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The accidental filmmaker

Helmut Manzl and the past, present and future of Squamish

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When Manzl introduced the film, he did so with one of those desert island questions. You know the type, and you can probably guess at his company: The Judds.

“The reason is that they have to be two of the most resourceful people I’ve ever encountered,” he says.

At the same time, Squamish history is full of resourceful people. So it goes when you try to scrape out a living in geography this wild and wicked. Manzl’s second film, The West Coast Logging Life , delves into the town’s most crucial cornerstone: Logging. From the days of oxen to those of the industrial revolution, and, now, to the mostly dormant era of a once mighty industry, Logging explores much of what brought Squamish to its current crossroads.

“Logging is still an industry in this town,” says Manzl. “It’s not a major one, but it’s still around. But this town is in transition, and it’s in transition from forestry-based to something based on tourism and the service industry.”

And so you can see what informs those ideas about gondolas and all-seasons resorts.

“There are a lot of people who say you shouldn’t do it, leave it natural,” he says. “That would be fine if we weren’t in such dire straits for jobs, if we were still in the days of Woodfibre.”

Now consider this: Manzl is Austrian, has kicked around a number of one-industry towns stuck in the doldrums. According to his experience, those places just get on with it, just throw open the doors and invite the world.

“You’ve got an old guard here,” he says. “I run into it all the time. E-mails unanswered. Calls unanswered. Stores that say they’ll open at 10 a.m., but don’t. Part of that mentality is they really don’t want too much change.”

And yet, change comes whether wanted or not. There’s no dam for progress, what with the degree of global integration we’ve reached. The question isn’t whether or not change is desirable. Rather, the question — and the crapshoot — is who will direct change.

“It’s the young people,” says Manzl. “The people like Harry and Annie Judd, who were young when they got here, are going to be the change agents. The group of young people in their 20s, 30s and 40s come through and see the potential — and they’ll steer this town through transition.”