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Wednesday, 24 September 2014 14:04

Gull Lake duo getting closer to finish documentary about SW Sask.

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When coming to southwest Saskatchewan Craig Baird had a job in Gull Lake, but not long after decided to go on his own as a free bird ... or is that Baird?


Along with his wife Layla, the Bairds combined their immense creative talents to form FreeBaird Services in the community. They made it their first goal to produce a documentary extolling the virtues of southwest Saskatchewan and why it’s worth making a visit.
The Bairds love the community so much, the chose to stay. Moving to Gull Lake from High River, Alta. in March 2013, the Bairds’ belief in their full-length documentary Southwest Stories has been paying off.
They are active in the Gull Lake community on numerous levels.
The filming for the documentary is done and now they are going to be in the editing room figuring out how to splice and connect what they have.
It will be exciting to see what they have shot, but Craig is proud of what they have accomplished so far.
“I think the quality of it is the biggest source of pride, and the fact that so many people were appreciative of what we were doing,” explains Baird of the soon-to-be 90-minute documentary. “When I explained the main goal was to get people off the Trans-Canada Highway, everyone understood that. Too many people think to just drive from Medicine Hat to Regina, but there is much to see and do here. Not even talking about the big-ticket items like Cypress Hills or the Grasslands, which are amazing, but the smaller museums. Spectre has a stunning museum that blew us away, as does Cabri. These are small towns with truly amazing places to visit, and you wouldn’t know it unless you were actually seeking them out in some cases.
“When I look at my car’s odometer and see that we put on over 20,000 kilometres, or that I filled 250 gigabytes on my hard drive with film, I get a lot of pride out of the fact we accomplished something so large.”
In fact 20,000 is just one of many impressive numbers for the Bairds. According to a social media post, they did 184 days of filming, recorded more than 1,000 videos; have more than 40 hours of footage, over 250 gigabytes of data to sift through not to mention all of the interviews in all of the communities visited.
Craig did the filming while Layla did any photography work needed and some filming as required.
Baird was asked to give three adjectives to describe their adventures and not surprisingly, it was all positive.
“Amazing would be the first one. When we took this project on in January, we knew it would be a big project, but the sheer scope of what we had to do over the 184 days was incredibly large,” explains Baird. “There were weeks, especially in July and August, when we were driving out to film somewhere every single day. Some weekends would have four events going on all at the same time. You could also say amazing for just all the incredible things we saw and people we met.
“Relaxing is the second one, simply because now we can concentrate on working on the documentary at home, no need to travel everywhere. Thrilling is the third one because we actually achieved this massive goal we set out to achieve, and we it went a lot smoother than we thought it would.”
It would be unrealistic to think it would go perfectly smooth. And it didn’t.
“I think overall it was exactly as we expected with some hiccups. We had some interviews scheduled with what you would call big-ticket individuals, but because of scheduling they fell through,” explains Baird. “I would have liked to have had more MLAs and MPs on the film promoting the area they represent but in the end we were only able to secure one. For regular residents of the southwest though, everyone was keen to be on film and that was great. Getting the flu at the end of June put a delay in some of our plans and resulted in me unable to attend the Kite Festival which was very unfortunate, but overall I think it went quite well. We had our goal of what to do, and I think we accomplished that.”
The documentary will be a showcase of southwest Saskatchewan to remind those living or originally from the area of all the events, geography and people who make it unique.
It also will help those unfamiliar with the area to dispel any preconceived notions about the southwest such as ...
“When we moved here, we thought Saskatchewan was flat and boring. In 2009, we drove cross-Canada and we just flew through Saskatchewan without stopping. It is unfortunate we had that preconceived notion but it was there for sure,” recalls Baird. “After moving here, we saw much more about what the area had to offer and after filming, we have seen the area for what it is, a wonderful place to live and visit. Driving to the St. Victor Petroglyphs for example was amazing, and just seeing how far you can see from the outcropping, or from the lookout point near Tompkins shows that Saskatchewan is anything but flat. As for the places to visit, the Sandhills were one of our favourite places because they just come out of nowhere.
“Just driving around, seeing what there is to discover, there is so much here and we now believe that southwest Saskatchewan has some of the most varied landscapes, most interesting histories and friendliest people in Canada. As for the people themselves, they are all incredibly supportive. We interviewed several mayors who were happy to promote their communities, people who showed pride for where they live and just a tonne of great people who saw what we were doing and supported it immensely.”
Work now begins on the editing for the documentary which they hope to premiere at Gull Lake’s Lyceum Theatre in January or February. They are also creating some short vignettes about the southwest.
“I am also putting out a short 20-minute documentary in the next month about the Clearwater Drive-In, which I thought was an amazing place that has stood since 1957 and is still going strong. All of these will be released on YouTube.”
Baird writes a southwest Saskatchewan history column which appears regularly in Prairie Post.

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Ryan Dahlman

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