Harmac will be focus of movie

Producer isn't sure whether flick will be for TV or theatres

Robert Barron, Daily News
Published: Thursday, July 02, 2009

The unique story of Nanaimo's Harmac pulp mill will be made into a movie.

Almost a full year after the mill was bought for $13.2 million by Nanaimo Forest Products, a four-way partnership led by Harmac's workers, the story of the little mill that defied the odds and predictions of imminent failure has caught the attention of a California-based movie producer who wants to make a movie about it.

Harmac president Levi Sampson said the producer, who wishes to remain anonymous for now, read about the mill and the efforts of workers to buy it after its previous owner, Oregon-based Pope & Talbot, went bankrupt in the spring of 2008 and closed all of its pulp and sawmills, including Harmac.

Sampson said the producer has been visiting the mill during the past two months conducting interviews with the workers, managers and NFP's three private partners and is now preparing a script for the movie, which he isn't sure is intended for theatres or television.

"We've been asked to keep it under wraps until now," Sampson said.
"It's very much in the early stages of the process but I guess we'll soon get to the point where they'll start interviewing actors for the parts. I expect a lot of the movie will be shot at the mill and the area, so the project will also be a shot in the arm for Nanaimo's economy.

Many believed Harmac's long history in Nanaimo was at an end last year when it was closed with little interest from prospective buyers until the workers agreed to invest $25,000 each and partnered with Pioneer Log Homes, Totzauer Holdings and the Sampson Group to form NFP.

Supreme Court justice Donald Brenner agreed to allow NFP to purchase Harmac, which reopened in September only to face a historic downturn in the forest industry.

However, the mill's unique ownership model has allowed Harmac to cut operating costs and increase efficiency and it is now one of the few coastal pulp mills left standing as others have shut down or severely curtailed production as the international demand for their pulp remains low.

"During these tough times when so many forestry workers are laid off and mills closed, an employee group that was willing to invest its own money and make their mill a success captured the producer's interest," Sampson said.