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Once upon a day...Cowichan

Cowichan Bay composer Eric Smith plays his grand piano at the Cowichan Bay dock during filming for Once upon a day...Cowichan, a film showcasing the charms of the local community that will be premiered March 7 at the Cowichan Theatre. - courtesy Nick Versteeg
Cowichan Bay composer Eric Smith plays his grand piano at the Cowichan Bay dock during filming for Once upon a day...Cowichan, a film showcasing the charms of the local community that will be premiered March 7 at the Cowichan Theatre.
— image credit: courtesy Nick Versteeg

Never has Cowichan been portrayed in a such a way.

Everything special about Cowichan Valley living is beautifully and uniquely displayed in Cowichan filmmaker Nick Versteeg’s new film Once upon a day...Cowichan.

Viewers at a special media screening at the Clifton in Cowichan Bay last week couldn’t stop talking about how emotional it made them.

“We were just totally astounded when we first saw it,” said Economic Development Cowichan manager Geoff Millar. “We had shivers running down our neck.”

Produced in partnership with the Cowichan Valley Regional District and its economic development department, Once upon a day is part of a series of short films by Versteeg, made in collaboration with retired local composer Eric Smith.

The series is aimed at not only drawing tourists to the Warm Land, but also educating locals on what’s available in their backyards.

Thursday’s sneak peek was of the five-minute Once upon a day — a five-minute clip will be available online to be used a huge tourism booster on sites like Youtube and Vimeo as well as the websites of local businesses and the CVRD.

It features many familiar valley faces including musicians Hope King and Ed Peekeekoot, carver Herb Rice, the Cowichan Consort Choir and conductor Robert Mari, music producer Zak Cohen and Cowichan Tribe’s Tzinquaw dancers, along with fishermen, bakers, cooks, artists, golfers, hikers and kayakers all enjoying the beauty of Cowichan to the music of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy.

But the piece is just a taster. Versteeg has also created a 42-minute version, Once upon a year... Cowichan, which will be premiered to the public next week. It showcases in-depth interviews with local business owners and is aimed more at educating local folk so they, in turn, can educate visitors.

And he has produced three one-minute clips with day-trip ideas and featured themes of food and wine, history, and adventure, that will also be available for tourists on websites.

Versteeg is a trained chef, has been producing and directing documentaries for A&E, History Channel, Discovery Channel, CBC, and CTV Canada. For the past 15 years, he has specialized in the culinary field and produced a variety of specials for the US and Canadian Food Networks.

While his latest works have local funding partners excited for their great promise as a promotional tool, the project originally began last winter from Versteeg’s winter lusting to create.

“I said to my wife last January that I needed something I can work on creatively,” the internationally known videographer said.

He came up with the Once upon a day... concept, pitched it to local politicians and business leaders, and quickly gathered the support he needed.

Versteeg gave huge credit to Smith, his collaborator and across-the-street neighbour in Cowichan Bay, saying he was hugely instrumental in the making of the film.

“I said to Eric, we have free reign over it and that’s always a lot of fun for an artist,” Versteeg said. “If it wasn’t for Eric, there wouldn’t have been anything.”

Smith, a Cowichan Bay musician, composer and arranger, is featured at the beginning of the film playing his grand piano on one of the bay’s docks. He also produced and arranged the music in the film.

Versteeg figured the film cost about $23,000 to make, which isn’t a lot, he said, noting several community members stepped up to donate time.

“Eric alone donated probably 150 hours of studio time,” Versteeg said.

The CVRD, plus 15 business sponsors are splitting the cost.

“Our goal is to get people staying here for a couple of days,” Versteeg said.

“This is going to be the biggest thing in 2013 for us,” said Millar.

The March 7 premiere at the Cowichan Theatre will include a viewing of Once upon a day.. Cowichan, Once upon a year... Cowichan, a seven-minute clip on the making of Once upon a day, as well as the three, one-minute day-trip idea pieces.

The theatre lobby will transform into a sort of culture smorgasbord to showcase some of the musicians, artists and artisans and their art featured in the film, including sounds of the Paul Sparrow jazz trio, carver Rice, cedar and wool weaver Maria Sampson, works by Susan Stitt, John Roberston, Trisha Oldfield, Grahame Fowle, Nick Begg and Cim MacDonald.

Copies of the DVD will be on sale for $5 after the premiere and and can be purchased during the night of the showing, or from the CVRD.

The video will also available for download and viewing online.

 

Your ticket

What: Once upon a day... Cowichan

When: Thursday, March 7, doors open at 7 p.m., screening starts at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Cowichan Theatre

Tickets: Free, but must be reserved by calling 250-748-7529

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