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iN VIDEO: University students make documentary on Tranquille Sanitorium

The Tranquille Sanatorium and Psychiatric Hospital.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Tranquille Farm Fresh

A historical documentary on the former Tranquille Sanitorium site in Kamloops was recently created by students at the local university.

Kei Massalski and Carter Jahnke produced the film, which was an assignment for a course in the communication and new media program on documentary filmmaking at Thompson Rivers University.

“It was my classmate's idea to cover the site and I had to join because it’s the most interesting historical location in Kamloops,” he said. “Growing up here, you hear all sorts of stories and spooky tales about it, and we wanted to go more in depth on its history.”

The project was filmed between September and early December and included gathering old photos, taking footage with a drone and cameras, and conducting interviews with those knowledgeable about local history.

While there were some challenges along the way, Massalski is thrilled with the final result and had so much fun, he wants to do more documentary filmmaking in the future.

“Time constraints were tough, we are both full time students,” he said. “We had to meet up and make our hours count. We had to learn to fly a drone which was nerve wracking because we didn’t want to have to ask permission to get onto the site if we lost it.”

READ MORE: New plans for Tranquille Sanitorium farmland on Kamloops Lake include vineyards and winery

Massalski interviewed Dr. Tina Block, an associate professor of philosophy at Thompson Rivers University, who provides a lot of historical information in the production about the site’s time as a sanitorium and then later as a mental health institution. 

He also interviewed retired RCMP officer Lane Jumaga, who shares his experiences of when he was called to the site while on duty, mostly for nuisance activity after it was closed to the public.

Also in the film are some YouTube clips of people sneaking around the underground tunnels at night.

“There is so much more to the property than just sensationalized spooky stories,” Massalski said.

The historical photographs used in the film were provided by the Kamloops Museum and Archives.

“We sifted through and picked five that worked well for us and they lent us the photos for free,” Massalski said. “I encourage anyone making a history documentary to contact them.”

The title of the documentary is City of Solace and finding the title was a process.

“It was one of the last things we were trying to decide on and struggled with,” Massalski said. “The name of the song we used in the background is Solace and the word stuck with me, the melancholy connotation it has. The rest fell into place after that.”

The background music is a piece by composer and pianist Scott Joplin released in 1909, right around the time the sanitorium opened.

“Once you get past your anxieties and worries it is quite fun to go ahead and put it all together,” he said. “Going out on location was fun and it was rewarding to see the vision come together. That’s why I love filmmaking.” 

Jahnke said the end result was better than he initially anticipated. 

"We had a lot of fun working on this," he said. "It initially started out with a horror angle, we wanted to lean into the spookiness, but then we found out there is a lot more history than that. It was really fun to learn about and it was cool using the drone."

READ MORE: Movie filmed in Kamloops, Okanagan hitting road for screening tour

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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