This summer’s Big Bar slide has prompted a range of responses in community members from fishermen, wildlife conservationists, all levels of government and now filmmakers like Trevor Mack.
Mack is a well-known Tsilhqot’in filmmaker and just recently came off of shooting, producing, directing and writing his first feature-length film passion project, Portraits From a Fire, this summer. An exhausted Mack had, at the time, told the Tribune he was looking to get some rest but was interested in doing more work in impact filmmaking. He wants to create meaningful documentaries for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that emphasize the importance of maintaining a connection to the land and environmental stewardship.
Read More: Mack wraps up shooting Portraits From A Fire
While some may have rested on their laurels following the completion of such a big project, Mack decided shortly after from Sept. 10-15 to dip his toes in the waters of impact filmmaking. This came about when he was called upon to help shoot and edit several short videos that document and outline the impact of the Big Bar Slide.
“I kind of immediately wanted to take a vacation to Hawaii and relax on a big beach and recover from making my movie,” Mack said. “But I got a call from Unified Command and they were looking for a filmmaker to collaborate with them, in a sense. (I was) wanting to get more into impact filmmaking, being on the land and filming what’s happening in regards to climate change and ecological events.”
Unified Command, in this case, refers to what Mack calls an unprecedented level of co-operation between multiple branches of government including local First Nations tribal governments, the B.C. provincial government and the Canadian Federal Government, who have all come together to find solutions to address and mitigate the ecological damages of this rock slide. The chief concern has been maintaining local salmon populations as there were concerns that they’d be unable to navigate the newly created rapids and still be able to spawn further upriver.
Mack said that after receiving their call, he pulled up stakes and headed out to Lillooet to do some filmmaking of this historic event. For Mack, this project was especially important as he remembers growing up along the river and learning to dip net as a child and, moreover, he said Tsilhqot’in literally translates to people of the river. The Fraser River and the salmon that use it as a highway are especially valued by them, he said, for their far-reaching positive ecological contribution.
“The slide itself, it’s hard to put into words how massive this slide is. TV and photos don’t do it justice. It is absolutely massive. It just happened to fall in this very tight area and it was really incredible to see on my first helicopter ride,” Mack said. “To see all three levels of government working together… with people from all different backgrounds… all coming together to save the species was so inspiring. I hope we can see more of the Unified Command in the future.”
It was an honour for Mack to go down and see what Unified Command has done to save as many salmon as possible and lend his own skills of storytelling to the effort. Some footage had already been shot prior to his arrival so it was up to Mack to supplement it with his own interviews and video and then cut seven distinct videos together that showcase all aspects of the response to the Big Bar Slide. There is also talk of making a full-length, 20-minute documentary on the event, Mack added, which he also plans to work on.
Shooting his own footage at the slide was really appealing to the adrenaline junkie side of Mack, he said, as there were times he harnessed up and leaned out over a cliff to get shots of the river. That, combined with a helicopter ride, made things really fun, Mack said.
While interviewing people for his videos, Mack said his primary angle was to ask those involved in the slide how this has affected their relationship with the environment. Discovering the personal stories of those working on the project and finding out how this event may have opened up people’s eyes to the importance of combating climate change was what really interested Mack throughout the five days he spent there.
“This was an incredible experience. I’m hoping to get more involved with projects like this (in the future) and covering other events that are occurring all around British Columbia, Canada and possibly the world,” Mack said. “To be on the front lines, if you will, of incidents where people, the land and the water are impacted by climate change. I want to shed a light, as much as possible, about what’s really happening out there.”
The videos are available to watch now online via the ProvinceofBC YouTube channel.