It's one of life’s biggest mysteries, and the film "After Death", which has strong ties to Southern Manitoba, will explore the question, "What happens when we die?" Over six-plus years, on evenings and weekends, Winnipeg based filmmaker Stephen Gray has been writing and directing the feature length film documentary, with his day job being at Triple E Recreational Vehicles in Winkler.
"I worked for an ad agency for a number of years in in Winnipeg, having my own film production company on the side, and actually I did a series for Triple E Recreational Vehicles back in 2012," explained Gray who has been making films for about 15 years. "I just had such a good connection with the with the guys at Triple E, and then actually ended up getting hired at the end of that project to come internally and take all my video ability in-house to tell their story and highlight their products."
Gray noted Triple E has been tremendously gracious in giving him the ability to work on "After Death", supporting him throughout the creative process. Three Executive Producers of the film; Henry Friesen, Tyler Friesen and Jon Doell are also from Winkler.
"There's a deep connection to Winkler, and I'm really excited for this film to go out to that many theaters all across North America and to come from Winkler."
The film premieres October 27th at more than 2,000 theatres across North America, including Landmark Cinemas in Winkler.
A church goer all his life, it was the loss of his brother-in-law which led to Gray embarking on this project, one that was influenced by his Christian upbringing and faith.
"It was right in the beginning of when I started working at Triple E Recreational Vehicles, unfortunately, tragically, my brother-in-law was killed in a car wreck," he said. "That kind of caused me to begin to ask questions about the reality of heaven. I wasn't sure where I stood on that whole question, so that's what led me on the path to discover these stories of people who had clinically died, had these experiences, And came back. As a filmmaker, I wanted to know more."
"After Death" is based on real near-death experiences, conveyed by scientists, authors and survivors.
"In the film, we interviewed fourteen different people who clinically died, and they were between seconds to an hour and 45 minutes," Gray explained. "We also interviewed doctors, scientists, neurologists, cardiologists and surgeons who are faced with this, like they don't know what to do with this whole kind of phenomenon of near death experiences when they're clinically dead, when their heart stops, when their brain ceases to have activity. They're having these experiences, and in some cases they're seeing things happening in the operating room. They're seeing things happen at the accident scene that can later be corroborated."
Gray said all of those included in the film who shared a near death experience, their stories went through an extensive vetting process including examining medical transcripts, doctor, first responder and eye witness accounts and more.
"We took a very cinematic approach to the film, because this topic it's easy to get something that looks cheesy or unbelievable," he noted. "It's already an unbelievable story. All of these stories are hard to believe. We approached it in a cinematic format. We have fourteen different people who talk about clinically dying, and what they experienced after coming back. Also, most of the film we did narrative recreations with actors."
He feels the film is for both believers and skeptics alike.
"This film is not made just for Christians," stressed Gray. "My hope is people will come to the table, and watch the film, who don't come necessarily from a faith background. I think it's going to speak to Christians and non Christians, just the same. For Christians, for myself, it just encourages and helps my faith. It makes me think about life a little differently. It makes me think about, with an eternal perspective, how could I live live my life a little different? My hope is for someone who hasn't thought about a spiritual reality at all, this kind of cracks open the door a little bit to that conversation. Death is something that affects all of us, and I think this film offers a lot of hope, this reality of life after."
And does Gray have a hope or a goal? If you will, of what viewers are going to take away from the experience of sitting down in a theater with those around them, which may be like minded or not like minded.
"Everyone's going to get something different out of the film," he replied. "For someone who comes to this who believes in heaven, who comes from a Christian background, this is just going to encourage your faith. It's just going to cause you to read the Bible. I think, in a totally different way. I think it's going to encourage you to read Scripture more than a lot of other things out there, because death affects everyone. My hope, is it opens a doorway to hope, that grief is kind of like the door you have to walk through, and you can't get around, and then I hope this film brings a sense of hope for many people."
Pre-sales for the October 27th premiere of "After Death" have already surpassed 101,000 tickets. You can order yours here for the Winkler Landmark Cinemas event. You can also Pay it Forward to After Death to cover the cost of a movie ticket for someone who wouldn't otherwise be able to see it.
You can listen to CFAM Radio 950 Morning Show Co-Host Chris Sumner's entire conversation with Stephen Gray, below.
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