Vancouver Film Fest entry inspired by Cariboo Chilcotin
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 (www.thetyee.ca), 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.”