Langford artist Paul Lewis with one of his many driftwood bird creations on the Esquimalt Lagoon. A Victoria is pitching a trailer to STORYHIVE in the hopes of winning the funding needed to make a story about Lewis’s life. (Facebook/Paul Lewis Art Gallery)

VIDEO: Documentarian hopes to share story of Victoria driftwood bird sculptor

‘Birds of Bark’ pitch covers artist’s journey from armed robbery to bird sculpting

Not everyone familiar with the driftwood birds dotting the Esquimalt Lagoon knows the story of the artist behind them.

Victoria filmmaker John Hilhorst hopes to change that with Birds of Bark, a documentary telling the story of Paul Lewis, the Langford man behind dozens of stoic avian driftwood forms, beloved by tourists and locals alike.

READ ALSO: Langford man creates animals out of driftwood at Esquimalt Lagoon

For his part, Lewis says he would be happy to share his story. Before he became an artist, Lewis dealt with drug addiction and went to prison for armed robbery. But he said that’s where his passion for art came alive.

“I had more time on my hands than most people do, so I took to painting and drawing,” he said. “I used to do portraits and drawings for other inmates, for their kids.”

Once he was released, Lewis continued making art. Last year he started creating the now famous driftwood sculptures.

“That just took off with the response from the community. It’s a tourist attraction, people come from all around the world to see it,” Lewis said, bewildered. “Isn’t that crazy?”

Langford artist Paul Lewis is the man behind the famous driftwood bird sculptures in the Esquimalt Lagoon, like this bald eagle. (Facebook/Paul Lewis Art Gallery)

Hilhorst, who co-founded Capture the Moment Media, also thinks it’s crazy – and a darn good story.

“I think Paul has an awesome story…I’m probably kinda of biased, but I really feel like it’s a Hollywood story,” he said.

“The whole character arc that he has in his life – I think has the opportunity to tell a really inspiring story to people who are struggling with addiction, and is finding a way to put their energy into something else – he’s a perfect example of that.

Here’s a person who had a really dark past but overcame it.”

Lewis is hoping the documentary gets the funding to move forward. He said if his story has any lessons, it’s not to judge people who haven’t always had an easy life.

“I want people not to be so quick to judge,” Lewis said. “People can change. I’m a very positive person… Be positive, be kind to one another.”

Hilhorst has created a video pitch and trailer for the Telus STORYHIVE competition, which sees hundreds of entrants pitching their ideas for a chance to win funding, mentorship and support to make their vision an on-screen reality. In the end, 15 entrants are voted in as winners, and 15 are selected by judges. For Birds of Bark, Hilhorst’s target length is 25 minutes with a $50,000 budget.

Film proposals receive online votes – one cast per person, per day – towards the big win. Voting for Birds of Bark ends Friday at noon.

READ ALSO: Thousands support driftwood bird sculptor after threats

READ ALSO: Esquimalt Lagoon driftwood art stolen, vandalized

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