For many of us, the majesty of the Coast Mountain range is revealed only in momentary glances off the side of a B.C. Ferry, or outside a car window while travelling the Sea to Sky Corridor to and from Whistler.
But what about the innermost workings of a range that spans 1,200 kilometres? And what of the people who call this corner of Earth home?
A new film co-directed by Reelwater Productions filmmakers Bryan Smith and Cameron Sylvester peels back the complex layers of these peaks and valleys and the people who’ve inhabited those spaces since time immemorial.
The 50-minute film, shot over a seven-month span in 2022, traverses the peaks of Mount Waddington, the meadows and mountains near Pemberton and the lush, oceanic seascapes of the Broughton Archipelago while shedding light on the people who live, work and play there.
“The film really is an exposé of modern, coastal culture and the people who live here,” Smith explains. “Our strategy with it was to find characters who truly live here and how their lives are largely shaped and dictated by the amount of time they spend in the mountains.”
While living in distinctly different geographic locations, each person in the film is drawn to one constant: getting outside and getting after it.
Arc’teryx athlete and snowboard enthusiast Joe Lax gives viewers a glimpse of his life in the Pemberton area, while Association of Canadian Mountain Guides member Julia Niles scales the highest peaks in the Coast Mountain range near Mount Waddington.
Chief Jimmy Lulua of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation leads a group of hikers on a 76-kilometre trek across icefields that haven't been traversed in a generation.
John Kelsey and Meesh Coles, meanwhile, own a sailboat on which they dedicate themselves to the simple life while sailing the inside passage in the Broughton Archipelago and beyond.
Bralorne local and skier Ryan Oakden's role in the film explores life in a rural setting that's decidedly a bit slower and most certainly off the beaten path.
"This is far more than just a sports-action film," Smith describes. "There are certain people we've featured in the film who have dedicated a lot of their time to this Coastal Mountain range."
Preparing the film's narrative came by way of researching names and stories and then plotting out the vistas that would accompany each of them.
Some mountaintop shots required the use of helicopters, and some locales were only accessible by air transport.
But despite what some would consider hostile environs, both the directors and the stars of the film felt seemingly at home.
“Sure, we saw grizzly bears, and there were moments of crazy weather, but both from the filming side and the character side, these are people who have spent a lot of time in the mountains, so I think there’s a comfort level with some of those things,” Smith reveals.
“That’s why we’re out there – for that bit of adventure, that bit of edge. You might see a bear, or bad weather might come in, but that’s what defines this range – it’s huge, it’s vast and it’s wild.”
There were also moments of pure happenstance that not only enhance the feel of the film, but were purely emblematic of what life is like in these remote areas: a pod of 60-plus Dall’s porpoises surfed the wake of the boat the filmmakers were on in the Broughton Archipelago, or the clouds parting off the peak of Mount Waddington when the day had otherwise been shrouded in mist and fog.
“Ultimately we want people to walk away from the film knowing how beautiful and truly vast and diverse this range is both in terms of the landscape and how these people live and function in the mountains,” Smith says.
View the trailer of Shaped by Wild here.