Crew racing the clock to cross Canada and capture its heritage rivers for short film

A crew of adventure filmmakers is racing to destinations across the country getting footage of Canadians singing the national anthem while enjoying more than a dozen of Canada's 39 heritage rivers.

Film crew will hit 14 heritage rivers in 12 days

A crew of adventure filmmakers are racing to destinations across the country capturing footage of Canadians singing the national anthem, while riding some of the protected rivers. (Terry Kelly Productions)

A crew of adventure filmmakers are racing to destinations across the country capturing footage of Canadians singing the national anthem while riding some of its protected rivers.

The country's heritage rivers will be featured in a new pan-Canadian short film that celebrates the importance of dozens of waterways stretching throughout the nation's landscape.

A crew of adventure filmmakers are racing to destinations across the country capturing footage of Canadians singing the national anthem, while riding some of the protected rivers. 0:20

The ambitious shooting schedule will have the crew hit 14 rivers in 12 days. Segments from each group's rendition of the national anthem will later be stitched together in a video that features the full song and takes viewer to every location.

The film, which is the brainchild of Molly Demma, executive director of the St. John River Society, will be prominently featured on Parliament Hill throughout the summer.

"I really hope that it comes across as a love letter to Canada from our rivers," she told CBC News. "I hope it will remind people just how important our rivers are."

Rivers formed the nation

Film crews stopped off at the Red River in Winnipeg for one of the segments in a new film that features Canadians singing the national anthem while enjoying the country's heritage rivers. (Terry Kelly Productions)

The film is just a small part of the St. John River Society's larger project, dubbed Eau Canada — Celebrating 150 Years of Our Rivers' Canadian Heritage. Last year, the group received $550,000 in government funding, making the society the national coordinator for Canada 150 festivities on behalf of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

The rivers system is a national conservation program that recognizes the country's 39 designated rivers.

The Canadian Heritage Rivers Systems is a national conservation program that promotes the projection of 39 designated heritage rivers across the country. (Canadian Heritage Rivers System)

Filming for the project, headed by Terry Kelly Productions, could only be done in a short window of opportunity because most rivers don't officially open up until May. And the film needs to be complete for June 11, which commemorates Canadian Rivers Day. 

The crew started off in Alberta last week for its first shoot in Jasper National Park before packing up and flying to B.C. for day two of filming at Mount Robson Provincial Park. By Sunday, filming moved to Winnipeg before landing in Windsor, Ont. on Monday.

"There's not a lot of time for breathing," said Terry Kelly of his production team's ambitious project.

Filming was an adventure

Film crews were in Windsor, Ont. to film residents paddle boarding on the Detroit River. (Terry Kelly Productions)

But Kelly appreciates the filming locations and the hectic timeline, given his production company specializes in adventure filming. He also recognizes the importance of highlighting the country's rivers.

"The heritage rivers were the rivers that initially brought Canada together," he said. 

The Winnipeg group sang a couple lines of the anthem in French, while the Windsor team used paddle boards on the Detroit River, instead of the canoes that have dominated the rest of the rivers. 

Demma echoed Kelly's comments, saying people don't often think about how rivers have helped form Canadian communities, even though most people drive across a river or ride alongside one almost every day.

Molly Demma, executive director at the St. John River Society. (Molly Demma)

"We often don't think about the history of that river — tens of thousands of years of Indigenous peoples across the country using that river to travel and then through the colonial era in the country," she said. "In the fur trade, rivers have been at the base of the development of our nation."

River societies across the country will be promoting the video on Canadian Rivers Day, but Demma also worked out a deal to have the film screened on Parliament Hill every night this summer prior to the Northern Lights sound and light show. 

"I'm so happy about it," Demma said. "You'll be able to get a glimpse of the video on Parliament Hill."

Film crews shot one group of Canadians singing the national anthem on the Athabasca River in Jasper National Park. (Terry Kelly Productions)