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Cowichan River's Resilience is film director Nick Versteeg's current project
Five minutes wasn't much time to film the tale of the majestic Cowichan River's trials and tributaries.
So award-winning valley director Nick Versteeg is answering the regional board's request for a mini-doc about the Cowichan, with a full-length, 90-minute documentary titled Resilience.
Armed with hours of footage and interviews — shot between April and now ("We'll probably watch the salmon spawning") — Versteeg's editing Resilience toward a Cowichan Theatre premiere and question period in early February.
"I'd read so many new articles about the Cowichan watershed. What could I do in five minutes?"
"First, I got all stakeholders together at the Oceanfront (resort); people with something to do with the river system, and pitched my documentary."
Resilience will chase his recently acclaimed Once Upon A Day Cowichan — given Innovator of the Year honours through Vancouver Island Tourism.
The educational doc landed Versteeg $15,000 from sponsors Living Rivers, the B.C. Salmon Foundation, and the B.C. Wildlife Foundation.
The final product will include original music led by Eric Smith, who created the soundtrack for Once Upon A Day. Local musician Ed Peekeekoot lends lovely flute work to Resilience.
Versteeg's Zeiss lens focused on local efforts to preserve the heritage river threatened by logging, overfishing, development, garbage, pollution, and drought.
Those problems risk the Cowichan's once-healthy fish populations of salmon, trout and other species.
"This film will deal with its environmental issues, and the incredible beauty of the lake, the river and the estuary — we have to protect it and look after it."
But Versteeg the journalist aimed to include all sides of the river's dynamic saga.
"I want to tell all issues, from all viewpoints," he said, including those protesting perceived property flooding by Cowichan Lake's weir controlling river flows for spawning salmon.
The river's history, threats, and solutions await viewers.
"Solutions are the main bulk of the film," he said of Resilience, bound by interviews, not narration.
"Everyone has an opinion. My task is to blend them into a workable picture people can understand."
His school of community sources spanned Cowichan Tribes fisheries biologist Tim Kulchyski, fishermen Joe Saysell and Kenzie Cuthbert, Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable co-chairman Paul Rickard, and Rodger Hunter of Cowichan Watershed Board, to regional environmental manager Kate Miller, Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society president Paul Fletcher, and homeowners, to joy-riding tubers.
"Community groups are the real heroes to me," concluded Versteeg.
But some 70% of the watershed is owned by timber firms, so he wanted their opinions too.
"We had a tough time getting the logging industry involved, but TimberWest came onboard with use of its helicopter."
"Catalyst has been very good," he said of community co-operation by Crofton pulp-mill's parent holding the river's two provincial-flow permits.
"We'll show Resilience publicly from Youbou to Cowichan Bay. The goal is to create a dialogue when people get the full story."
That story started in Cowichan Lake.
Versteeg toured tiny streams full of fry struggling against debris and gravel sediments, and being rescued by Natives and other volunteers.
He visited lakefront properties, riparian-shorelines, the weir, ongoing silt-erosion protection at Stoltz Bluff, gravel removal at the river's north arm, the white bridge's fish-counting fence, and the estuary.
That threatened wetland has many folks worried about effects from Western Forest Products' dredging, and the bay's float-home sewage.
"By 2020, we want to be eating shellfish from the estuary," he said of Resilience, targeting communication, not conflict.
"Our river system will recuperate, if we help it enough."
The Resilience website, with a planned trailer in December and weekly stories, is dvcuisine.com.