He is also executive producer and on-camera talent for a major U.S. television series, expected to air in December, which he cannot name.
“Sorry. They were very specific about a media blackout,” Kroetsch says, chatting from a gas station in Lacombe, Alta.
During the peak of COVID-19 restrictions, Kroetsch kept busy digitizing his prodigious high-school film output. Last year, however, saw a return to 14-hour schedules, hence interviews on the road.
Kroetsch’s projects are often sparked by personal interest. Blind Ambition: The Story of Wop May — a documentary honouring Wilfrid ‘Wop’ May, the Canadian WWI fighter pilot who survived a dogfight with the legendary Red Baron — was shot piecemeal and on a shoestring budget after Kroetsch fell in love with the story. He recalls hanging from a window of a piper-cub to shoot some scenes.
Blind Ambition won the jury prize and audience award at the Edmonton International Film Festival.
“This story simply had to be told,” he says. “We made it because it’s so important to us. It’s not about the money.”
Ditto for Secret Society, made with his wife, filmmaker Rebecca Campbell, after Campbell donated her eggs to a close friend. Screened recently at the Whistler Film Festival, the film explores infertility, egg donation and Canada’s assisted reproduction laws.
A (good) culture shock
Coming from a sheltered life in Alberta, Kroetsch was transplanted to a fine-arts school in downtown Montreal. Concordia was the cultural centre of Canada when it came to film, he says: “It was wild and thrilling.”
His first-year teacher Daniel Cross, who was then making a film about homeless people, left a lasting impression: “There was some magic going on in that class. Watching Cross work was a revelation. It wasn’t a glamorous, idealized thing but a way of life. He taught me to respect it.”
Kroetsch’s advice to aspiring filmmakers? Don’t wait for the development money. “Start doing it yesterday,” he says. “And obviously, don’t give up.”