It was in Costco, of all places, that Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm had an epiphany of sorts about The Whale.
It occurred after the couple spotted a DVD of their Hollywood reworking of Saving Luna, their widely praised documentary about the impact of Luna, from the playful orca's mysterious appearance in Nootka Sound in 2001 to its premature death.
"Along comes this little kid who says, 'Mom, I want this!' and grabs it," recalled Parfit. "We couldn't help but introduce ourselves. It was such a thrill."
Although Saving Luna had earned accolades at festivals worldwide, followed by critical plaudits for The Whale, the Costco moment was a more personal reminder that their years of blood, sweat and tears had paid off.
While a Blu-ray version of The Whale is available exclusively through thewhalemovie.com, the film recently opened theatrically in Australia after a North American release. It will also become available on DVD in the U.S. next month.
While writing and rewriting a documentary can be an uphill climb, such rewards make it all worthwhile, said Parfit.
Although he shrugs off suggestions they're documentary "experts," the couple will come armed with plenty of experiences they hope might inspire others during a workshop sponsored by CineVic Society of Independent Filmmakers.
In Writing for Documentary, which takes place from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at 1931 Lee Ave., they will discuss the scriptwriting process, using examples from The Whale, narrated by Ryan Reynolds, and other documentaries.
Parfit, a prolific author and journalist who has written for magazines such as National Geographic and Smithsonian, will also reflect on his experiences writing narration for two Imax films, Antarctica and Ocean Oasis; and for Under Antarctic Ice for PBS.
The couple will also discuss non-fiction news features they did for the National Geographic Today show.
On Ocean Oasis, Parfit wrote while the film was being edited, alongside a director responsive to his storytelling ideas.
"It's very different doing storytelling with an Imax film because the pictures are so dominant," he said, recalling that Antarctic was particularly challenging because he was brought in once the picture was "locked," at the end of the process.
"The best writing I did for Antarctic was silence," he joked.
"It was a total adventure in documentary script writing. There was sort of a concept, and all the filmmakers were at each other's throats in a last-ditch effort to make this thing work."
Workshoppers will hear why the couple has stuck with the "elusive goal" of writing documentaries.
"It's because of the magic you can sometimes feel you've woven when you combine words, music and pictures," said Parfit, adding they won't provide a "set of rules" so much as ideas and techniques to help navigate creative challenges.
"You're in for a few weeks of hell, folks, so get used to it," he says, laughing.
Their stories about The Whale might prove interesting because of its uniqueness, he added.
"We did a first-person film and a third-person film, but we wrote essentially the same story."
Tickets to Saturday's workshop are $25, or $20 for CineVic members. Visit cinevic.ca or call 250-3891590 for more information.