Highlands Cinema owner Keith Stata was a boy in 1960 when the movie, The Time Machine, was released.

The Kinmount lad got a lift to Minden with a neighbouring family and went to see the American post-apocalyptic science fiction film at the Beaver Theatre.

Time is a recurring theme in the hours upon hours of interviews documentary filmmaker, Matt Finlin, has done with Stata while working on The Movie Man.

“He speaks about time a lot, not having enough time, his time is limited, mortality, he says, ‘if I just had a time machine, I could go back in time, and fix all of this stuff and really blow the socks off people’,” Finlin shared in an interview with The Highlander March 23.

A partner in Door Knocker Media, a Toronto-based video production company, Finlin and his team have been in postproduction since January on what will be a feature length film of more than an hour on the iconic Highlands Cinema and Stata, the man who built and continues to run it.

“We are very close to having a first cut of the film, which is great. Really excited and cautiously excited. It’s a funny movie,” Finlin said.

Finlin said he became friends with Stata over the four years he has been chipping away at the documentary, so he might be too close to the work to have perspective. However, he said his editor, “is enjoying himself so much. There’s a lot of humour in it and a lot of heart which really brings out the best qualities in Keith.”

He added the generations of Highlanders who have gone to the cinema are going to enjoy it, while those who have never been to the movie house on the hill will be intrigued.

Finlin said he has two goals in making the documentary, which really became an ear worm for him, when, at the age of 11, he visited Highlands Cinema for the first time.

Goal one? “Really making sure we fall in love with him (Stata) as a character who has dedicated his life to this thing. It’s incredible. When we wrapped up filming with Keith in the fall, we did this long form interview, and it was almost sad to see it end.”

Second goal? He’d love to have a gala-type screening at the theatre in Kinmount, encompassing some form of fundraising for both the business, which was closed for two-and-a-half years due to COVID, and the 50 cats that Stata takes care of.

“So, people who have enjoyed the cinema for 40 years can come and celebrate the film, and celebrate Keith. That would be a big thing for me, to show Keith what an impact he’s had on people. He knows that, but I think just to really see that and feel that in a room would be really nice.”

He’s also preparing to send a rough cut to the Toronto International Film Festival selection committee. “It’s a movie about going to the movies and why not have it at an international festival?”

He plans to have The Movie Man ready for summer.

Finlin said making the documentary has presented challenges. It’s taken four years, with Finlin picking away at the project when he had time. There was some doubt if the theatre would open post-pandemic “and then we get to see the success of the reopening and how Keith’s legacy is continuing.”

There’s been a lot of footage to sift through. Editing has been tough because there’s, “no shortage of good stuff because he’s entertaining.”

Then there is Stata, himself. Finlin admitted that sometimes, during the pandemic, he talked about the business, the plight of small business, as well as the state of cinema during interviews, and he had to “pull him back to the case at hand.”

Finlin also feels a sense of responsibility since Stata is no longer just the subject of the documentary.

“We’re friends. I care very much about him. As a documentarian, you want to capture the whole story, but it becomes difficult when you become attached to this person, and you really are rooting for him.”

To complete the documentary, Finlin is looking for still photographs of the Beaver Theatre in Minden around the time The Time Machine would have been shown in 1960. If you have any photos of the theatre from that era, please email them to matt@ doorknockermedia.com.