Deep in the heart of Squamish Valley, amid the scenic mountains and lush forests, there’s a little bit of magic being produced by some of the world’s best wood carvers — and the group’s exploits will be coming soon to a television near you.
Buck Productions, a Toronto-based entertainment company, chose the Squamish Valley as the setting of Sawdogs and the show’s executive producer, Jim Kiriakakis, said the area is almost like a character on the show.
“We are so stoked to be here,” he said. “You couldn’t pick a better backdrop and it’s great that a lot of the crew we’ve hired are from the area. It’s pretty neat to be shooting here.”
Kiriakakis describes Sawdogs as, “American Choppers meets wood chainsaw carvers.” A group of carvers, led by California resident Steve Blanchard, run “Saw Valley” on the show and are given difficult projects that must be completed within a short period of time.
“It’s kind of like a business,” Kiriakakis said. “These are real challenges and typically these guys would have weeks or months to complete this type of project but for our show they usually only have four or five days.”
Some of the projects are quite elaborate. The first episode challenges the carvers to create a soaring eagle sculpture for the Furry Creek golf course. Other projects include creating a treehouse for a tycoon’s mansion and putting together a life-sized statue of a Super Bowl punter.
Kiriakakis said it’s been a lot of fun working in the Squamish Valley.
“From a production standpoint the backdrop out here is something that is really unique,” he said. “It really does embody a place where these carvers would want to work.”
He added that the show has received a lot of support from neighbours in the area and it’s been a pleasure working and filming in Squamish.
Blanchard, the lead carver on the shows, admitted the weather isn’t as pleasant as his native Monterey, Calif., but he’s enjoying himself.
“The scenery out here is just beautiful but when it rains it really rains,” he said.
Blanchard said he got involved in the wood carving industry more than 35 years ago after a chance encounter with a skilled carver in a California forest.
“I ended up seeing someone carving in a redwood forest and it was something I’d never seen before,” he said. “He started showing me how to carve and I started with simple things and eventually I started fixing some of his pieces and became pretty good at it.”
From there, Blanchard’s pieces started selling in the Sequoia National Park gift shop and he eventually opened his own store selling pieces in California.
“When people start buying your things you become more driven,” he joked. “I kept evolving as a carver and learned what was marketable and what people liked.”
He said he developed the idea for the show over a couple of beers with a friend. A few months later Buck Productions contacted him and the rest is history. Blanchard added that the show has been challenging but rewarding.
“It’s definitely not as romantic as people think,” he said. “The whole show is a big piece of art. We’re all butting heads and learning to live with and respect each other. When you carve into a log, you have a vision and sometimes we all might not agree but that’s what makes the show fun to watch.”
Sawdogs will finish taping 10 episodes later this month and the show is slated to appear on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) starting in January. Kiriakakis said an American network is also picking up the show but he couldn’t disclose which one. He also said that if the show is picked up for another season, the cast and crew would love to come back to the Squamish Valley to film.
For more information on the show and to view a trailer of the show, visit www.cableready.net/5390/saw-dogs.