When it comes to pitching television series ideas, especially to a national network like Vision TV, it can take a while to come up with the right concept.
Ian Toews, part of the production team at Victoria-based 291 Film Company, knows this well having experienced both successes and near misses in that department.
The company’s latest hit, Ageless Gardens (Vision TV, 6 p.m. Mondays), is a good example of a blending of visions. Toews and his wife had been unsuccessful pitching their idea for a gardening project, but the final concept began to bear fruit, so to speak, when fellow Victoria filmmaker David Springbett entered the mix.
“It really was two disparate ideas that coalesced,” Toews says. “We wanted to do a film on urban gardening, but no one was quite interested. David wanted to do something about healing and wellness as people age. We were sitting around at lunch one day and we just put together [the concept].”
Vision TV, part of Canadian broadcast icon Moses Znaimer’s ZoomerMedia Limited, took on the documentary mini-series and has scheduled it for five weeks (Feb. 12 to March 12).
Toews and Ageless Gardens co-producer Mark Bradley went to film school together in Saskatchewan in the 1990s, worked out of Regina for 10 years then moved to Victoria in 2008. They befriended Springbett, a 40-plus year industry veteran and fellow Prairies native who has called Victoria home since 1993.
Having worked together in past, the trio fleshed out the topics and came up with what they believe is a winning combination that touches on the health and wellness aspects of gardening, the way it can build social connections, and traditions of working with the land that have been passed down through the generations.
“There’s some really good personalities in the show,” Bradley says. “It’s a gardening show, but it’s not like other gardening shows. It’s actually kind of funny in places, it’s quite touching in places, so it touches on a lot of emotions.”
The episode topics explore working with healing and therapeutic plants, harvesting wild food, the social benefits of gardening and how city dwellers have adapted their gardens to their space.
While the documentary format by its very nature becomes a learning experience for the filmmakers, Toews says a few things stand out for him from the filming process.
One was the health effects of regularly digging around in good soil, which is filled with probiotic microbacteria. “That research is in its early stages, but gardeners seem to have known this all along, that breathing in that dust and digging in the soil is really good for us,” he says.
A second point came in speaking with people who were discovering the health benefits of marijuana, including as a pain remedy for arthritis and a sleep agent, for the first time in their 70s and beyond.
A third was simply the wisdom that the predominantly older subjects interviewed had about the value of gardening and life in general.
“Those kinds of conversations are pretty rich, very humbling to someone like me,” Toews says. “I really want to pass that on, this is what people with years of experience can impart to us.”
A list of episodes for the documentary series, as well as a trailer, can be found at agelessgardens.ca.