Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002 Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002

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From the top: Verna Mae Davis visits with Erik Daarstad at a reception at the East Bonner County Library; oldtimer Bob Selle is interviewed at home for the film; Daarstad enjoys a relaxed moment; Daarstad and Terry Cooper of Hot Shots Video edit film clips at his studio.
(Photos by Bob Gunter and Billie Jean Plaster)
the making of the film

It is mid-September at Hot Shots Video’s studio on Pine Street, and there is some serious “ummin’ ” going on. The editing process is in full swing. Erik Daarstad and Terry Cooper are working hard, laying images over the script for Sandpoint, at the North End of the Long Bridge. That’s what all the ummin’ is about. Cooper places a section of Daarstad’s footage over the narration and they look at it together. Daarstad goes, “Ummmmm,” and Cooper begins making changes.

The film is being made for the Sandpoint Centennial Commission, chaired by long-time arts advocate Ginny Jensen, and Jensen asks from time to time “How are we doing?” She is somewhat anxious because the movie is set to premiere Nov. 2 (see Calendar) at the Panida Theater. But first, it has to be finished.

Daarstad is confident. “It will be ready,” he says. Then, with a impish grin, he adds, “I hope,” and laughs. Daarstad has a sense of humor with ironic edges on it and an infectious laugh, which is good. This project has gotten a little out of hand.

You’d think that a film about 100 years in Sandpoint would not be a hard thing to make, but Daarstad is a perfectionist, sense of humor and all, and the volume of material to consider has become overwhelming.

Sandpoint began life as a brainstorming discussion between City Clerk Helen Newton and Jensen and received the blessing of the Centennial Commission. It also received the blessing of many donors.* The videos were shot by Daarstad with the help of interviewer Bob Gunter, and then transcribed by Newton, Erik’s wife Louanne and Eva Whitehead into hundreds of pages. After transcribing hours of video reminiscences by Sandpoint old-timers, Newton may have developed a regret or two. Piled on top of these were books, newspaper articles, transcripts of oral interviews and personal diaries.

These remembrances included words from Barbara Blood, Margaret Walker, Hazel Hall, Hazel Moon, Maynard McDuffie, Bob Selle, the Hawkins family, Ernie Bartelson, Art and Myrtle Burnett, Pat Gooby, Lou Hoffine, Marianne Love, Bud Moon, Gary Pietsch, Marilyn Sabella, Lorali Gray, Ella Mae Farmin, David Thompson, Teddy Roosevelt and a cast of thousands more. Well, at least dozens more.

Daarstad also delved into “prehistory” by interviewing Francis Cullooyah, J.R. Bluff, Veronica Brown Eagle and other members of the Kalispel tribe, whose traditional lands overlay Sandpoint and much of the lake.

Then there were pictures.

Vern Eskridge, Ann Ferguson and other Bonner County Historical Museum volunteers helped Daarstad find and sort images. Erik and Louanne, along with Jensen, Whitehead, photographer Joan Wanamaker and museum volunteers, spent hours making video images of black-and-white and color still photos. Lumberjacks, mill workers, gandy dancers, surveyors and Chinese residents of Hope; steam sawmills, steamboats, steam locomotives and the old steam-powered generating plant on Sand Creek; gatherings of businessmen, church groups, sororities and fraternal organizations, sports teams, Native Americans and thousands upon thousands of sailors; buildings and people and machines now gone; parades and picnics and tea parties on the lawn; fish and fishermen of all shapes and sizes.

Dann Hall and Verna Mae Davis opened the collections of Ross Hall and Duane “Cap” Davis to Daarstad, including hours of 8-millimeter film shot by both. Daarstad spent hours in Spokane poring over images at Cheney Cowles Museum and more hours in Seattle transferring images to video.

Meanwhile, back in the present, Daarstad has been running around with his camera filming life in contemporary Sandpoint: the Fourth of July parade, especially the 2001 version, which celebrated Sandpoint’s centennial year; fireworks at City Beach, the Pend Oreille Arts Council Arts and Crafts Fair, visits of “The Wall” and the Frog Island Dancers to Lakeview Park, a reunion at Farragut, lake scenes, mountains scenes; streets, buildings, cemeteries, the Festival at Sandpoint, and Schweitzer; scene upon scene to match against the images from earlier times.

Fortunately, under all of these layers of information was a good foundation, an outline of Sandpoint area history prepared by historian Nancy Renk, and reviewed by anthropologist Bob Betts, beginning when David Thompson first took note of the “Pointe of Sand.”

It is well that it was a good foundation. Piled upon it were hundreds of images, hours of video and 1,400 pages of text, which took mere months to reduce to a 140-page script.

And Daarstad said, “Ummmm.”

It took mere weeks to reduce 140 pages to 90 pages, a version finally accepted by Daarstad and blessed by independent filmmaker Dan McCann.

Order your own copy

Sandpoint, at the North End of the Long Bridge is available for sale on VHS and DVD for $25 including tax at the Sandpoint General Store. Add $3 for shipping.

And now, the script is getting shorter and shorter and shorter, as Cooper and Daarstad try to keep the movie under the length of the Soviet film version of War and Peace, which was about 13 hours. They have accomplished their purpose, at this point.The movie is just under two hours, with a target length of 90 minutes. And, they are “already up to the ’70s,” Daarstad assures, with that same grin on his face.

At last report, the script was 71 pages long, and Daarstad continues trying to condense 100-plus years into 90 minutes; boiled down to the essentials.

“As I’ve observed the editing process, the film far exceeds my expectations,” Jensen said. “It’s everything we hoped for and more. Both Helen Newton and I were moved to tears because it was so beautiful.”

Making movies ain’t easy, but the filmmakers have learned that neither has been the making of Sandpoint. Sandpoint, the film, will be finished on time; and, as much as anything else, it will be about the same thing that has made the film possible: the efforts of people who believe in a thing and are willing to work at it.

By Sandy Compton

Sandy Compton not only wrote this story, but he also wrote the script for Sandpoint, the movie.

Winter 2003

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