Empyrean is the brainchild of local filmmaker Thomas Robert Lee, who has painstakingly worked on the film for the last four years. The Calgarian writer/director is a 2010 graduate of SAIT Polytechnic’s Film and Video Production program and has been working on the project ever since.

As described by the online synopsis, the film is an existential exploration and a “meditation on the intersection of time, space, and memory.”

On the eve of his 30th birthday, William Fischer has a near-death experience forcing him to reevaluate his life. On top of it all, Fischer feels a disconnect with those around him – especially his wife.

Previously known as Transcendence, Empyrean’s prologue was beautifully shot in March 2012 on 16mm black and white film. Footage from it can be seen online on Lee’s Vimeo account. But since Empyrean is an independent production with a tight budget, Lee will be shooting the remainder of the film digitally and using the remainder of the finances elsewhere.

“Just to shoot the prologue, two minutes of screen time and it was four grand,” explains Lee.

Though money was the largest setback to Lee’s production, translating his vision to script was also a big obstacle for Lee. He spent the last couple of years rewriting the script while working his full-time job as a server at Model Milk. In that time, Lee also found a new producer for Empyrean: Michael Peterson, the co-writer and director of the 2011 Canadian comedy, Lloyd the Conqueror.

Lee’s friends and family have offered up their places for Empyrean’s sets allowing him to utilize the prairie landscape in and around Calgary for his production.

“It’s exciting to be doing an independent feature in Calgary and there’s been a lot of support,” he says.

Since the film is distinctly Calgarian, Lee explains that there’s been a lot support from not just filmmakers involved and from those he knows, but general interest in the city. Lee hopes to one day have his film accepted into the Calgary Underground Film Festival. But first things first, Lee must finish the film and will begin filming the rest of the film this May.

By Sheena Manabat

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