Life in the Logwoods is a documentary portrait of a culture and industry rarely witnessed firsthand by outsiders. Rural East Texas has historically been characterized as a dark place of outlaws, racial divide and ignorance. While there is some truth to that, this film reveals the vibrant and personal side of the people who work and inhabit this unfamiliar region of Texas. To make a living from the forest, it takes resilience and a knowledge handed down through generations.
The first logging towns appeared in the early 1800’s, clear-cutting great swaths of the majestic virgin pine forests. These nameless company towns literally sprang up over night—self-contained villages, with company stores that only accepted company currency. Once the great forests were “cut out”, the towns and inhabitants disappeared just a quickly as they had appeared.
What used to take scores of men living in logging towns now takes a crew of three. Where train track was once laid in the forest and logs floated on lakes to the mill, a convoy of trucks now carries the product to towns 50-200 miles away. Today, aggressive reforestation efforts have restored the forests and modern logging practices have enhanced the durability of this renewable and sustainable resource. Descendants of the early loggers carry on the work of their great-grandfathers, equipped with modern machinery and an awareness that this resource is to be tended and cared for as any other crop.
Life in the Logwoods profiles some of these modern loggers and sawyers—their work and daily life. It’s a rural American culture that has garnered little attention and the popular perception of this part of Texas is far from realistic. At the heart of the film is the Wells family. Living in the small settlement of Tadmor in the Davy Crockett National forest, they exemplify a multi-generational sawmill family that continues the tradition. Their daily life revolves around faith, home schooling, and the mill. Additionally, we follow two African American loggers, a group of forestry students, a church-run mill, a truck driver and the reforestation effort that relies heavily upon the labors of immigrants (both legal and illegal) from Guatemala and Mexico. Presented together, these profiles reveal the true rich cultural tapestry of those who live and work in the logwoods of East Texas.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Curtis Craven – As a resident of Austin, Texas since 1979, Curtis Craven has over thirty-five years experience as a producer/director/shooter with an emphasis on cultural, historical and environmental documentary. Since the early 1970’s, he has lived, worked and traveled extensively in Mexico, Texas and Florida. During the years 1991-1996 he was a Senior Producer for the Texas Parks & Wildlife PBS Television Series, where he produced, shot and edited scores of 7-9 minute segments for the show. In 1997 he left TPWD and formed Hecho a Mano Productions to pursue various personal and commercial projects. As a freelancer, he shot for numerous reality television shows and EPK’s including FOX, Miramax, Disney, the History Channel, TLC, MTV, Austin City Limits and Yahoo Music. Three of his documentaries on Mexican folklife and traditional culture—Handmade in Mexico, Burning Judas and Vanilla: the Sacred Orchid—have aired nationally on PBS. Vanilla was a recipient of an Austin Film Society’s 2009 Production Grant (post production).
Between 2014 – 2017, Hecho a Mano Productions was contracted to produce an extensive web series for the Texas Historical Commission. This project consisted of scores of short (3-5 minute) videos and audio tracks covering the diversity, depth and complexity of Texas history. Curtis acted as director, collaborating with Ron Kabele as editor. The videos are still in distribution and can be found on the THC social media and YouTube sites.
Most recently, with funding from the Texas Historical Commission, Friends of Caddo Mounds and the Summerlee Foundation, Curtis, again in collaboration with his editor Ron Kabele, completed the 30 minute documentary, Koo-hoot Kiwat: the Caddo Grass House. With KLRU-TV as the presenting station, the film was broadcast throughout the country, reaching millions of viewers. In 2019 it received a Lone Star Emmy for the Texas Heritage/Special category.
Presently, Curtis is working on a two documentary projects. In the Logwoods (60 minutes, in post production) profiles the people, environment and history of the East Texas timber industry. The second project, The Lost Grave of James Coryell, Texas Ranger (30 minutes) is now in development. In the meantime, Curtis continues his freelance work, having recently completed shooting projects for Audubon Texas, Travis Audubon, Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation and the Texas Historical Commission.