Edwin Amell grew up in Renfrew and Calabogie, but the Okotoks, Alta.; resident is happy continuing his connections with Hollywood and the Brad Pitts, Whoopi Goldbergs and Jon Voights of the world.
Amell, 52, is still living his dream of working in the movie business. He’s not a household name, by any stretch of the imagination, but he hopes his satisfying experiences also motivate youngsters and young adults to follow their dreams.
“From working in this industry, I feel satisfied the way life went,” he says during a recent visit to Renfrew and Calabogie to visit friends.
“Growing up as a kid, I was always the type of person that liked to drive snowmobiles and motorbikes and have that thrill of going fast.
“Maybe that’s why I got into the stunts,” adds Amell, who several years ago attended stunts school in Montreal, and went on to do a few paid stunts for movies.
“That kind of got me wanting to get into the movie or film part of it, to find work. My gut feeling was telling me to go in that direction,” says Amell, who started making industry connections by building sets and props for Alberta theatre groups.
“When I got to Calgary (more than 20 years ago), I found I was getting more work behind the scenes, working with the whole crew building props, doing special effects and building sets. So I ended up getting more work that way. There was a core of people already doing the stunts.”
For one stunt, he was thrown out of the back of a wagon train in the shooting of the TV series Lonesome Dove.
With his own carpentry qualifications, he became a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and continued his connections with the movie world.
Years later, much of his work in the industry is as a security coordinator.
He has filled that role for such productions as Fear Itself, May Contain Nuts, Diary of a Haunting, and Christmas in Wonderland.
He has been the props master to the Imax production of T-Rex and the first assistant props master for North of 60 and Rat Race. And he has also done special effects for North of 60 and Papa’s Angels.
His wife, Patty Goettler, is also involved in the industry, as a member of the art department for Heartland. Their Husky, Nitro, has appeared on Heartland as Lobo, Mr. Hanley’s dog, and in a Suzuki dog sled TV ad during the 2012 Super Bowl.
Patty and Edwin met on the set of the 1994 movie, Legends of the Fall, which starred Brat Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.
Most recently, he was the security coordinator for movies shot in the Calgary area — The Right Kind of Wrong and TS Spivett.
After years working on TV and movie sets, Amell says he has had the privilege of working for, or watching up close, such household names as Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean), Seth Green, Heath Ledger (Joker in Batman), Whoopi Goldberg, John Cleese and Wayne Knight (aka mailman Newman in the Seinfeld sitcom).
“You feel like you’re family,” says Amell.
“There’s so many of us together. When they do a show, there’s a group from Calgary and also a group coming up from Hollywood with different people.
“But we all seem to get along pretty good, and we’ve all been in this industry for so long, everyone knows how to click because we all know the right language and how to put things together.”
Ten years from know, Amell suspects he’ll still be part of the industry vocabulary, with its prop masters, gaffers, hot sets, DOPs and dolly-grips.
“The security work allows me to still be in the industry because it still is kind of a young person’s game.
“As you get older you have to kind of think of what else you can be doing, because some of those jobs can be very physical.
“The security end of the work is kind of people managing, so I can still be doing that when I’m 70 or whatever.”
Outside of work, there’s still the chance to watch the occasional movie and make an official connection.
“Sitting in the theatre, it’s such a warm feeling to say, ‘Heh, I was part of that,’” says Amell.
“And then at the end you see your name come on the big screen, in the credits, and it’s such a cool feeling.”