After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

The haunting story of local filmmaker Daniel Northcott's dying wish

See video

When Vancouver’s Erin Northcott inherited the estate of her late brother, 29 year old filmmaker Daniel Northcott, she found herself in possession of over 1,000 hours of verite-style footage from each of the 42 countries that Daniel travelled to from 2000 to 2009.  Daniel was creating his legacy, and he wanted Erin to complete it.

Of her relationship with Daniel, and why she believed she was bequeathed the monumental task of honouring her brother’s request, Erin says “I knew we had a very unique, beautiful trust for each other.”

To his family, Daniel saw the world in circles and orbs; an infinite spiral of life, whereby everything and everyone is connected. 

Originally from Campbell River, the Northcott family moved to Vancouver when Erin was 6 and Daniel was 3.

Both parents attended UBC as students and lived in residence amongst an international community of families who helped each other out and were, as Erin says “in the same boat as us. That is what shaped us. Daniel saw how beautiful it could be…and when he went out into in to the rest of the world, he saw it wasn’t that way.” 

Over the course of his nine year journey across the globe, Daniel filmed every moment, from war zones to sacred sites, including a Mayan burial ground in a cave in Mexico, where his fate may have come to pass.

Daniel collected pieces from his travels, rocks and shells, but was warned to leave anything he found in the cave, for these bones harnessed negative “vibes” and were known to cause sickness to those that coveted them.

Undeterred, Daniel found an orb-like bone and convinced of his connection to it, he took it.  Months later, he was diagnosed with leukemia, a bone marrow cancer, and was given 3-6 months to live. 

Determined to finish his life’s work, Daniel continued to film following his diagnosis, from the news of his life expectancy to chemo-therapy treatments and intimate moments with friends and family. 

Of her brother’s courage, Erin says, “Dan pictured himself healthy every day; there was no discussion of his death. He fought to his last day.”

With little energy left to tackle the 1,000 hours of footage, Dan edited a 40 minute film, “Sketches of Roam” which he premiered to friends and family in Vancouver, garnering extensive media coverage and raising over $10,000 for the Krall Foundation, a part of the UBC Hospital Foundation.

When asked if this proved to be an overwhelming request, Erin said,

“I’m not a filmmaker. Initially, I was deeply honoured, and then overwhelmed and helpless…and then, I started trying.” 

Erin began showing Dan’s sketch film to people, but it wasn’t until a group including the team behind Elevate Studios, viewed the film, that she knew they had found the right people to take on the project.

Elevate Studios signed on to produce and direct the film with Erin, and Ian MacKenzie, local crowdfunding expert and filmmaker. 

Together they aim to raise $183,000 towards the completion of the film, with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that ends on January 30th, 2013.

As of press time, they have raised over $80,000 and with 6 crucial days left, they are welcoming people around the world to join them in creating the film. Erin wants people to know, “You don’t have to donate a lot, and any amount contributes to this film being made.”

As for the bone, says Erin, “We knew Dan wanted to it to be taken back.”

A crew of 10 from Elevate, and friends of family of the Northcott’s, recently returned from a trip to the Mayan cave in Mexico to give back the bone that Daniel took.

Says Erin of the experience, “It was truly an unbelievable moment when we found out what it actually was. It made me a believer.”

Director Mikki Willis, found and CEO of Elevate Studios has said this project has been the most “heart-opening” experience in his 26 years of film production: “The footage that Dan left to us is among the most remarkable I have seen in my lifetime, and we are deeply honored and humbled to bring this one-of-a-kind document of one courageous young man’s reckoning with his mortality to the screen. It would be a challenge to dream a story more perfect for this moment on planet Earth, as we stand together at the crossroads and contemplate our options: reunite with nature or be consumed by it.”

To donate to Be Brave, visit

Follow and Share Be Brave on Facebook and Twitter.

More in Film

Howdy, Modi

Patwardhan's "Reason" at VIFF; Gods, guns and goondas in "World's largest democracy"

From China to VIFF: Cinéma Virtualité

Hungry Ghosts: invisible exhibitionists livestream online in Zhu Shengze's "Present.Perfect"

Please touch the artwork

Edo Avant Garde & Ursula von Rydingsvard: cutting edge concretism, old & new, East & West @ VIFF
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.