The energy industry has always been a big part of Gillian McKercher’s life, and now she’s getting a chance to tell a story about it that hits close to home for many Albertans.
“I grew up in oil and gas,” McKercher said. “Both of my parents were geologists. All of my summer jobs when I was a teenager and in university were in the oil and gas patch.”
After graduating from the University of Calgary as a chemical engineer, she went on to work for four years in the industry, before being laid off in 2016.
That led to a major change in direction.
“My passion has always been filmmaking,” McKercher said, combining both areas of experience into her first feature film.
Circle of Steel is a semi-autobiographical story McKercher wrote and directed, set amid the downturn in the energy industry.
“It’s through the eyes of a first-time engineer,” she said. “And then as layoffs get introduced to her team, she watches as the morale disintegrates.”
The movie will have its world premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival on Tuesday, Sept. 25, with a second screening on Sunday, Sept 30.
“It’s a good story to tell because a lot of people go through it,” McKercher said. “Not just oil and gas, but you hear about large companies all over the world laying off lots of people.”
She’s hoping others may also find being laid off ends up opening some new doors.
“When I got laid off it was an opportunity, a forced transition into something I really cared about,” McKercher said. “I hope that we rose to the occasion.”