My Favorite Woodworking Documentary

As much as I love watching films, whether it’s indie or mainstream, documentaries will always have a special place in my heart. While movies are pre-scripted, documentaries are captured as the story unfolds.

In an interview, Martin Scorsese mentions that there is a blurred line which separates the two. The difference lies in the impulse, whether to record or to interpret. But then again, there are times when both utilize the same idealism.

I came across a 10-minute documentary on Vimeo about a veteran and a master woodworker. The Ox is a Breakwater Studios original by the award-winning director Ben Proudfoot. The Ox was released in 2013, shortly after Ink & Paper came out. I’m an avid fan of Breakwater Studios before, primarily because of their distinct style in cinematography and musical score (of which is very rare in documentaries). I have forgotten about them for a while, but then something made me rekindle my love for their work, and that’s The Ox.

I have seen Collecting George Nakashima two years ago, which even got me to visiting The Toolsy in search for woodwork equipment. The documentary was so good it inspired me to make my own masterpiece. I guess that’s really the goal of art. It’s either to make you or break you.

However, as much as I admire George Nakashima, there is something about The Ox that captured me.

Eric Hollenbeck is the proud owner of Blue Ox Mill Works and Community School. They are a custom job shop specializing in woodwork for companies all over the US. Their workshop is very nostalgic. In fact, their newest machine was made in 1948, the year he was born.

Aside from being a woodshop, he created a home for the misfits, young boys who felt they have nowhere to go. Rejected by the norms, here, Eric gives them a second chance and to take pride in making something. Maybe that’s why it hits me. When you see something that you can relate to, it affects you deeply. When reality bites, you think that you are worth less than a hundo, it can be difficult to find the courage and step up. But having someone like Eric to uplift the spirits of these young children, somehow he was able to make their world a better place.

In an interview with Ben Proudfoot posted on Facebook, he was asked what he wants his audience to gain from it, and he replied:

“I can say that one of the most satisfying reactions for me personally is when people watch the film and say, “Gee! I really want to just go and make something with my hands right now!” I love that.”