Producing a Heritage Minute on a Canadian Icon


Producing a Heritage Minute on a Canadian Icon

Mary ‘Bonnie’ Baker didn’t just smash baseballs, she smashed barriers. Barbershop Films is honoured to have helped share her story.

Mary ‘Bonnie’ Baker had some hits. Exactly 776 of them during her historic nine-year career, including 506 steals, 20 triples, and a single homer.  The Regina-born, all-star player’s excellence was evident, touting a resumé teeming with honours, including multiple all-star distinctions, serving as a player-manager for a season (the only woman in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to do so), Canada’s first woman sportscaster, and being inducted into several athletic Hall of Fames, including Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame in New York. She was even portrayed by Geena Davis in the popular Tom Hanks movie, A League of Their Own.

Baker is one of those athletic icons that transcends sport. Her contributions not only to female athletics, but advancing gender equality, are immeasurable. That is why Barbershop Films is extremely proud to have played a small role in helping share her story.

01 — Finding Our Heritage

In the summer of 2023, Barbershop Films was a production partner for Historica Canada’s Heritage Minute on Mary Bonnie Baker. The project was driven by one of Barbershop’s closest and most esteemed collaborators, Brent Kawchuk, who has produced a total of eight Heritage Minutes – more than any other producer in Canada.

“These Heritage Minutes live on forever. They’re historical pieces themselves, and really influence the public’s consciousness on important parts of Canadian history,” said Kawchuk. 

“Mary Bonnie Baker was a strong personality and leader. There’s no better person to honour with a Heritage Minute.”

In developing the Minute with director Anita Ayres, Kawchuk and Ayres found an episode of What’s My Line? a show centred around guessing a guest’s occupation – where Baker was one of the guests. The nature of the questions directed towards Baker in her episode were condescending, and somewhat sexist, inferring things like her ‘performances’ must be that of a dancer or stripper. But Baker, in her quiet strength, would simply give one-word answers to their questions, unshaken by their misogyny. 

This episode of What’s My Line? became the thematic base for the Minute, with Kawchuk and Ayres deciding to structure it like a movie trailer with flashes from her career. 

“Every time they asked a question that seemed stupid, we paid it off with a visual of her kicking ass, doing what she was best at,” said Kawchuk.

“The trick with Heritage Minutes is that you can’t tell someone’s entire life story in 60 seconds, so you have to find a salient moment that defines what they stood for.”

02 — Women at the Forefront

The story of this trailblazing woman needed the vision of those who understood her on an instinctual level. The director of the project, Anita Ayres, is not only an acclaimed professional in a space typically saturated with men, but also has an athletic background, making her the perfect filmmaker to bring this Minute to life. And the Director of Photography, Kristin Fieldhouse, is similarly celebrated for her craft. 

“How we represented this hero was important. We should represent her with current heroes – who maybe Mary Bonnie Baker paved the way for, including Anita and Kristin, and so many others on the production,” said Kawchuk. 

Historical accuracy was also paramount, as the Heritage Minute, produced by Historica Canada, is a slice of actual Canadian history. As such, during both the development and production, historical consultants were involved to make sure every element was accurate – from the costumes and sets to the dialogue and accents. 

“Camera, script, everything had to be truthful to what could have happened,” said Kawchuk. “Our team was all on the same page to bring this thing to life.”

03 — Bringing Our Fastball

Sharing stories like those of Mary ‘Bonnie’ Baker’s are exactly what we at Barbershop Films live for. Baker’s profound impact on society, athletics, and equality resonates deeply with us, and in participating in this production, we hope her story inspires more generations of fearless and determined young women and men. As such, we stocked the bullpen as full as we could with resources for the Minute – from assistant directors, sound technicians, grips, gaffers, production assistants, and a host of post-production specialists. 

“Barbershop was amazing. They were prepared, energetic, professional, and Historica loved their presence. Historica has worked with companies across Canada, and sung the praises of Barbershop,” said Kawchuk. 

The months of work Ayres, Kawchuk, and Historica put into the project were decidedly worthwhile. A screening of the Minute in the town it was produced, Ogema, Saskatchewan, was met with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. 

Historica’s CEO, Anthony Wilson-Smith, said the Heritage Minute was “one of the most memorable of the more than 20 ‘Minutes’ in which I have taken part.”

There were few dry eyes during the Minute’s premier in Omega, despite Tom’s insistence that “there’s no crying in baseball.”