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
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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, na├»ve 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.