By RON FANFAIR
As an accomplished actor, stunt co-ordinator, martial arts expert and musical performer, David Stevenson figured he could use his varied and extensive body of work to help inspire young people.
He, however, knew that his biggest challenge would be finding a willing and capable partner to help him execute the idea.
That’s where Jamaican-born self-managed filmmaker and producer, Victor Crowl, came in.
“We met through a third party and the first thing I tried to get over to David was the reason I went out and got my own camera and filmmaking equipment is because I never wanted to be in a situation where money was a factor that could come in the way of me producing things I thought would be important,” said Crowl.
“Once I got that out of the way and we started to work on the project, I discovered that David and some of the people he wanted to include in the documentary had amazing stories to tell. Like him, I also have a passion for working with young people and I suggested that he tell the story about an issue instead of trying to tell everybody’s story.”
Stevenson agreed and the end result is a riveting 50-minute documentary, You Can Fly, which was screened last night at the Bloor Cinema. Though it did not make the cut for the Toronto International Film Festival (the film was submitted), Stevenson and Crowl felt it was important that it was shown during the festival.
The cast includes Ontario Fairness Commissioner Jean Augustine, former Ontario premier David Peterson, ex-Canadian figure skating world champion Elvis Stojko who, in 1993, enlisted Stevenson to incorporate martial arts moves into his free skate and University of Utah graduate and former Lawrence Heights resident, Phil Dixon, considered one of Toronto’s best ever high school basketball players.
“These are people who achieved in their areas of endeavours and are mentors and role models,” said Stevenson, who migrated to Canada from Trinidad & Tobago in 1969. “Their stories are inspirational and it’s the kind that young people will listen to.”
When he’s not on a set or on stage, Stevenson spends most of his time counseling custody youths, mainly boys.
“When I was in the movie industry and I had some down time, I would go and do some work with kids,” he said. “I pursued counseling studies at George Brown College and also did some sociology studies so I could better be able to understand where young people are coming from and do what I could to help them become useful citizens.
“I believe that anyone can fly if they put their mind to it and this production, which is for the community, occupies a special place among all the things I have done because it’s not about money, glitz or fluff. This is about trying to help kids attain their goals.”
Stevenson, who has appeared in several films, including Cool Runnings and Talon of the Eagle, is dedicating the film to counselors, youth and social workers.
“These are the people on the frontlines working with challenged young people,” he said. “Nobody sees when they are spat upon or even abused, yet they continue to do what they have to in order to make a difference in the lives of young people. They are unsung heroes.”