Craig resident focusing on making sheep industry documentary
April 24, 2010
Everything in Yuri Chicovsky's life has led to this.
Chicovsky, 31, moved to Craig in October 2009 to do what he believes may amount to his life's work — make a documentary.
"The Sheep People," the working title of Chicovsky's film, combines his passion of meeting and interacting with people, along with photography and his heritage.
"I want to memorialize a tradition that I find to be just gorgeous," he said.
The film, a continually evolving work, is a study of sheep herding history and the current industry in Northwest Colorado.
Chicovsky takes inspiration from his Macedonian sheepherder descent.
"It is the American story," he said. "It is largely comprised of immigrants that came here with nothing. … It is one way of looking at the American dream."
Chicovsky has recently decided to pour all his efforts into the project, quitting his job as a server at Carelli's Pizza. He said the decision is a leap of faith, but one that could be worth the payoff.
The project is the culmination of a lifelong love of photography, music, writing, art and meeting people. A do or die for Chicovsky after wandering through life without a clear purpose, he said.
"Maybe I'm still completely lost and will fail miserably," he said. "But, I have failed enough times now, it's just good for the soul."
Although the project studies the sheep industry, it also focuses on what Chicovsky said is a dying culture.
"I am curious about what it means to have cultures wane and perhaps die," he said. "I feel like the beauty needs to be preserved and to show the majority of viewers the type of culture there is and the fairly pure way of dealing with our needs as consumers."
The film project comes with its fair share of hang-ups, however. Chicovsky is currently trying to raise funds for the film, which he hopes to have finished by the summer of 2011.
But, in spite of the odds, he continues.
"I believe I am built to be a documentary filmmaker," he said. "I'm leaping because I believe I will be embraced."
Chicovsky, who was raised in Evergreen, attended an elementary school for gifted and talented students.
From an early age he displayed a passion for the arts. He began playing the piano at 5 and won several competitions. In high school, he shifted focus to singing and athletics.
He started playing golf at 13 and showed promise in the sport.
After high school, Chicovsky attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he studied poetry and creative writing. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in English literature.
After college, Chicovsky took a year off to travel the world, visiting Europe and India. He said he started golfing professionally at 20 and began teaching the sport to pay the bills. During that time, he took students on pilgrimages to Scotland.
During his time as a waiter, he said he was able to bring himself down to earth a little and focus on "artistic pursuits."
Chicovsky originally visited Craig in 1993, and returned in 1997 on a bow-hunting trip. He continued to return to the area on a regular basis and in 2004, he began to photograph lambing at the Villard Ranch north of Craig.
It wasn't until he returned to the area in August 2009, during a weeklong antelope bow-hunting trip that he fell in love with the area.
Chicovsky said being surrounded by the "untouched desert" and "magical places" of Northwest Colorado brought out something instinctual from within.
Shortly thereafter, he returned to Berkeley, quit his job and moved to Craig to pursue filmmaking.
His time in Craig, he said, has been serendipitous.
Chicovsky said he is a spiritual person and is "very attentive to signs."
"After a long time of not seeing very many signs, I started to see them when I came here," he said. "… People were giving me chances and I didn't feel like I had been given many chances as an adult yet."
Within a few months of arriving in Craig, the "signs" started to align for Chicovsky. He found work teaching memoir writing, creative writing and photography at Colorado Northwestern Community College. He started his job at Carelli's Pizza and began to volunteer with a homeschool association in Craig teaching poetry.
Chicovsky said he has felt welcomed and accepted by the community and could see himself living in the area for a long time.
But, being accepted by the community isn't the only thing Chicovsky is thankful for.
Being in Craig, among the land he loves and the people he enjoys, has helped him focus his once varied interests into a meaningful and purpose-driven life.
"It is a matter of putting in my hard time," he said. "It has always been about making sure that what I am doing is using my greatest gifts.
"I want to utilize what I've been given."
Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.