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Living life with no regrets

Documentary filmmaker turns camera on himself to inspire others to follow their dreams.
Filmmaker Patrick Stark (right) takes some singing advice and shares a laugh with renowned bluesman Jim Byrnes while shooting footage for Stark’s documentary One Life

What did you dream of as a child? Being a firefighter? A rock star? Maybe a hockey player or dancer? What are you doing now?

They are questions Patrick Stark started thinking about when he turned 40 nearly two years ago – and a concept he’s turning into a feature documentary, One Life, No Regrets.

As a kid growing up in a small-ish town in Northern B.C., Stark had a dream.

Trouble was, he couldn’t tell anyone about it.

It was the 1970s and there wasn’t a whole lot for a kid in Dawson Creek to do for entertainment. There was one TV channel. And there were two movie theatres in town. Stark remembers the highlight of his Grade 2 year was when his brother took him to an evening movie. The first film he saw was Jaws.

That night, he knew he wanted to be in the movie business.

But it was an aspiration he couldn’t share.

“Everyone would have found that hilarious... completely unbelievable.”

At the time, there was no film industry in B.C., so anyone wanting to get into movies would have had to head south to Hollywood. It seemed like a silly, unrealistic idea.

So Stark went to college to study to be a teacher like his dad.

But one day, while walking in Vancouver, he stumbled across a film set. He asked some people standing around what they were doing, and the next day, made a beeline to a talent agency and signed up to be a movie extra. His first job was on Mystery Date with Ethan Hawke.

It was the beginning of his career, which saw him climb through the ranks, first as an extras wrangler, then casting director, and eventually, assistant director. His training ground was on the set of X-Files.

“My film school was there,” Stark says. “I learned things from asking questions.”

He then produced his own film – Tilt, a modern version of Don Quixote – with Peace Arch News editor Lance Peverley, who had already written the script.

The 30-minute short got done and did relatively well, screening at a couple of film festivals. Stark’s career really started rolling.

He felt he had achieved his childhood dream.

Then he turned 40.

And he realized there might be more.

“When I’m an old man, will I be thrilled to have pursued the film game and taken it as far as it can go, or are there other things?”

He thought about what the wildest and craziest thing he could do. How about singing in front of a stadium full of people? It was something he had an intense fear of, which was exactly why he needed to do it.

“Fear prevents most people from doing the things they most want to do.”

At first, Stark thought, “it’s never going to happen.” Then he began brainstorming ways to make it happen.

With a lifelong fear of singing in front of anyone, even his family, he set out to achieve his ultimate experience: singing on stage with U2.

And that meant turning the camera on himself.

In 2009, armed with a professional back-up band and the lyrics to four songs, he set up a stage outside BC Place the day before a scheduled U2 concert, hoping to gain the attention of the world-famous band.

It didn’t happen.

So he started from scratch, booking a vocal lesson, then busking on the street, and then seeking advice from professional musicians such as Ra McGuire, Al Harlow, Jim Byrnes and Paul Hyde.

“It was a crash course in Rock Star 101,” laughs Stark, who only recently moved from North Delta to Vancouver.

A couple of weeks ago, the dad-of-two furthered the process, sitting down with writer and composer Sean Hosein to write a song and make a music video.

Now halfway through making his film, Stark is invigorated by being out of his comfort zone “every day” and facing his fears. And the genuine nature of the experience is adding an authentic and personal flavour that people seem to be able to relate to.

The film’s trailer was posted on YouTube a month ago and already has more than 10,000 views.

Filming the documentary will culminate in June when U2 has a concert scheduled in Seattle. Returning to the point from which he began two years ago, Stark will again attempt to get the band’s attention by performing a live show in the street.

And it will be the end of the movie whether he makes it on stage with U2 or not.

“The whole point is you never know until you try,” he says. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to be a rock star for a day or a ballerina. The journey feels even more exciting than the thought of actually getting there.”