When I set out on this journey of doing a documentary project on oystering in Willapa Bay, I could never have imagined what the project would develop into. After researching ideas in the Pacific Northwest, and coming across multiple writings that demonstrated my great grandfather and grandparents’ interest in preservation of local history (as they ran a local newspaper in the area for more that 50 years), I was inspired by the thought of following in their footsteps. The simple existence of the weekly newspaper itself was a form of preservation, but even more specifically there was a historical column, which told and retold the stories of the past that helped define the history of the area. This project is my historical column.
Sometime in 1996, I began developing a fictional (short movie) story about a group of young friends that go on an adventure (in likeness of the film “Stand By Me”), and the story was always set in the surroundings of Willapa Bay. Over the years that story developed into a search for a legendary “pearl” and thus the story became set within the oyster industry. In 2004, I even traveled back to the area to shoot “location scouting” footage and take photographs that could inspire different scenes, one of my stops was at my friend Nick Jambor’s processing facility, Ekone Oyster, where I documented my tour of the facility. Again years passed, as it’s often challenging to find time for extra projects outside of just living and making a living, but the impression of that trip and footage at Ekone always stayed in the back of my mind.
In October 2009, I hit a point where I desperately needed to take on a personal project that would truly mean something to me. After my newly inspired research, I zoned in on the topic of oysters, and once again I found myself reaching back out to Nick Jambor, for guidance and if I could use “Ekone” as my jumping off point. I expressed my interest in coming up to the area and doing a documentary on oysters, only at that time I had the thoughts of focusing on six characters. I felt it would be great to learn about the industry through the eyes of these characters as we were also entertained by their lives outside of work.
So in November 2009, I took my first trip for this project back to Willapa Bay, to begin my quest of documenting aspects of oystering but to also meet potential “characters.” Well as one could predict, I met more than my share of characters, and I immidiately became inspired in the idea of capturing the stories of a group of people rather that just six. Very quickly the project grew to be focused on reaching out to other oyster growers around the area focusing on both “old-timers” as well as current growers. So I decided I would focus on one character, the industry, rather than a handful of individuals. Well as I reached out to more and more growers, and began to research obtaining as much historical footage and photographs as I could, I realized I had potential for something much greater. So the concept of the project grew from being a documentary movie into a documentary series, and from a series into a documentary project which included this website so all of this wonderful information I had begun collecting could live as a resource for the local communities, in addition to anyone else of interest.
Now even though the scope of the project has grown tremendously, the team which is pulling off the project has not. Hey it’s kind of like our economy, things keep getting more and more expensive, but we aren’t making any more money to cover the rising costs (well, the analogy works in my mind anyway…smile). So the original team of myself (directing, producing, writing, shooting, editing, researching, coordinating travel & oyster growers schedules, and you name it) along with the composer, Larry Marciano, have continued on our mission to make this the best project we can within our capabilities of time and resources. This could hopefully serve as one reason why the project is months behind schedule, but I can say the same passion is still going into it, as we started with. It also explains why episode content has changed as the project continues to be edited and developed. (example episode 1 was going to be “Oyster Growers” but through the editing process the realization that establishing the industry would help in the appreciation of all episodes that followed, thus “Oyster Industry” is now the first episode). I can say this, I am very excited and proud to now have Glenn A. Johnson of Washington State University involved in bringing his voice to the narration of the episodes.
Now even though there is loads of work left, and at the moment of this writing – the first episode has yet to get posted, I can already say I am proud of what this project will achieve. It will be presenting historical footage from personal family collections that could have potentially been lost in time, but because of this project will now have new life…this is valuable not only to the area but to Washington State History. Though a majority of the footage will be of the modern industry as it functions today, there will be these glimpses of the past, all of which are now being preserved for future generations. There has also been something magical in seeing a community of growers and families in general united by the excitement for a project like this, as it doesn’t just document the perspectives of a few but a majority of the growers on the bay. So though I have had many moments where I think I’ve gotten a bit too ambitious with the project, as it continues to come together and I anticipate the excitement for what I know is coming, it keeps my inspiration alive!
Thanks for everyone’s insterest and support in the project. And most of all for your understanding and patience.