the author who wrote broadly as a novelist, philosopher literary critic and Christian apologist: “we read to know we are not alone.”
Thematically, she is looking for elements that reflect modern thinking and technology as well as indigenous and traditional wisdom. More broadly, she works with art, spirit, ecology and story to craft her works, both in film and in writing.
“I follow my heart as much as possible,” she said. “I try for my life to be a sincere expression of my spirit.”
During her visit to the Yukon, Whelan will be visiting Carmacks, Pelly Crossing, Mayo, Carcross, Teslin, and Watson Lake during the week of April 18 to 23.