Documentary filmmakers Mike (Heaven) Mildon and Jackson Rowe did not expect a twist like this when they set out to uncover an 86-year-old mystery.
Mildon, a Minden-native, and Rowe were filming throughout the township this winter for a documentary. They sought to find out what happened to Mildon’s great-greatuncle Harold Heaven, who disappeared in 1934.
They made progress, but their production hit an unexpected roadblock when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“We wanted to dig deeper into a lot of things but everything just kind of froze,” Rowe said. “Obviously, the only thing we can do now is wait.”
The planned spring portion of the production is on hold due to the crisis delaying the film’s completion.
“Winter was stopping us,” Mildon said. “We were planning to wait for spring anyways, early May to follow-up on some leads we’re pretty excited about. There doesn’t seem to be an end right now to when COVID is going to settle down.”
Whenever filming can resume, Mildon said they are unsure how people will respond given they are from the city. The community has welcomed them so far, he said, but he added concerns given the heated online debate between full-time and seasonal residents over cottage visits during the pandemic.
“People are very passionate. I don’t know if that will translate when everything does die down,” he said. “A little timid to see how everybody reacts to when things go back to slightly normal.”
Given the delay, Mildon said COVID-19 will be mentioned in the film, although probably only for a couple of minutes as a transition.
“Fortunately for us, there’s not too much storytelling we have to do because everybody knows what this is. Everybody knows what’s going on. As soon as you say the words COVID, it’s very relatable and I think people will understand,” Mildon said.
The filmmakers said they made good progress on leads during the winter filming. Heaven disappeared in 1934 and his body was never discovered. Police reports at the time said they suspected death by suicide, though the filmmakers believe there is more to it than that.
Mildon said they discovered more about someone who was in the original search party for Heaven, though he did not want to give away spoilers for the film.
The crew also used ground-penetrating radar on what they suspect could be Heaven’s burial site, which they plan to dig up after the pandemic.
“We’ve had tremendous help from the community, not breaking the case but filling in tons of blanks we didn’t know about,” Rowe said. “It was them that really allowed us to flesh it out and move everything forward.”
COVID-19 notwithstanding, Rowe said they are happy with how the production has gone so far.
“Feel very, very good, but not satisfied yet,” Rowe said. “It’s been a treat, it’s been exciting, it’s been great being in Minden.”