Educational wildfire films create new jobs

The Harrop‐Procter Community Co‐operative created four educational films on wildfire risk reduction with the goal of attracting and keeping the interest of an audience spanning the entire province of BC and beyond, all while creating jobs for professionals in the arts sector.

4 minute read

Short film project focuses on wildfire risk reduction in Harrop-Procter

Effective storytelling is no easy feat. It requires an entertaining balance of delivering key information and themes, as well as hooking the audience from the beginning until the end credits roll.

When the Harrop‐Procter Community Co‐operative (HPCC) set out to create four educational films on wildfire risk reduction, their goal was to attract — and keep — the interest of an audience spanning the entire province of BC and beyond, all while creating jobs for professionals in the arts sector.

The HPCC is a community service co-operative managing 11,300 hectares of public land behind the villages of Harrop and Procter. The co-op practices socially and environmentally progressive forestry and has worked in community wildfire protection for over 10 years. As a founding member of the BC Community Forest Association (BCCFA) and leader in BC’s community forest movement, the HPCC has become a vital resource when it comes to innovative forestry and climate change adaptation.

With support from partners Columbia Basin Trust and the Province of BC, the HPCC’s Forest Manager Erik Leslie worked with Nelson-based Watershed Productions to create and distribute four short films, along with shorter teaser versions, between June 2021 and April 2022. These videos aim to promote community awareness and inform public support for wildfire risk reduction activities, and continue to be used today.

“We wanted to make videos that are relatively easy to digest and tell community stories through a range of voices and perspectives,” says Leslie. “We took a documentary, narrative-style approach to help people understand the issues around wildfire protection, climate change, and forest management for wildfire risk reduction, using local interviews and examples from our community forest.”

Distilling technical information into accessible ten-minute videos that engage a diverse audience required the expertise of Amy Bohigian, Founder of Watershed Productions, a video production and marketing company specializing in community‐based storytelling. The film project not only created eight new jobs in the creative arts industry — a sector that was struggling post-COVID — but it also provided training and skill development for a burgeoning director.

“Amy hired eight creative professionals in film writing, production supervision, editing, sound and graphic design on a contract basis, as well as a less experienced director she mentored on the job,” explains Leslie. “I worked closely with Amy to develop the content and she created narratives based on the information I provided.”

Each video focuses on a different topic: community wildfire protection through the context of fire history, ecology and climate change using Harrop‐Procter as a case study; rural wildfire risk reduction with a FireSmart focus featuring homeowners’ perspectives; techniques used by the HPCC to reduce fuel loads, addressing concerns regarding watersheds and wildlife habitats; and a synopsis/overview summarizing all three films.

“The videos are great!” says Leslie. “They’ve broadened the co-op’s engagement and advanced the discussion around community wildfire risk reduction, showing the public how and why the HPCC’s work protects the land and community through concrete, positive examples and through residents’ stories.”

Basin residents are deeply invested in the impacts of climate change on the environment, which is reflected in a 2020 public survey the HPCC conducted that found 80 per cent of residents considered wildfire risk reduction to be “extremely important.” These results are no surprise considering the Harrop-Procter community received two evacuation alerts for wildfires in 2003 and in 2017.

This project is just one example of how collective, coordinated efforts address this complex issue directly. Distributed through the BCCFA, Balfour‐Harrop Fire Department, Regional District of Central Kootenay, BC Wildfire Service and public presentations, the films have an enduring online presence and are able to reach a global audience via the HPCC’s YouTube channel.

“I usually play one of the videos during community meetings to set the tone and spread the word about the work HPCC is doing, and it’s been extremely effective,” Leslie adds. “It was a lot of work to film active operations and set up all the interviews within our busy community, but it was worth it because video is the best medium for reaching a broad audience. People say the films have inspired ‘aha’ moments, especially for those who didn’t know the long history of how we got to where we are in terms of climate change.”

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