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In celebration of ‘On the Verge’ premiering on the channel, EDGEsport caught up with Wildland Media’s Creative Director, Robin Munshaw, to find out more about the film and the experience of getting to know Powell River’s climbing community.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR ‘ON THE VERGE’ COME FROM ORIGINALLY?
“On The Verge came about as a result of a few serendipitous connections in the community of Powell River. I had been doing some mountain bike shooting in the region, and connected with the local tourism and recreation community through that work and began to hear the story of the area and the changes it was undergoing. From that work, I was noticed by some members of the climbing community and invited to join them to showcase some of the amazing walls in the backcountry – that quickly led to meeting several key members of the climbing community and their history and story unfolding.”
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF BRINGING THIS PROJECT TO LIFE?
“Without a doubt, balancing all the elements of the community’s story. Between the characters and their unique ties to the landscape, the community is undergoing a complex transition. Moving from a resource extraction economy to a tourism economy is not a smooth process when the reason for much of the recreation access in British Columbia is the result of resource extraction. The loss of BC’s irreplaceable old-growth has once again made international headlines as we fight to preserve those ancient and precious ecosystems. However, underlying the simplicity of that goal – stop logging old-growth forests – lies a much more complicated conversation about how we access, manage, and preserve local agency over our natural resources.”
WHO DO YOU SUGGEST SHOULD WATCH ‘ON THE VERGE’?
“Anyone and everyone. I live on Vancouver’s North Shore – I have the incredible privilege of looking out my window at the North Shore mountains, and knowing that every tree I can see in those forests will be preserved indefinitely for future generations to experience. In a place like this, it’s easy to think that conservation issues have simple answers. Some do, by all means, but many are nuanced and complex. I think stories like this are important to share to help people understand that underlying many issues is a complex tapestry of community history, motivations, policies, and laws. However, I also hope it inspires people to see how those interacting elements can come together to create a beautiful story, and encourage them to dive into creating their own version of it in their own backyard.”
“I THINK STORIES LIKE THIS ARE IMPORTANT TO SHARE TO HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT UNDERLYING MANY ISSUES IS A COMPLEX TAPESTRY OF COMMUNITY HISTORY, MOTIVATIONS, POLICIES, AND LAWS.”
— ROBIN MUNSHAW
WERE THERE ANY STANDOUT MOMENTS DURING FILMING THAT YOU FOUND PARTICULARLY MOVING?
“There were many intimate moments I had the privilege to be a part of, but the most moving moments I think were those sitting still on the walls, looking over the Eldred River Valley. Sharing those moments with the people who spent their lives developing the climbing in the valley were sublime. Times like that, they didn’t need to explain why this place means so much to them, they just needed to smile and look out with you.”
“SHARING THOSE MOMENTS WITH PEOPLE WHO SPENT THEIR LIVES DEVELOPING THE CLIMBING IN THE VALLEY WERE SUBLIME.”
— ROBIN MUNSHAW
HOW WELL DID YOU GET TO KNOW THE CLIMBERS AS PEOPLE, AND DID THAT AFFECT THE FEEL OF THE FILM?
“Getting to know the climbers personally was an important part of this process. My goal from the start was to try to give the community a platform to share their story, without my own agenda. That came down to balancing lots of different viewpoints and takes on things, and made it essential to spend time with each of them getting to know them as people. Because of this goal, I would definitely call this film a portrait of outdoors culture in British Columbia instead of a conservation film – their story just happens to be intimately interwoven with issues of wilderness conservation and access.”
THE FILM BRILLIANTLY CAPTURES THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SPORT AND THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT – WAS THAT ONE OF THE AIMS FROM THE OUTSET?
“Absolutely. I love seeing athletes push the limits of their sport, and have immense respect for what it takes to perform at that level. However, what I’ve always been drawn to is the relationship and stories that develop because of those sports. I’ll go out on a ride on Vancouver’s North Shore in the pouring rain, but the most important part of the ride is not the actual exercise itself. It’s taking those moments in the dark, misty, rain-soaked coastal rainforest to sit by myself and really sink into that ineffable connection that comes from those places. From the outset, I was most interested trying to communicate these climbers experiences and connections with the land as a way to show the importance of those spaces.”
“I WAS MOST INTERESTED TRYING TO COMMUNICATE THESE CLIMBERS EXPERIENCES AND CONNECTION WITH THE LAND AS A WAY TO SHOW THE IMPORTANCE OF THOSE SPACES”
— ROBIN MUNSHAW
HAVE THE CLIMBERS SEEN THE FILM, AND IF SO, WHAT HAS BEEN THEIR REACTION?
“Yes! The climbers in the film were really happy with the outcome. Right from the start they knew this was a complicated story to tie together, but they were also sceptical they had a story worth sharing. It was a huge honour to be trusted with telling it. As a result of the film and the publicity it brought the area, the climbing community is already seeing increased recognition and traction for the development and legitimacy of the valley.”
“…THE CLIMBING COMMUNITY IS ALREADY SEEING INCREASED RECOGNITION AND TRACTION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND LEGITIMACY OF THE VALLEY.” ”
— ROBIN MUNSHAW
WHAT DO YOU HOPE THE AUDIENCE WILL FEEL ONCE THEY’VE WATCHED ‘ON THE VERGE’?
“I hope people are inspired to create their own story. It’s easy to look at an area like the Eldred River Valley and say, “Oh, of course I would be passionate about developing an area like that and building a community there”, but these stories are unfolding in every community I’ve been to across British Columbia. It doesn’t have to be an extreme sport or an undiscovered next-Yosemite – building a connection with wild spaces through shared interests and experiences is valuable in any form, even just a little patch of forest where you can wander by a stream. I guarantee everyone can find a unique community of passionate people to get involved with somewhere in their back yard if they look hard enough. If not, that probably means other people have looked and not found it either, so it’s time to start one.”
In the mountains behind the sleepy coastal town of Powell River, British Columbia, a small group of rock climbers have spent decades quietly pioneering routes on some of the largest granite walls in Canada. As the last stands of old-growth trees harboured in these valleys come under threat of logging, the climbing community faces the uncertain future of a place that has come to define their lives and legacies.
Confronted with the decision to fight for these last ancient trees and potentially lose access or look away as the valley is stripped for timber, On The Verge is a snapshot of outdoors culture in British Columbia. The way we reconcile industries that give us access to the wilderness with the destruction they cause. The desire to protect our backyard but keep it for ourselves at the same time. The importance of these places to the people who have shaped them and been shaped by them in return.