Director Hollie McGowan-Wickham looking at Tempest’s keepsakes at her parent’s house. Photo submitted

Director Hollie McGowan-Wickham looking at Tempest’s keepsakes at her parent’s house. Photo submitted

‘A beautiful, inspiring person’: Hornby artist featured posthumously in film

The island’s only homicide continues to be a cold case more than 10 years later

Her death rocked the small community of Hornby Island in November 2009, and now filmmaker Hollie McGowan-Wickham is seeking to honour the memory of Tempest Grace Gale in a full-length documentary film.

Calling All People: The Story of TemPeSt Grace Gale (sic) is in the post-production stage, and McGowan-Wickham has teamed up with editor Sonya Chwyl to complete the final story of the project.

The idea to share the life and story of Gale has been on McGowan-Wickham’s mind for years. The academic-turned-filmmaker has strong roots to Hornby and connected with Gale during the last few years of her life.

After completing her master’s degree at Concordia University, McGowan-Wickham returned to the West coast for a career in music journalism. But the idea of a documentary about Gale was always on her mind.

She told a friend about the idea who encouraged her to pursue it, and following a few roadblocks, talked to Gale’s parents who were “overjoyed” at the idea, particularly as it is the Island’s only murder, and continues to be a cold case.

“I spent a Christmas with her parents and it quickly became a passion project and it’s very close to my heart. To this day she’s still so much on everyone’s hearts. She was such a spark and was such an incredible force.”

• • •

McGowan-Wickham was in university in Montreal and had recently returned from Hornby (where she spent the summer) when she heard the news about Gale’s death.

“It was also the nature of her death and knowing what that meant for my community of Hornby … it created profound change and I knew that something is never going to be the same again. I came back the following summer and you could still feel it.”

Gale’s body was found in the water near the boat where she lived. Comox Valley RCMP brought a person of interest into custody for questioning who was released 24 hours later.

Gale, who was a musician, poet, spoken word artist and was involved in performance art, was 25-years-old at the time of her death. She was deeply embedded with the arts community on the Island, but also throughout the province and the country. McGowan-Wickham says she understands the balance between creating a story “about a beautiful, inspiring person, but also knowing that she was murdered. There is a fine line there, and I don’t want to make it sensational. It is a cold case, and I had to think a lot about how I was going to deal with that, because (during the interview process), it was quickly becoming the elephant in the room.”

Gale didn’t shy away from death, notes McGowan-Wickham, as she learned by reading her poetry and music, which Gale’s parents gave her full access to, including books and notes.

Described as a firm believer in the afterlife, Gale was a spiritual person who respected death and understood that everything comes at its rightful time and place.

“I worked with that very carefully. You can’t talk about her or her story without talking about her death. (The film) is a true-crime documentary, but it’s not a murder-mystery.”

She made the decision not to interview police as part of the film.

“I do deal with the murder, but it’s more about how the community experienced it and the ripple effects.”

• • •

Being an academic but working as a journalist, McGowan-Wickham used her skills to frame the project but says every stage of the filmmaking process was “putting one foot in front of the other.”

She is an avid fan of documentary films, watching between five to seven a week. She was well-versed in research and used the internet along with friends and family who were filmmakers to draw upon their knowledge to understand the filmmaking process. With experience interviewing hundreds of musicians, she knew her interview skills were strong but did more research on how to conduct interviews on-camera.

She returned to Hornby and lived for a year reading Gale’s poems, letters, books and listening to music. She decided to launch an initial crowdsourcing campaign in order to fund the film and eventually was able to hire a cinematographer.

“I was a brand new director – I had no idea what I was doing. I pushed through the brick wall and made it through production; it’s been a journey. It’s been a challenge and it’s taken a while because there have been big chunks of time where I haven’t been able to work on it because I have to work my regular job in order to pay my bills.”

McGowan-Wickham interviewed 21 people for the film, with most of them on Hornby. As Gale was a multifaceted artist, interviews ranged from a variety of people including musicians such as Canadian guitarist Big Dave McLean and producer Rita Chiarelli. She also travelled to Wells and Victoria, with the goal of wanting to continue to spread and honour Gale’s spirit and perspective on life.

She says Gale truly believed in the power of vulnerably and being one’s true self, and that she had a unique ability to disarm people.

“Her vulnerability was her strength. There is a sadness there because it still is a cold case – murder – and it’s changed her parent’s lives forever. I really want people to watch the film and feel inspired so that people can leave the film believing they can be the most authentic self they can be. It’s hard because I don’t want to be speaking for (Gale) because she said it so well in her poetry and her songs.”

With more than 20 hours of footage to be edited, a second crowdsourcing campaign is underway for the final stages of the film. McGowan-Wickham is also aiming to hire an animator to assist with a few scenes in the film and hopes to have the project completed by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

For more information about the project or the crowdsourcing campaign, visit https://bit.ly/35lAVHt.



photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Guenther’s efforts are aimed at persons in need. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Courtenay group provides showers of chivalry for those in need

Guenther just got federal tax status for Wiseland Humanitarian Association

Comox Strathcona Waste Management expects to go to tender this summer for the regional organics compost facility in Campbell River. File photo/Black Press
Comox Strathcona compost site should go to tender this summer

The regional organics facility is on target to open for the fall of 2022

The site of the King George Hotel in Cumberland. Photo by Mike Chouinard
VIU students research Cumberland’s past, future

Specific practicum topics were King George Hotel’s significance, densification incentives

Courtenay–Alberni MP Gord Johns says 12 million Canadians do not have dental insurance. Photo by Bofu Shaw, courtesy of Unsplash
Courtenay–Alberni MP, CDA consider dental care for all Canadians

Gord Johns has initiated a mail-out that asks constituents the date of… Continue reading

A 407 Squadron CP-140 Aurora, along with a Halifax-Class frigate enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea in support of Op Neon in 2019. Canadian Forces photo/submitted
407 Squadron defends Canada for 80 years

The Comox-based squadron celebrating special anniversary

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read