Kelowna actor featured in WWII documentary feature film

Local in WWII rescue movie

Sarita Patel

A film featuring local actor Evan-Riley Brown is set to hit the airwaves next month.

Journey to Royal: a WWII Rescue Mission is the true story of 22-year-old Lt. Royal Stratton, a WWII rescue pilot with the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron.

“The Greatest Generation overcame the Depression and WWII with the same kind of mettle we need to meet the challenges facing our world today," writes Chris Johnson, writer and director of the film and great-nephew of Lt. Stratton.

The small group of men were stationed in the South Pacific where they flew 862 rescue missions saving 576 lives.

“They did it all without carrying ammunition because in the planes that they were flying, the machine gun has been removed so that they could make space for the people that they were rescuing and bring aboard,” said Mariana Tosca, producer of the film.

“No one is a fan of war, but that’s why I loved it because it didn’t show the gun but it did show the bravery and courage to put someone else before you to save them,” said Brown.

An impressive 1,500 actors auditioned for the film's 18 roles, but Tosca says Evan-Riley Brown was an easy choice. “There is a strength to his appearance but there is such a soulfulness to his character that it just permeated the room when he came in."

“I don’t ever want to dishonour any of these men so I do as much research as I can … just try to honour these men that actually went through that — for me I was getting snacks on set, getting sprayed with a hose, it wasn’t that bad and I got to go home at the end of the day,” said Brown.

The movie is a hybrid of a documentary and feature film. The majority of the film is interviews with the surviving members of the squadrons.

The process took a decade and Evan-Riley was on set for two months in California shooting at the March Field Air Museum in a B29.

“We had to get everything right so all of the props that you see are hand built by us, hand-painted by us,” said Tosca.

“My sincerest hope is that people who see our film will feel empowered by those who paved the way so many decades ago,” says Johnson.

The live premiere of the film has been cancelled by the pandemic but Brown says he will enjoy watching the movie with family in Kelowna when it is released. You can purchase the film on DVD, Blue-ray or Video on Demand starting on Feb. 2.

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