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Reel to Real: A Conversation with Gavin Michael Booth

Author: Layan Barakat
9 months ago
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“It’s the ‘What Would Dave Hunter Do’ method now,” perched on the couch in his home studio in Windsor, Ontario, filmmaker Gavin Michael Booth reminisces the life of his dear friend. A melancholic nostalgia falls over the room louder than the rain pounding on Gavin’s roof, setting the tone for a somber exchange about the generousity of the man who believed in the filmmaker from his humble beginnings. “Maybe I have more of myself to give than ever before; I look at someone like Dave and think, how do you run a magazine, do real estate, have a family, and make time for all these other people? He was incredibly generous, even when he was at his busiest”.

Gavin’s affinity for storytelling began at a young age, remembering the first time he saw ET in theatres and having a visceral reaction to the cinematic classic. “I left the cinema, and I was sobbing. That movie emotionally wrecked me, but I remember my dad pointing up at the sky; a plane was flying, and he said, ‘Look, it’s ET’s ship. He’s coming back to earth!’ that calmed me, and it always stuck with me, and that’s what I always wanted to do with movies; I wanted to make people feel something”. From there, Gavin took on a paper route that would allow him to buy that first fateful camcorder. Recruiting neighbourhood kids into his early film ventures, Gavin would parody his favourite films using his innate storytelling ability. “I remember seeing Back to the Future, and I was trying to recreate the clocktower scene, which was dangerous to have someone hanging from a rope,” Gavin said with a laugh, “it was just that, though, once it would hit my imagination, I had to make it.”

Growing up in a town with limited creative outlets, Gavin took matters into his own hands, founding his film and media production company, Mimetic Entertainment Inc. A jump that eventually allowed him to work with musicians such as Third Eye Blind, Vanessa Carlton, SYML, Tim Hicks, and many more. During those early years, Dave stepped into the picture, giving Gavin the connections to bring his production company to the next level.

The two first met on a commercial shoot for Dr. David Mady. “The DRIVE Magazine office was on Chatham Street at the time – their original office. We went out for lunch after the commercial shoot and hit it off. We talked about documentaries and commercials, I am trying to remember the exact amount of time, but it was in a 3-month span they were moving to Devonshire Rd. I was looking for office space with my partner then, and we moved into the same building. I saw Dave every day, every single lunch. I always joke that I never had to hunt for business because Dave was so generous that he’d have clients come in for the magazine and ask, ‘Have you ever thought about doing TV? Or need a corporate video?’ He would then walk them downstairs to my office; I rarely had to find leads.” recalls Gavin.

The two struck up a friendship based on genuine support, even leading Dave to act in Gavin’s first film. “I had never made a short film then; I hadn’t even made a music video. I was like, ‘Oh, you make your first feature and get into Sundance [film festival]. Well, getting into Sundance is almost impossible; Making a film good enough to get into Sundance is second to impossible; finishing your first feature film is a triumph,” said Gavin. “That’s the marathon people should aim for, but when you’re young, you don’t see that.”

Gavin’s first foray into filmmaking was the feature film Leaving Town, which follows three individuals at their wit’s end, desperate to escape the suffocating grip of their mundane lives. Fueled by an audacious plan, they hatch a daring scheme to rob a bank, their one chance at amassing enough money to break free from their shackles and never look back. “There’s a flashback scene where they’re talking about how they plan this bank robbery and all the stories of failed bank robberies they heard of or read about as they try to avoid the pitfalls,” recalls Gavin, “Dave played a bank robber in one of those scenes where he runs into a bank, pulls his gun and tells everyone to get on the floor. He runs into the vault to take the money, but the bank teller just closes the door and traps him inside, and then we cut to a security camera in the vault, and it’s just him kicking the door, trying to get out. He had track pants on, and he kicked the door so hard that it split his pants right down the back, and we had to stop for 20 minutes while we stitched his pants back up. Only Dave could act so hard that he could split his pants – and I haven’t seen an actor do it since!”

Dave’s support and connections opened doors for Gavin, leading to his first big break when he sold a script that caught the attention of Icon Productions. Though that project didn’t come to fruition, it paved the way for Gavin’s critically acclaimed film, “Scarehouse,” which was produced in Windsor and marked a turning point in his career. Universal Studios noticed the film, allowing Gavin to move to the United States, taking on new opportunities.

“Dave visited me in Los Angeles in 2019; my film Last Call was about to premiere at the Chinese Theatre. The Tea Party was playing at the Roxy, and he said he wanted to come out and see them. While we were there, I showed him Last Call. Everyone knows that Dave can’t stop himself from jumping all in when he sees something he believes in. He turned to me and said, ‘Buddy, we’re going to have the biggest premiere of all time in Windsor. We can do this for CMHA’. We ran with it, we were already planning on having a premiere in Windsor since the movie was made here, but it became this 1200-person sold-out event at the Chrysler Theatre where we raised money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Dave’s ability to use his network and just know the people he could call on…he could put anything together”.

In a Facebook post after the 2019 premiere of Last Call, Dave writes, “I’ve been saying this for a very long time. Gavin Michael Booth was a skinny kid from Amherstburg who followed his dream and never gave up. Watching his dreams come to life is exciting, and I am proud of his amazing talent.” His unconditional support, not only for Gavin but for the artist community in Windsor-Essex, was unwavering.

“The more I looked back at it, I realized my first office, I found because of Dave, the first people to back a movie were connections from Dave, my first clients in Windsor were because of Dave, my first experience working with a charity was because of Dave and the list kept going,” said Gavin. “I always say a good agent or manager’s job is to make you feel like you’re their only client. Dave had that ability, so even reading all the posts on Facebook after he passed, I realized everything he had done for me, he had also done for everyone else”.

Through trials and triumphs, Gavin’s filmmaking journey found an unexpected guide in the enigmatic Dave Hunter. Ever the generous spirit, Dave’s belief in the budding filmmaker fueled Gavin’s growth, providing him with invaluable connections and support not only through his network but the Windsor-Essex community as a whole. “When I talk about what Windsor has done for my filmmaking career, especially with my friends in LA, I say there’s this magical place where people will help you with locations, and everything you need is one degree away. They look at me like I’m talking about Narnia, like there is this portal through a tree where you can get to this magical land where filmmaking is easy,” Gavin says with a laugh. “I would not have the career I had without Windsor and the support; it’s kind of insane to think about. Everyone dreams of going to Hollywood or Vancouver. I stayed here until I was in my 30s before I went to Toronto or LA, but I tell people, ‘Your hometown will always give you the most support.’ I don’t have a big family here, I just have my parents, and that’s it. They immigrated here from the UK. No extended family in Town, so Windsor is my family. It’s different from other cities. I can’t imagine a world where I got to make all of the content that I’ve made without having done it the Windsor way”.

Gavin Michael Booth’s artistic prowess flourished from these humble beginnings, and he embarked on a remarkable career. Today, as he gazes back on the path they walked together, he carries with him the wisdom and spirit of his beloved friend. Gavin’s creative endeavors continue to push boundaries, masterfully blending elements of “crushing sadness with a sprinkle of hope,” a signature style he has mastered over the years. With the legacy of Dave Hunter guiding his every step, Gavin Michael Booth remains a storyteller who weaves emotion into each frame, captivating audiences. Gavin’s storytelling journey is a testament to the enduring power of friendship and the transformative nature of cinema.

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