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100 Years of Sandpoint

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the premiere of Sandy Compton's first script

Local writer Sandy Compton has lived in the Sandpoint and Heron areas most of his life. But he was a little surprised at how much he learned about Sandpoint while researching and writing the script for the Sandpoint Centennial Film.

    He was asked by the Centennial Commission to do the job and was given an excellent outline by historian Nancy Renk covering the time from the David Thompson explorations until the 90’s.

    The director for the film is Academy Award winning cinematographer Erik Daarstad. Daarstad found and researched images of historical Sandpoint. Compton provided script for the transitions.

    Daarstad retired to Sandpoint after working as a professional cinematographer for over 40 years. In 1968 he won the Academy Award for Best Documentary with the film Why Man Creates. Coming out of retirement, he spent over a year working the Centennial Film production.

    During the researching process Compton suffered a skiing injury and spent a couple of months last winter healing a broken ankle. Nearly all of that time of forced inactivity was used on the film script. Over 1400 pages was written, then re-written and edited down to 90 pages.

    At the same time Erik shot hundreds of hours of film for the project that was edited down to 90 minutes.

    Compton’s stories matched images found by Daarstad. Each story needed visuals but not everything he found during research was recorded on pictures so could not be used for production.

    One story Sandy found was of a family who moved to Sandpoint from Nebraska during the Depression and thought they were in paradise.

    When they left the dust bowl there was no money. The grasshoppers ate any vegetation that grew and their only fuel for heating was cow chips.

    Upon arrival in North Idaho there still was no money. But they found forests full of game for eating and wood for heating. There was water and the grasshoppers were not here eating everything that grew. Every time the lady of the house went outside she picked up some twigs and wood - she simply could not walk past the abundance everywhere.

    In his research Sandy found the depression continued after World War II in the Panhandle. During the war the Naval training center at Farragut provided a temporary stimulus but after the Navy left so did the economic recovery.

    He said “this area seemed to watch the 50’s and 60’s on TV rather than participating in the same way as the rest of the country.” And he continued, “People do not change Sandpoint but Sandpoint seems to change the people.”

    Sandy Compton has written two books, many stories and articles for local publication and has contributed nearly 100 Scenic Route columns to The River Journal but this was his first film script. When asked if he would do it again he sighed and took a deep breath and nodding his head he finally said "Under the right circumstances."  Maybe he is looking for someplace to use those 1300 pages of unused material accumulated over the last year.

    The film will be shown at the Panida on November 2nd. Admission is only $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children, and there will be afternoon and evening shows. This film is a “must see” for anyone interested in, or who remembers, local history.


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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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