“Timber” sheds light on logging sports

Not many people like the idea of chopping down trees — it sounds like a lot of work, and there is a possibility there might be sap, woodchips and maybe even some dirt. However, for some intrepid souls, there is no activity more enjoyable than taking ax in hand and attacking some timber.

Some of those people are part of a group called Big Sky Timber Sports. They are the subject of the upcoming student film “Timber.” The film will detail the team as they prepare for and compete in a competition at Flathead Community College. The lead-up to the competition is of specific interest of director Jessica Christenson. “A lot of videos you see are about the competition itself,” she said. “We want to explore what it takes to get there.” The crew will take the trip to Flathead, and also be present for the preparation leading up to that competition. The journey will make up the arc of the film — from practices behind Bobcat Stadium to Flathead, and the individual stories that inevitably come from such a journey.

The Big Sky Timber Sports team is a new organization, now less than a year old. Timber sports, though, are a very old concept, which began as friendly competitions between loggers after work. The sport runs a gamut of professional logging techniques, and includes some events that are just for fun — from saw skills to log running to hatchet throwing, each discipline has a unique skill set. Similar to its cousin the Highland Games, the sport is based in practical skill, with an emphasis on efficiency and speed. Precision is also key, and athletes are expected to perform difficult movements accurately, all at high speed. And as anyone who has chopped wood knows, it also demands great physical strength and stamina.

Documentary filmmaking is an exercise in spontaneity. As Christenson noted, “No matter how much you plan or anticipate what subjects are going to say, they will say whatever they choose to. Since our subjects aren’t actors, we are at their whim.” She also noted the difficulty of the filming itself, calling it a “very fast-paced” process, and the challenges of post-production, where the film is put together from its separate pieces. However, the obstacles are no dissuasion for the crew of “Timber.” “I am most excited to show a different side of the sport, and to understand the environmental aspect,” Christenson said. The film will examine not only the team itself, but the way that the sport interacts with nature. From an ecological perspective, logging seems to be a damaging action — after all, clear-cut forests are not beneficial to nature. However, the issue is deeply complex, and the film promises to examine both sides of the problem.

Senior films receive no funding from the School of Film and Photography — money comes from either fundraising or the pockets of the crew. Every crew member is a volunteer, and the films generally expect to generate no income. If anyone wants to fund this or any other senior film, they can be found on GoFundMe and KickStarter.