Driftless Documentary

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Tim Jacobson adjusts the GoPro camera on the helmet of John Howe, the executive director of the Raptor Resource Project. (Photo by David Noble)


Area filmmakers producing feature length 

documentary that will highlight the Driftless Region

By Ted Pennekamp


Area filmmakers Tim Jacobson and George Howe are in the process of producing a feature length film about the Driftless Region tentatively titled “Decoding the Driftless.”

“We’ve already started filming, but the bulk of the filming will begin in the summer of 2016,” said Jacobson, who noted that filming is expected to be completed by the late fall of this year. He said it is hoped that editing will be done next winter and that the film will be completed by early 2017.

Jacobson and Howe are the Emmy Award winning producers of the acclaimed short “Mysteries of the Driftless” and are very pleased to now be making a full length documentary which can go into greater depth in depicting the landscape, environment and success stories of the Driftless Region. 

“We are just thrilled to have the opportunity to highlight this area,” said Jacobson, who noted that the film is being made through the non-profit organization Untamed Science. The film is also a Driftless Environmental Education Project (DEEP), an organization formed by Jacobson and Howe with a mission of enhancing enthusiasm for the diverse natural and scenic resources of the Driftless Region, while also promoting sustainable economic development.

Rob Nelson of Untamed Science, who was the director of “Mysteries of the Driftless,” will be the on-camera personality of “Decoding the Driftless,” which will also feature the work of world renowned and Academy Award winning cinematographer Neil Rettig, a Prairie du Chien area resident.

“The cinematography will blow people away,” said Jacobson who noted that aerial filming, underwater filming and the use of GoPro high definition cameras will be employed in the creation of the documentary. He said that GoPro cameras will be used in a variety of situations, including being placed on the helmets of rappellers as they capture footage of peregrine falcons from cliff faces. Airplanes as well as a helicopter supplied by Dairyland Power Cooperative, along with the possible use of drones, will capture the aerial footage. Scuba diving will be one method of filming underwater sequences. Audiences can expect eye-popping, ultra-high definition imagery from death-defying perspectives as filmmakers scale precipitous, rocky cliffs and plunge to murky, turbulent depths in the Mighty Mississippi.

Environmental and historical aspects will include, but not be limited to, the Mississippi River Flyway, the numerous effigy mounds of the region, unusual wildlife and fish such as prehistoric looking paddlefish, and ancient rock art. 

The scenic beauty and the many recreational opportunities that abound in this unique region will be highlighted as well. 

Another area the film will focus upon will be conservation success stories, said Jacobson. “We think it’s important to tell positive stories to inspire people to help make positive change,” he said.

A few of the success stories that will be highlighted include the Peregrine Falcon Raptor Resource Project, sustainable farming practices such as rotational grazing, soil conservation and erosion control efforts, trout stream rehabilitation and improvement projects, and the fact that the Driftless Region has become a national leader in organic farming and cooperatives.

“We’re going to have some really remarkable footage of people doing positive things that have a big impact upon our natural world,” said Jacobson. “We’re very interested in getting people engaged in our filmmaking. We want an inclusive, interactive process.”

Jacobson said a key component will be to get the film to be part of school curricula throughout the Driftless Region whereby Driftless Region issues and attributes can be discussed, as well as field trips and nature hikes planned so that students and adults can gain hands-on knowledge of the geographic region in which they live. “We want to make it fun and exciting and inspire people to get outdoors and to see this wonderful, beautiful landscape,” he said. “We would like to have the film in every school in all four states of the Driftless Region, plus resource materials. We would like to work with educators, students and the public.” Jacobson said a book is being planned to go along with the film.

DEEP would also like to promote sustainable economic development, said Jacobson. “We would like to unify efforts towards a more vibrant and sustainable growth. We view the landscape as the goose that laid the golden egg. We need to do a better job of marketing and selling this region. Our film will help advance these goals.”

Along with schools, Jacobson said DEEP would like to have the film available at several different venues such as the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, the Driftless Area Visitor and Education Center being constructed in Lansing and the Driftless Area Wetland Center in Marquette.

Jacobson said eventually he would like to have DEEP grow as an organization to include educators on its staff to help connect people with nature. “We want an organization that’s here for the long term encouraging sustainable driftless,” he said. 

Driftless Region residents are invited to become a partner with Jacobson and Howe in producing the feature film showcasing the area in which they live. More information can be found at DriftlessEducation.org. The address is Driftless Environmental Education Project, P.O. Box 1231, La Crosse, WI, 54602. Tim Jacobson can be reached at (608) 386-2563.

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