Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Williams Lake Podcast

One of the most rewarding moments in making The Green Chain came just after we'd wrapped post-production and I interviewed Wade Fisher for The Tyee podcast series.

Every scene in the movie kicks off with a response to the question, "how do you feel about trees." And every character starts their story with the same three words: "I love trees."

Wade Fisher spent more than two decades representing BC forest workers. When I was visiting friends in Williams Lake I met Wade to do my first interview for the podcast series and at the end of our conversation I decided I'd try out the question from the film and ask him, "how do you feel about trees?"

There was a pause and then he gave an answer that took my breath away. "I think I love trees."

As he continued to answer the question he echoed so many of the sentiments from our logger, Ben Holm, that I think... Wade is entirely based on our logger... So if I sound a little stunned at the end of this interview it's only because I was a little stunned.

One reason this interview is so free flowing is that I was meeting Wade to talk about his role with the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coaltion, but as soon as we started talking he told me he'd just left the group. So I wasn't sure where the interview was going to go -- or if I was going to use it for the series -- until we'd already been talking for a few minutes.

I think Wade offers a glimpse into a world that most people seldom see. It's the world we visit in The Green Chain. And I hope you'll visit it now. And when the movie opens at a theatre near you...

Here's the podcast.

News on when we'll be where next coming soon.

Happy Chanukah,


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tricia Helfer Whips Up Excitement and The Green Chain Storms the Weather Network

Tricia Helfer's (other) new movie Walk All Over Me hits (and whips) Vancouver theatres next week and it's the cover story of this week's Georgia Straight.
The Green Chain is also creating a storm on Canada's Weather Network in a new story about the west coast enviro scene featuring Mark Leiren-Young and The 11th Hour's Canadian eco-idol, Tzeporah Berman.
Also... be sure to pick up the latest issue of The Vancouver Review for a fascinating, in-depth review of The Green Chain (which we'll be posting here soon).
And now here's a bit about Tricia and The Green Chain from this week's Straight story by Mike Usinger...
With major roles in two feature films this year, Helfer has given every indication that she isn't going to be another Cindy Crawford when it comes to leaving the catwalk for the screen. Georgia Straight contributor and Vancouver native Mark Leiren-Young directed Helfer in his 2007 movie, The Green Chain, which looks at the issue of logging old-growth forests from various sides. Helfer, who plays a celebrity jumping on the green bandwagon, blew his mind when she showed up for filming and proceeded to rattle off a 13-minute monologue in one perfect take.
"I kept asking her, 'So, no theatre experience at all?' 'No,'" Leiren-Young tells the Straight by phone. "I had trouble believing she wasn't a theatre-trained actor. She was just astonishing."

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Green Chain Meets Garbage Warrior!

Here's the scoop on the latest Green Chain podcast on The Tyee.

Building Treeless Houses

Doc director OIiver Hodge

A Trees and Us podcast with 'Garbage Warriors' director Oliver Hodge.

By Mark Leiren-Young
Published: November 2, 2007
email this article print this story

Imagine building your house out of garbage.

American architect Michael Reynolds turns old tires, beer cans and plastic bottles into "earthships."

Oliver Hodge was a movie props maker who helped design and create the stuff you find on spaceships -- including the light sabers for The Phantom Menace. But Hodge left the Oompa Loompas at Charlie's Chocolate Factory and suspended his license to create killer weapons for James Bond to chronicle Reynold's adventures for his first feature film, Garbage Warrior.

Hodge spent three years following Reynolds as he fought to change the laws in New Mexico to create a self-sustaining community and flew into disaster areas to build -- and teach locals to build -- homes that require no heating, no outside sewage or water systems and redefine the meaning and possibilities of "living off the grid."

Garbage Warrior just finished a run at the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival where it won the inaugural People's Choice Award for the Most Popular International Nonfiction Film. Last week Hodge won the award for Best Debut Director at the British Independent Film Awards. And Dorothy Woodend at The Tyee wrote, "This is perhaps my favorite film in the entire festival, simply because it says, "You want to do something? Okay, do this!""

In the latest "Trees and Us" podcast, Mark Leiren-Young talks trash with Hodge as he explains how to build houses without trees.

Click Mark Leiren-Young talks with Oliver Hodge to hear Oliver Hodge talk about recycled houses, the stories the movie doesn't tell about visiting the Andaman Islands after a tsunami and making the ultimate light sabre.

Or listen and subscribe to Tyee podcasts on iTunes.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Green Chain featured at Citizenshift

The Green Chain now has a featured blog at -- The National Film Board of Canada's social networking site, Citizenshift. And we're the only fictional film that's part of the NFB site.

Other featured Rebels With a Cause include Nettie Wilde -- whose movie Blockade was helped inspire me in making this film. Both our cinematographer Kirk Tougas (seen above) and our sound designer, Gael MacLean, worked with Nettie to bring Blockade to life and were able to share their knowledge of that experience to create the world of The Green Chain.
Another featured filmmaker is Velcrow Ripper who offered to loan us footage when we were searching for transition images. We didn't end up needing the footage, but the offer was most appreciated and I'll be interviewing Velcrow for one of my upcoming podcasts. Velcrow took his own non-fiction look at trees with his film, Bones of the Forest.
The Citizenshift site also features filmmakers Mark Achbar, Avi Lewis and Alanis Obomsawin and the leader of Canada's Green Party, Elizabeth May.

Monday, October 22, 2007

George Bowering Talks Trees on the Latest Green Chain Podcast

Tree Love and Murder

Bowering: Haunting stories and poems about trees.

A Trees and Us podcast with George Bowering.

By Mark Leiren-Young
Published: October 19, 2007
email this article print this story

Novelist, poet, editor, professor and the first Poet Laureate of Canada, George Bowering is famous for his words. But he first started working in the woods, and his family works in the forest industry.

So while those words have an international profile, they are inescapably rooted in B.C.'s trees, with stories of growing up in the Okanagan, haunting poems of urban Vancouver, and his innovative treatment of historical B.C. events.

In today's podcast, internationally-renowned poet George Bowering talks about those forests and sings about chainsaws.

Click the Listen to This! link to hear Mark Leiren-Young talk to him about risking his life on logging roads, "tree murder" and cruising for the B.C. government.

Or listen and subscribe to Tyee podcasts on iTunes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WIFT says Jillian Fargey "riveting" in The Green Chain

Women in Film & Television's Artistic Merit Award for the Vancouver International Film Festival went to "She's a Boy I Knew" -- but before the winner was announced at VIFF's closing gala, WIFT president Danika Dinsmore praised one performance that stood out for the judges. "Honourable mention goes to Jillian Fargey for her riveting and moving performance delivering a monologue as a logger’s wife in the film The Green Chain."
Jillian was the only actor singled out during the VIFF awards presentation.
At VIFF's closing party, Danika told me that Jillian's performance made all the judges cry.
Jillan and I first worked together in a Jessie-Award winning production of my stage play, Basically Good Kids - a drama about teen violence that toured BC with Carousel Theatre.
When I wrote a series of episodes for CBC's hit radio drama , Hartfeldt Saskatchewan, I was asked for casting suggestions. I wanted Jillian to play the key guest star role -- a radical environmental activist. My episodes were about - what else -- trees. I received a Writers' Guild of Canada Top Ten Award nomination for the script.
When we started casting The Green Chain, Jillian was our first phone call. She makes writers look good.
Jillian couldn't attend the Closing Gala (or The Green Chain's Vancouver premiere) because she's starring in the world premiere of Joan MacLeod's new play, Homechild at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria, BC (which runs until Oct. 21st).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Green Chain in The Williams Lake Tribune

Vancouver Film Fest entry inspired by Cariboo Chilcotin
Gaeil Farrar
Tribune Staff Writer

Former Tribune reporter Mark Leiren-Young is making a big splash at the Vancouver Film Festival this week with his Cariboo inspired film called The Green Chain. Leiren-Young wrote and directed the film.
So far he has been interviewed by the Province, Vancouver Sun, CanWest newswire, and Global TV about the film which filled the house for its first showing Monday.
The Green Chain combines seven stories about people willing to risk their lives to save the forests and the people who survive by cutting them down. The film is playing at the Vancouver International Film Festival September 27 to October 12.
Among other things Leiren-Young covered the police beat and forestry beats for the Tribune in the 1980s. “I’d been in Williams Lake for however many minutes it takes to drive from the ‘Welcome to Williams Lake’ sign to the Mohawk Station on Highway 97 when I had my first story. The gas station had been robbed. After I finished interviewing the cashier, she smiled at me and said: “Welcome to Williams Lake.”
Several aspects of the forestry beat inspired him to write The Green Chain. “I think my first assignment for Casual Country was doing profiles of all the local mills. And some of the people I interviewed -- and the stories I heard -- very much inspired this movie.” The mountain pine beetle was just showing up in the region. “I wrote a few pine beetle stories for The Trib. I remember the first day that I experienced 30 below weather -- and I couldn’t believe human beings could survive at 30 below -- and someone in the Forest Ministry told me they were hoping the cold would stay long enough to kill the beetles.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t. It was the coldest winter I’d ever experienced in my life, but I think it was one of the earliest of the warming winters that allowed the beetle problem to turn into an epidemic. So the movie definitely mentions the beetles, but it doesn’t focus on them.”
Leiren-Young says he was also struck by the irony of one interview he did with a logger who was excited about getting his new machine which he described as “a mill on wheels” and at the same time complained about the damn environmentalists from the cities who were taking away all the jobs. He says the interview always stuck with him and created the first link in The Green Chain.
One of the biggest challenges in the film was finding a feller-buncher or a danglehead processor for the film’s logger that was accessible and safe. Driving along real logging roads, looking for such equipment, he says it became very clear to him how so many loggers die in the woods each year.
He says he wanted the film to feel like a documentary and it was fun hearing after the first screening at the Montreal World Film festival that The Green Chain captured the voices of rural Ontario, and after the second screening that it captured the voices of rural Quebec.
Leiren-Young says it is important for him to show The Green Chain in Williams Lake and Prince George as it is to show it in Vancouver and Toronto. “And it’s just as important to me to see this play in Oregon and Washington as it is to see it in LA or New York. The idea behind the movie is to get people listening to all sorts of different points of view.
The goal is also to use the movie to start a dialogue on the various issues effecting the forests -- and forest communities -- like the beetles.”
To facilitate this dialogue, Leiren-Young says he’s connected with the publication, The Tyee (, and set up a podcast series where he interviews a wide variety of people -- including William’s Lake’s Wade Fisher -- about forestry and environmental issues.
“The series is set up to encourage comments and get people talking. I’d love to start reading postings on the site from Cariboo country.”
This is Leiren-Young’s first film, although he has had a lot of festival experiences in theatre, comedy and music festivals. He has written for several television series and written and acted in stage shows over the years including Local Anxiety and Escape from Fantasy Gardens.
Tuesday, Leiren-Young says he was rehearsing for his first Local Anxiety gig in nine years. “We’re playing at a special (Vancouver) Film Fest event. Big fun, but seriously nerve-wracking!”
His most recent writing has been for the television series Blood Ties, about a vampire with a conscience. “Now I’m working on developing Moon Knight, which was/is a Marvel Comic. It’s a pretty amazing gig because I loved the character as a kid and had every issue of the first three series Moon Knight appeared in.”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Local Anxiety live -- tonight in Vancouver and Mark Leiren-Young gets SIRIUS tomorrow morning

If you've got satellite radio, tune in to Sirius Channel 114 tomorrow morning when The Lazy Environmentalist interviews The Green Chain's Mark Leiren-Young at 11 a.m. eastern time. Mark may stay up all night to do the interview because not only is it 8 a.m. Pacific time, but he'll just be coming back from...
The first live Local Anxiety appearance since headlining at the Vancouver Folk Festival in 1998. Local Anxiety (alias Green Chain writer-director Mark Leiren-Young & actor/musician Kevin Crofton) wrote and perform the closing song, Tree Farm, in The Green Chain.
And they're among the special guests at a party to celebrate the Vancouver International Film Festival starring the critically acclaimed band of Vancouver critics, Twisted Siskel (alias Ken Eisner, Glen Schaefer, Ron Yamauchi, Keith Kennedy and David Welsford) at the Vancouver Media Club (695 Cambie St.)
"The stupidly versatile 5-piece band will be joined by smokey vocalists Nick Lea and Cecile Larochelle, crooner Clive Goodinson hitting us with some good-time swing tunes, and there will be original numbers from up-and-coming recording artist Jennifer Hershman, plus cellist Lisa Nazarenko. Look for some musical humour from Local Anxiety, having a one-time reunion, more fun from Canadian Images programmer Terry McEvoy, plus a few choice words—and possibly some interpretive dance—from Wendel Meldrum, here with her hot new film, Cruel But Necessary, screening that very night."
Tickets will be eight dollars at the door, but VIFF guests will enter free with their passes.
LA is set to hit the stage around midnight...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Capsule Review of The Green Chain from Today's Vancouver Sun

The Green Chain: Everything you wanted to know about the B.C. logging industry but were afraid to ask, emerges -- in one way or another -- over the course of Mark Leiren-Young's new film. It has the guts to explore the issue in emotional terms without getting bogged down in the endless rhetoric -- or the facile argument of people versus nature. A smart and well-researched film that successfully sees the trees through the forest.
Screens today, 12:30 p.m., Granville 2.
- Katherine Monk

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Green Chain Review from The Vancouver Courier

From a review of The Green Chain in The Vancouver Courier from our western Canadian premiere at The Vancouver International Film Festival.

All seven characters in this docu-drama by Vancouverite Mark Leiren-Young claim to love trees—and surely they all do. But their perspectives on BC’s forestry industry vary as much as their positions in life. A second-generation logger, granny protester, underemployed firefighter, cause-championing star, naïve tree-sitter, First Nations forestry executive and long-suffering diner waitress deliver engaging monologues that lay out their views, movingly and convincingly. The technique pulls viewers into their emotional spheres, leading us to abandon presumptions or at least recognize the complexity of the situation. Standout performances include Scott McNeil as a baffled logger facing the realities of less work and fewer trees, and noted stage actress Jillian Fargey as his burdened wife, whose diner job and reflections on family and community reveal the human cost of changing times. Local up-and-coming actor Brendan Fletcher is also delightful as tree-occupying Dylan, babbling to his handicam 100 feet up a cedar. Leiren-Young’s strong and nuanced writing pinpoints these varied personalities, and his background in comedy injects levity (where appropriate) into a generally sombre subject. There may be no easy outs, the film implies, but a good debate can’t be off the mark.
-Gudrun Will

B.C. filmmaker explores the big tree picture

B.C. filmmaker explores the big tree picture
Katherine Monk

VANCOUVER - He's been thinking and writing about the multi-faceted relationship between people and trees since 1985, when a stint at the Williams Lake Tribune introduced him to logging communities and their unique place in the B.C. economy.
But ask playwright, filmmaker and all-purpose scribe Mark Leiren-Young what trees mean to him, personally, and he looks at the square wooden coffee table in front of him with a seeking expression.
"I'll have to think about that one for a bit," he says. "It's not a simple question... everything about trees can be read in so many different ways, and raise different questions. It can get emotional very fast."
For a dramatist, any issue that can raise emotions and political fervor in the same breath is a boon, which is why Leiren-Young first contemplated the idea for The Green Chain - his new feature film which screens at the Vancouver International Film Festival this week - more than 20 years ago in the womb of a resource-based economy.
"As a person who'd been living in Vancouver, I sort of felt like Greenpeace was in my blood," says Leiren-Young, longtime creative collaborator with the late Vancouver theatre luminary, John Juliani.
"When I first arrived in Williams Lake, my first assignment was talking to people who cut down trees. It was the first time I actually heard the logger's perspective and it became very clear to me at that point that no one in the whole forestry debate was listening to each other."
Leiren-Young says a chance meeting with John Wiggers, the former chair of the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada, confirmed his interpretation of the big tree picture and that's when everything came together.
"It was so weird, because here I'd been looking for this guy - and I ended up sitting next to him on a plane. I never talk to people on the plane, and for some reason, I started talking to the man next to me - and it was the man I'd been looking for."
Realizing fate was cooperating with the creative venture, which was originally conceived as a radio or TV script that Leiren-Young and Juliani could produce on a limited budget, the next step was finding the right structure and approach.
"It was important for me that we explored the issue in as many dimensions as possible," he says. "There were so many voices that needed to be heard, and so that's where I started: I wanted to let those voices speak for themselves, so originally, I had six characters who all spoke about how much they love trees."
The six characters eventually grew into seven, once Leiren-Young realized he had no First Nations voice, and The Green Chain moved ever closer to camera.
"When I worked on Articles of Faith (a play about the Anglican Church's blessing of same sex unions) with John (Juliani) he stopped a performance of the play half way through and asked the audience if they thought the play was skewed in a particular direction. Only two people - one from each side - felt the play was biased. Everyone else in the audience thought it was fair," he says.
"I wanted to find the same balance for Green Chain... and that all came down to the voices. I figured if I got the voices right, I'd be able to explore the issue in a way that felt honest. I felt everyone deserved to be represented."
The result is a movie that features seven monologues from a variety of tree-loving types - including a logger and an environmental activist.
Leiren-Young says he's happy with the finished product - not just because it brings a fresh perspective to a rather stale and monotonous debate about the pros and cons of the forestry industry, and not just because it gives equal time to all sides.
"The one thing working with John (Juliani) taught me was to face fear. He always said do something you are afraid of and I think that's what Green Chain means to me now," he says, sitting back, staring at that four-legged wood product laden with magazines before him.
"You know, I used to be afraid of heights and when we shot this movie, one scene involved being high in a cedar... and so I decided I should get up there. The tree was on a cliff, so on one side, if you looked down, it was like a 150-foot drop," he says, with a hint of giddy laughter.
"But I did it, and now I'm nowhere near as afraid of heights as I used to be."
With any luck, Leiren-Young says Green Chain could have a similar effect on the logging debate.
"I think we need to listen to each other if we're going to find a solution, and maybe this movie can defuse the fear and paranoia surrounding the business of trees. There's something mystical about them, something magical.
They define us as British Columbians and if we can get a handle on what they mean to each of us, I think we stand a good chance of finding solutions to the problems in a way that respects everyone."
© CanWest News Service

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Red Carpetting for The Green Chain

Tricia Helfer and Mark Leiren-Young did the red carpet for The Green Chain at the Vancouver International Film Festival. The photo is by's Jason Whyte, who interviewed Mark for the movie's premiere.
Here's the start of the interview. For the full interview, click here.
Is this your first film in the VIFF? (Or the first film you have) Do you have any other festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favourite and least-favourite parts of the festival experience.
Yes. It’s my first film at VIFF and my first film. I’ve had a lot of amazing festival experiences, but in theatre, comedy and music festivals. Film festivals are a whole new ride that I’m thrilled to be taking.
Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?
When I was a reporter at The Williams Lake Tribune I interviewed a logger about his brand new machine that he described as, “a mill on wheels.” While he boasted about his beautiful machine, he was complaining about the damn environmentalists from the cities who were taking away all the jobs. As one of those damn environmentalists, the interview always stuck with me and created the first link in The Green Chain.
Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!
“Writer.” I started giving that answer when I was in elementary school. In high school I told people I was a writer.
While you were making the movie, were you thinking about the future release of the film, be it film festivals, paying customers, critical response, and so forth?
Yes and no. A big part of making a movie is funding it, so I think you have to consider those questions unless you want to pay all the bills yourself. In terms of response, what mattered most to me was getting the stories right.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Green Chain Competes for major Green Award

The Green Chain has been selected to compete for the Vancouver International Film Festival's new $25,000 Climate for Change Award -- one of the largest cash awards at any film festival in North America.

The series includes dramatic features and documentaries and The Green Chain is the only Canadian film in competition and one of only two dramatic entries.

The new annual award is and is sponsored by Kyoto Planet, "a new eco-conscious company with three distinct but interrelated parts: a financial vehicle to support and facilitate investment in, and management of, business opportunities in the green sector, a foundation to award grants and manage the non-profit portion of the company's business, and a consumer company grounded by a broad portal to serve as the preeminent marketplace for knowledge, ideas, discussion and goods and services in the environmental space."

VIFF Director Alan Franey says, "This is a major and very important development for our festival. Although it is true that we have featured many films on environmental issues over the years, the generous and enlightened support of Kyoto Planet encourages us to put environmentally themed films front and centre in our program."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mark Leiren-Young on VIFF Panel

Here's the scoop on a panel Mark's joining at the Vancouver International Film Festival hosted by Cineworks. 2:30PM Saturday October 6th 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Cineworks Studio 1131 Howe Street
Panelists: Laura Dunn (The Unforeseen), Oliver Hodge (Garbage Warrior), Mark Leiren-Young (The Green Chain) Moderator: Maia Iozova
Join these environmental filmmakers for a dynamic discussion on the challenges of making films with our precious planet in mind -- from leaving a smaller footprint during production, to creating films with integrity that break down boundaries or decide to stay purposefully within them. Learn about the approaches of these three diverse filmmakers as they discuss their experience from pre-production to the release of their films.
Presented by: Documentary Organisation of Canada - BC Chapter

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sprucing up the Green Chain podcast

When I first read John Vaillant’s story about “The Golden Spruce” in The New Yorker I had two simultaneous thoughts… what an incredible story and... who the heck is John Vaillant?
I definitely don’t know the work of every writer in Vancouver, but I couldn’t believe there was someone in my city who wrote this wonderfully, who I’d never heard of. The article is one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s an amazing story, beautifully told.
But the book rocked my world.
It wasn’t just the rich history of the Spruce or the drama and mystery of renegade logger, Grant Hadwin, that impressed me, it was the way John wove in the history of logging and the BC forests.
When The Tyee agreed to let me do a podcast, John was the first person I contacted. He not only agreed to be interviewed, he provided me with a list of other potential interview subjects -- many of whom you’ll hear me talk with soon.
Most interviews with John focus on the man who killed the Golden Spruce, but I wasn’t interested in Grant Hadwin’s story for this. I wanted to know what a writer from the U.S. saw in Haida Gwaii that all the writers in BC had missed. I also wanted his thoughts on our forests, the way they’re run, and the new story he’s doing for National Geographic -- both because it sounds like a fascinating model for land management and because I’m really looking forward to reading it when he’s done.
John and I talked at his kitchen table in his home in Vancouver, BC. So if you hear any squeaks, that would be the sound of wooden chairs shifting on a hardwood floor. And in a podcast about trees, I kind of like the idea of punctuating it with the music of creaking wood.
Here's John...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Green Chain in Vancouver

Tickets on sale now!
The Green Chain has two shows at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Our Western Canadian premiere is Monday, October 8 at 7 pm at the Empire Granville 7.
Our second show is Wed. Oct. 10th at 12:30 pm at the Empire Granville 7.
The Green Chain is featured in VIFF's new "Climate for Change" series -- "an annual environmental film series and a $25,000 juried environmental award, one of the largest cash prizes at any film festival in North America... sponsored by new festival partner Kyoto Planet."
The Green Chain's Vancouver adventures officially kicked off September 5th when Babz Chula (the protester) and Mark Leiren-Young (writer/director) represented the movie at VIFF's official media launch
Babz is currently at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) as one of the stars of Future Projections -- a new program combining film and visual art.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Our first review... from the Montreal World Film Festival

indyish logo

Finally, an enviro-film premiere I could attend!

by Lise Treutler

The Montreal World Film Festival sees many a film, but this year’s edition was, for me, all about The Green Chain — a new mockumentary making its world premiere here in my fair city. While I would surely have gone to see the film regardless, a few factors made the screening all the more exciting and important for me:

The Green Chain poster

  • despite convincing arguments that it could technically be considered a business trip, my boss wouldn’t give me the money to attend the private advance screening of The 11th Hour in Vancouver;
  • The Green Chain is entirely Canadian and takes place in an unnamed British Columbia town (and I am perpetually in a love affair with the province); and
  • my boss and I were invited to the third of three screenings by the filmmaker himself, Mark Leiren-Young.

Leiren-Young is certainly a busy guy, having written in just about every genre one can… journalism, blogs, screenwriting, stage plays, etc. The Green Chain, however, marks his feature film début. Like its creator, the film is a genre-bending journey that can in all truth fit into any of the following categories: character piece, documentary, dramedy, dark comedy, indie, artsy… Oh, forget it! The list is too long! Let me just state for the record that this film is one worth seeing, unless you don’t like examining your own thoughts or being compelled to recognize your personal (inherited?) bias.

The film takes you deep into the longstanding (so much that it’s almost stereotypical) conflict between loggers and environmentalists and sits you face-to-face with opinions from connected individuals you might not have even thought of. The cast includes some of Canada’s most talented actors, most notably August Schellenberg and “Queen of the Indies” Babz Chula (okay, so she was born in New York).

By now you’re probably wondering where my proclamation of “this film will convert you to environmentalism” is, because that’s what we’ve come to expect from similar films. We expect films with an agenda. We rent Michael Moore documentaries not for anticipated surprises on film, but because we want to learn more about his take on, say, health care or gun control in the States, and we know — unless we’re been living under rocks since the mid-’90s — that the films aim to debunk government statements, greenwashing, or (if we’re particularly angry sorts) the right-wing agenda. I fell for such expectations myself before seeing The Green Chain, sat down for a pro-activist film, and left the theatre after the credits surprised and duly impressed!

Mark Leiren-Young

The Green Chain is not pro-environmentalist, nor is it pro-industry. It wasn’t until Leiren-Young asked me point-blank after the screening which side I thought the film rooted for that I fully realized what, and how much, I took away. As I described how the film’s narrative put me face-to-face (and even behind the eyes) of all sides of the battle, I realized how just how valuable this is. Yes, the film is about the forests, and like the Lorax, it speaks for the trees. But it speaks through seven distinct voices, some of which I’d been unaware of!

As an ardent environmentalist, I clearly see through a certain pair of eyes more often than not. But I’ve always tried to see everyone in the forest sector, for example, as individual human beings, and look for their needs and motives from that point of view… but a distinct lack of logger friends does make this difficult! Leiren-Young has created seven characters so firmly rooted in their beliefs and so willing to fight for what they hold to be truth that one can’t help but really feel for each one and empathize with their situation. When the credits roll, it’s not a question of who’s right — they all are for their different situations.

When The Green Chain becomes available to you, what will you sit down expecting? Do you recognize your bias now, or are you unsure? If you feel you don’t know enough about the forest industry or the environmentalist/logger battle, where do you think you stand?

If you were lucky enough to attend one of the three screenings at the festival, what did you leave the theatre thinking about?

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Le Premiere

And the theme of the day from The Green Chain's World Premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival (Festival des Filmes du Monde)... technical difficulties!

Okay... so the Metro line to our location isn't working... the internet at our hotel wasn't working (which is why this is so late)... my beautiful new cell phone wasn't working... our projector at the theatre wasn't working, but the movie...

Worked beautifully... soon as the projector came to life!

The audience response was wonderful. People were silent where I hoped they'd be quiet, they laughed where I hoped they'd chuckle and, best of all, everyone wanted to talk when the movie was over.

The audience included our producer team... Tony Wosk (producer), James DesRoches (co-producer) and Donna Wong-Juliani (executive producer)... Darron Leiren-Young (production coordinator and so much more) got to take time off from her gig at J-Pod to make the trip to Quebec.

And a few of our family members flew out, including seven year-old Emma Jordan Leiren Young (Darron's and my niece) -- who has a special cameo appearance. I was so impressed that Emma didn't scream when she saw herself on-screen, but she couldn't resist saying, "that's me!" when she saw her name in the credits! I felt like cheering when I finally saw the credits too...

John Wiggers (who inspired August Schellenberg's character, The Executive) was there and was delighted by the movie, as was Donna Bisschop, the artist who created the haunting painting in that sequence -- and who told us she hadn't been to a movie theatre in about 15 years!

I got the chance to thank everyone in front of the opening night crowd, but thanks again to everyone who made this happen. Un grand merci beaucoup!


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Green Chain Podcast: Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Believe it or not... more big Green news. It's the official launch of The Green Chain podcast hosted by The Tyee.

This isn't traditional hype, this is what our movie's all about -- getting people to talk, think and feel something about the issues facing the forests... Yep, I'm interviewing all sorts of people about trees.

First off I talk with Severn Cullis-Suzuki (editor of Notes From Canada's Young Activists: A Generation Stands Up for Change). This is my first time on the other side of a mic for an audio interview in years, my first time trying out my new podcasting gear, and figuring out how to edit in GarageBand was an adventure -- but Severn was an amazing and inspiring interview.

The plan is to post a new podcast every two weeks and I've got some incredible guests lined up to talk trees. Coming up... John Vaillant, author of The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed.

This should be on iTunes soon -- and hopefully other places too -- but home base is The Tyee. The Tyee was the launching pad for the "Hundred Mile Diet," so it has global reach and the chance to make our movie part of a global dialogue on environmental issues. And how cool is that?

The Tyee took a real leap of faith in hosting our podcast -- it's their first ever podcast series -- and it'll definitely make them happy if it gets downloaded, linked to, blogged about, commented on, tagged, digged etc. Subscribing to The Tyee's email headlines or rss feed would also make em happy and it'll be a treat for your inbox. The Tyee features a terrific mix of stories -- one of which was just picked up by my heroes at The Colbert Report.

And for me... Any and all words of wisdom about future podcasts would be most appreciated. Any people you'd love me to talk to? Questions you'd like me to ask? Thoughts on how & where to share the podcast?

Oh, the recording of The Green Chain Song that kicks this off is a new one. It's the first song recorded by Local Anxiety in, um, a very very very long time. And yeah, I'm half of Local Anxiety, so that's me singing the harmony line...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Link to The Green Chain in Montreal

A quick but important post -- here's the official program listing for The Green Chain for The Montreal World Film Festival. I think these are the official links for buying tickets...
Sunday, August 26, 2007 • 7:30 pm (L10.26.6)
Monday, August 27, 2007 • 12:00 pm (L10.27.2)
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 • 5:30 pm (L10.28.5)

See you in Montreal!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Green Chain's going to Montreal!

The Green Chain's World Premiere is set for Aug. 26th (aka 26 août) at 7:30 pm as part of the Montreal World Film Festival's Focus On World Cinema program, so I guess that means we're officially taking on the world. We're also playing the 27th and 28th. If you can be there, please be there! If you have friends in Quebec, please send them. If you don't have friends in Quebec -- please make friends in Quebec!

The last time our executive producer, Donna Wong-Juliani, and I were in Montreal was October, 27, 1995 and we were waving Canadian flags.
Now it's time to wave The Green Chain flag.
John Wiggers -- billed as our "tree guru" in the movie -- is planning to make the trek from Ontario, which is a big thrill for me because John was the inspiration (on so many levels) for the character of John Clements (The Executive) played by August Schellenberg. That character would not exist if not for John.
This is a big year for the Montreal World Film Festival -- and it's a thrill -- je suis ravi -- to be part of it.
Stay tuned. More info as it happens!
And more is happening very soon...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Mark Leiren-Young on Sci-Fi Talk

This interview with Mark was just posted on Sci-fi Talk It's also available on iTunes.

Last week they had to settle for Johnny Depp... The week before they were stuck with Guillermo Del Toro... Before that it was the cast of some little movie about a boy wizard...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Standing ovation for Sitting Bull!

Hot news from Hollywood...

August Schellenberg-- "The Executive" in The Green Chain -- was nominated for an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie" for his performance as Sitting Bull in the HBO hit, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
Wounded Knee received 17 nominations -- wow -- and the Emmys are awarded in September, so we're hoping that's a great month for August.
Congratulations from the Green team!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tree Guru

One of the heroes on The Green Chain has been John Wiggers (aka The Hermit).
He's been an inspiration, a karmic connection and a true friend. We've billed him in the movie as "Tree Guru."
Here's his memory of how we met.
I swear I said "somebody" and not "some big guy," but I'll share my version of this story another time...
PS I just returned form the Banff TV Festival. Here's my take on the world of TV 2.0.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Green News

Check out the latest story on The Green Chain and... if you're hooked into Digg... Be sure to Digg It!

Monday, May 21, 2007

What's a green chain?

I hate coming up with titles.
But I love finding the right one. And this title hasn't changed since we first started talking about making this movie in 2004.
I hope this title works on all sorts of levels. But if you're not from a lumber town, you may not know there's a literal definition.

Here's a nice definition from Wikipedia (of course, being Wikipedia, it may change by the time you look).

Green chain is a type of lumber delivery system that can be used in a sawmill. The green chain's purpose is to collect the final product of the mill and move it at a controlled rate. In the 19th and early to late 20th century, the green chain was used by people. Men would stand alongside and pull lumber that matches the required dimensions and place it in piles. In short, the workers sorted the lumber. Modern sawmills use automatic systems, such as the lumber dropping through the chain into large slings, where it can be picked up and moved to a staging area to dry. Most likely called the green chain because the lumber is green and has not been seasoned.

And this is from a site on the history of the Columbia River.

Timber-related work attracted all kinds of people to the area. The jobs paid well but they required skill and were quite dangerous. Young men often started mill work on the "green chain" where they would sort outgoing lumber according to quality and size. Better jobs and, for decades, job security awaited them in the booming mills and surrounding forests.
I was working on, they call it the green chain now but didn't call it the green chain then. They just had some rollers there that push the lumber down. We'd slip it over there and put it out on the pile and then a guy would come around and straighten it up a little bit so they could haul it. . . The green chain is a flat table with a whole bunch of chains on it that they put all the lumber on as they cut it and it comes down on there and they sort it for size. . . They had two trucks hauling it away faster than we could stack it up.
--Charles Plummer, logger and mill worker, 1999.

If you've got any other on-line definitions -- or want to add one -- please add a comment or zap us an email.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Green Team Roars at Leos

The 2007 Leo Award nominations (celebrating excellence in BC Film and Television) were just announced and it was a golden day for the Green Team.

One of our stars, Jillian Fargey, scored a nomination for Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Short Drama for her work in Nostalgia Boy. This is Jillian's third Leo nomination. She's a previous nominee for Protection and Hotel. Jillian plays Jenni Holm, the waitress in The Green Chain -- the character who keeps the chain together.

Our cinematographer, Kirk Tougas, was nominated for Best Cinematography in a
Documentary Program or Series
for Shameless. A shameless plug for Kirk. He has received two previous Leo Awards for Best Cinematography, most recently for Obachan’s Garden.

And Michael George -- one of the unsung heroes of The Green Chain, the guy responsible for way too much work in the editing suite... scored a nomination for The Sparkle Lite Motel. It's a contender for Best Short Drama that Michael produced with Cory Kinney, Peter Dashkewytch and Mel Weisbaum).

And the winners are... announced June 1st and 2nd.

Last year Tricia Helfer was nominated for two Leos -- one for her role as Number Six in Battlestar Galactica (which she won) and another for her guest-starring performance in an episode of The Collector written by Mark Leiren-Young.

Meanwhile... one of our other Green team stars just finished a super guest-starring role. Tahmoh Penikett played a super-powered soldier - and Lois Lane's ex -- in Smallville. But even Lex Luthor couldn't turn Tahmoh into a true villain. Tahmoh switches from fighting Superman to fighting fires in The Green Chain.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day to us...
Happy Earth Day to us...
The Green Chain has linked up with a distributor for Canada -- Christal Films.
Christal just announced that they've picked up three new environmentally themed projects -- Alastair Fothergill's documentary Earth, Velcrow Ripper's FierceLight: When Spirit Meets Action, the follow-up to his Genie Award winner Scared Sacred and... drum roll please... The Green Chain...
I met Velcrow at the Genies in Toronto last year, just after he picked up his trophy.
A few minutes later I ran into my old friend, Babz Chula, who was also nominated for an award that night. When I told Babz about The Green Chain, she said it was a shame that I didn't have a part for her. "I'm an old hippie logging protester," said Babz.
I almost cast her on the spot.
Months later Velcrow kindly offered to provide some of his footage for us to use as transitions for the movie. We didn't end up needing his work but... I guess we're finally working together. Sort of.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Mix Masters

We have audio!
The Green Chain moved into Post Modern Sound this week and our post team -- Jana Fritsch (editor), Darron Leiren-Young (coordinator) and I -- moved in with our mix masters. So we got to watch, listen and work with Gael MacLean (sound designer), Mark Hensley (head mixer) and Don Mann (effects/foley/ambience mixer).
It was wild seeing the movie on a big screen, hearing it on a half dozen speakers and layering in the dialogue, foley and effects.
And it was even wilder to realize we're almost done...
Mixing was a new adventure for me. I've been involved in producing three albums and I've done a fair bit of radio work where I’ve seen foley artists in action, but this was the first time I've had the chance to play with the sound on screen. It was amazing working with audio to find new ways to tell our story and capture the worlds of each scene.
On our first day of shooting, Brendan Fletcher was fifty feet up a tree. During the night shoot, coyotes started howling at him. Brendan howled back. After I said "clear-cut" our sound man tried to capture the coyote howls -- but I guess they'd recognized Brendan as the alpha dog and run off. Now the coyotes are back, sounding exactly like they did that night.
But the mosquito that decided to take up residence in front of our boom microphone for a large portion of my favourite take of Scott McNeil's performance has finally been swatted.
And I've been introduced to a dozen subtle variations in the sounds of silence.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Battlestars go Green

If you look at the credits for The Green Chain it kind of feels like we should be cutting down trees with laser beams or starting a replanting project on New Caprica...
Two of the stars of The Green Chain are also stars of Battlestar Galactica.
Tricia Helfer (our "superstar" who comes to logging country to speak out against clearcuts) plays a Cylon. Actually, she plays a lot of Cylons and what may or may not be an imaginary character in ex-President Baltar's head.
And our firefighter, Tahmoh Penikett, plays Lt. Helo Agathon, the heart and conscience of Battlestar.
Tricia and Tahmoh are the two Canadian actors that Battlestar's Executive Producer David Eick recently raved about as the show's breakout discoveries in a recent interview in Reel West Magazine (that'd be the same mag that featured Tricia and me on the cover).
Eick noted that Tricia had to "carry the miniseries" and describes her as, "a tremendous talent and someone who has been extremely important to the show."
And Tahmoh? "Tahmoh is quite a success story because he was a day player for the miniseries and he was so compelling in the role and such a natural star we recreated the role when we were trying to convince the network to give us a series order."
The Green Chain's executive producer, Donna Wong-Juliani, has her own Battlestar connection. Her son, Alessandro, plays Lt. Felix Gaeta -- one of the show's most idealistic characters (even if he did perjure himself in the season finale). When we were casting and wanted to find out whether Tricia and Tahmoh were good to work with, it was Alessandro who assured us they were amazing.
For those of you who don't watch Battlestar Galactica... go get some DVDS and catch up... It's consistently the most powerful -- and most political -- series on TV.
And since our logger, Scott McNeil, is one of the biggest stars in the worlds of anime and animation and I spend most of my time these days working in fantasy TV (my first episode of Blood Ties -- the detective/vampire series just aired on Lifetime) and animation (Pucca and Class of the Titans coming soon) I keep thinking... maybe we can be the first non- genre film ever to play the San Diego Comic Con...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Green post post

I just saw The Green Chain on the big screen for the first time and it looks like...
A movie.
Okay, so it was only 80 seconds and there was no sound, but still...
We got a chance to see all our actors on the big screen and everyone looked amazing.
The Green Chain post team was at the shiny, new Vancity Theatre. The 80 seconds on film were to see how the colour correct -- and the movie -- translated to film. It turned out we had one segment that needed tweaking because it was too orange (a few weeks ago I wouldn't have known things could be too orange, or that you could change them). I think seeing the movie looking like a movie... in a theatre... was one of the highlights of this ride so far
Colour correct was a major education.
We did stuff in the computer that I would have thought qualified as special effects work. I knew that you could adjust colours and tones, but I had no idea that you could subtly shift things inside the frame.
So... the editing is done... and now it's all there except for the audio mix, which is happening in early April.
And then it's time to send this out to festivals and start linking this chain to the rest of the world.
Coming soon to a theatre near you...