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Posts Tagged ‘historic film and video’

What began as a millionaire’s dream, a genius’s vision, and a forester’s labor is now being captured in a Forest History Society documentary film. This spring the Forest History Society joined forces with Bonesteel Films to produce First in Forestry, a documentary film about Carl Alwin Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School. Principal photography for the interviews and re-creation footage began in earnest last month, and yours truly was there to witness the excitement and action, consult a bit, and try to look like I know what I am doing.

For those not familiar with our story, George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is where the first large-scale forest management effort was carried out in the United States under the direction of Gifford Pinchot and Carl Schenck. Schenck also established the first school of forestry in North America. Several of the nearly 400 men who graduated from his school went on to become leaders in American forestry in the first half of the 20th century. Much of the land they worked and learned on is now preserved as the Pisgah National Forest. The story of Carl Schenck and his work at the Biltmore is the focus of the film.

cradle overlook

The view from the Blue Ridge Parkway towards where the Biltmore Forest School spent the summer months. George Vanderbilt owned much of what is visible from there. (Jamie Lewis)

Director Paul Bonesteel strongly believes that including re-creation footage will draw in today’s audiences, and we couldn’t agree more. He used this technique with great success in two other films that have aired on PBS, The Mystery of George Masa and The Day Carl Sandburg Died.

Critical to that success is finding the right actors to portray historical figures, in this case, finding forester Carl Schenck (not Finding Forrester).

"Dr. Schenck" keeps a close eye on "his boys" during a break in filming while Paul checks the playback.

“Dr. Schenck” keeps a close eye on “his boys” during a break in filming while director Paul Bonesteel checks the playback. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Here's an example of pretending I know what I'm doing: showing Paul and "Dr. Schenck" the proper height to hold a Biltmore stick. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Here’s an example of acting like I know what I’m doing: showing Paul (left) and “Dr. Schenck” (right) the proper height to hold a Biltmore stick. The rumors reported on Entertainment Tonight about my having punched out Paul over creative differences are incorrect. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Paul gives “Dr. Schenck” direction for his next scene. The rumor reported in the press in 1909 that Dr. Schenck punched out estate manager C.D. Beadle is, sadly, true. (Courtesy of Bonesteel films)

We are fortunate to have the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service and the Cradle of Forestry National Historic Site in making the filming possible. We’re using locations found throughout the Pisgah National Forest and at the Cradle of Forestry.

No shoot is too difficult for the Bonesteel team to capture. They even set up a camera in a cold mountain stream to get just the right shot. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

No shot is too difficult for the Bonesteel team to capture. They even set up a camera in a cold mountain stream to get just the right angle. No animals or camera crew were hurt in the taking of this photograph. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

As you might imagine, it takes a number of talented people behind the scenes to make the action in front of the camera look good and convincing. The folks at Bonesteel Films are top-notch and really pleasant to work with. Early calls and long days don’t dampen spirits. Not even a relentless rain storm stopped our filming interviews one day. We just moved to a new location. Fortunately, when it was time for shooting re-creation footage in the forest we had good weather.

Part of the crew watching and making sure everything runs smoothly. We needed people for wardrobe and makeup, wrangling horses, and coordinating the two cameras.

We needed people for wardrobe and makeup, wrangling horses, checking the script, and coordinating the two cameras. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

One of the things that excites us about working with Bonesteel Films is Paul’s skill in mixing traditional documentary film-making style (historical photographs and interviews with historians) with re-creation footage that works like a historical photograph brought to life. But without good interviews, the film could suffer. So we brought in one of the best at on-screen interviews, Char Miller. You may know him from such films as The Greatest Good and The Wilderness Idea.

Pinchot biographer Char Miller will be one of the featured interviews. Here Char (right) takes a break from being interviewed to pose with yours truly and Paul. Rumors reported on Entertainment Tonight that I got in a fight with Char and Paul over sartorial differences are not true. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Not all of the film will be “talking heads” and re-creation footage. This is not just a story of the people, but the story of the place. The Pisgah region and the Southern Appalachians are one of the most beautiful places in the world in my opinion. You can’t ask for a better backdrop for filming. It’s why so many Hollywood films are made there, too.

The area around Asheville, NC, is known as "The Land of the Sky" and with good reason. Here's the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Jamie Lewis)

The area around Asheville is known as “The Land of the Sky” and with good reason. Here’s the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Jamie Lewis)

For a few months now, whenever he gets a chance, Paul has been shooting footage that will capture and convey that beauty. He has plenty of experience doing so because of his film about George Masa and commercial work for the Biltmore Estate.

Paul works both on the micro and macro levels when it comes to capturing nature on film.

Paul works both on the micro and macro levels when it comes to capturing nature on film.  (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

One of the things you often hear about with actors and film sets is how groupies sneak on to the set to watch filming. I’m hear to tell you it’s true. We’re going to beef up security for the next round of filming. We can’t allow set crashers who then peddle gossip to the tabloids.

We eventually had security remove this interloper from the set. We think he's the source of the rumors in the press.

We eventually had security remove this interloper from the set. We think he’s the source of the rumors in the press of fisticuffs and tantrums. (Jamie Lewis)

If you’ve read this far, thank you! If you want to be a part of forest history, we’re still fundraising for the film. Please visit our film page to learn how you can contribute, and stay tuned for more news on the film.

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The Forest History Society is excited to announce that we’re developing a new documentary film. First in Forestry: Carl Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School will be the first documentary film to examine the pivotal role that the Biltmore Estate’s chief forester Carl Schenck and America’s first school of forestry played in American conservation history. It’ll be made in collaboration with UNC-TV and the Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association for airing on PBS stations in North Carolina and possibly around the country.

Carl Schenck in woods (FHS473)Why Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School? Established in 1898 by Schenck, it was the first forestry school in North America. Its 300-plus graduates were part of the first generation of foresters in America, many of whom became leaders in the conservation movement. And the Biltmore’s forests are the site of the first large-scale forest management effort in the United States, as well as the first land purchased under the Weeks Act. But even though the school and Schenck’s contributions to American forestry were considered important enough that the school’s buildings and grounds were preserved as the Cradle of Forestry in America National Historic Site a half-century ago, no documentary film exists about him or the school. Schenck tends to be overshadowed by his contemporaries Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt, and John Muir in forestry and conservation history—all subjects of documentary films.

Afraid that this will be a bone-dry, march-through-time history lesson? Fear not! At the heart of any good film is tension and drama, and the history of the Biltmore Forest School and its larger-than-life founder is a story spilling over with both. Think of it as forest history’s Downton Abbey. After all, it’s the height of the Victorian Era and Carl Schenck worked for one of the wealthiest men in the country at the largest private home ever built in the U.S. How’s that for a dramatic setting. Not dramatic enough? How about: He worked at a place built by robber baron money. No? Schenck was a hotheaded forester who didn’t shy away from a fight: He argued with Teddy Roosevelt over the future of America’s forests and he so angered Gifford Pinchot that Pinchot denounced him as an antichrist! Got your attention yet? When Schenck’s boss lied to him, Schenck punched him out and got fired! Soon thereafter, World War I broke out and Schenck found himself in the German army fighting against some of his former American students!

Biltmore Estate (FHS258)

So, you ask, when can I see this epic forest history documentary? That’s where you come in. We could trade on our good looks and charm to get this made, but, frankly, that won’t get us past the opening credits. So to help kickstart our fundraising for the documentary film, we’re excited to announce another first: Yours truly, The Mad B-Logger, aka, historian Jamie Lewis, has volunteered to run the inaugural From the Cradle to the Grave 30K Trail Race on May 18, 2013, and then the next day run the Biltmore Estate 15K—a total of 45 kilometers. I’m calling this effort “The Dash for the ‘Stache” in honor of Carl Schenck’s famous mustache. You can follow my training efforts on Twitter.

dash for the stacheEach of these races takes place on the land where Carl Schenck worked and made history. We’re suggesting a minimum donation of $45—that’s a dollar for every kilometer I run—with all proceeds going to the production of the film. Of course, any donation is welcome and appreciated. But why not get a little something for your money? To become a supporter of the film, visit our Donation page. As a thank-you for giving at certain levels, we’ve established a few incentives. We have a donor who has pledged to match every dollar donated at a 1:1 ratio, so the more you give, the sooner we can begin production of First in Forestry: Carl Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School. So please tell your friends and help spread the word.

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” Steven Spielberg’s beloved film about an alien visitor who befriends a young boy; it’s also the film that gave us the catch phrase “Phone home.” As faithful readers of this blog know, we love films from the ’80s nearly as much as forest-themed films. Because “E.T.” was such a hit, naturally talk soon thereafter began about making a sequel. It’s recently come out that Spielberg’s sequel idea had evil ETs coming to Earth and capturing Elliot, then holding and torturing him for information about his friend, who is their nemesis. There was also discussion of a sequel to the novelized version of the film in which E.T. communicated with Elliot through brain wave messages.

Fortunately, a sequel never happened. And I know why. It’s because those two ideas don’t work independently. In my sequel, I combine elements of both. It’s 20 years later and Elliot, who lived near the woods where E.T. originally had landed, has grown up to become a logger. E.T. senses that Elliot’s unhappiness and loneliness is growing worse because Elliot misses E.T. but keeps trying to forget him. That time with E.T. is proving to be the highlight of his life. We see requisite scenes of Elliot in misery: his wife leaves him for an anti-logging protester, he’s about to get fired, he flips through a scrap book with clippings of The Big Adventure, he drinks too much.

So instead of brain wave messages, E.T. begins communicating with Elliot by leaving messages in the trees his human friend cuts for a living. Given that E.T. was a botanist collecting samples when his team was scared off and left him behind, it seems only natural that he communicate through this medium. The first message is delivered the day Elliot is fired. The simple reminder of Elliot’s little friend—his face on a disc cut from a log—goes unseen by Elliot and is accidentally sold to a customer who then shows it off to the local news. Elliot sees the disc on TV, but so do the government agents who had tried to capture E.T. when he first visited. They take Elliot into custody and begin interrogating and torturing him for information. E.T. comes back and helps him escape, then hijinks and chases ensue, and his wife reunites with him. Fast-forward to the end, and the agents who were holding guns as E.T. and a young Elliot and his friends flew overhead on bikes are now protesters holding axes as E.T., Elliot, and his fellow loggers roar past them in logging trucks. Roll credits.

Below are the first publicity photos from the film “E.T.: I Pine for You” (alternative titles include “E.T.: Invasive Species,” “E.T.: Friendship Rings,” “E.T.: A Tree-mendous Friendship,” or “E.T.: Woodsy Pal”.) Okay, maybe the photos are really from page 64 of the June 1983 American Forests magazine. And maybe it’s Ora Best of Eunice, Louisiana, holding a camphor-tree log. But who’s to say this wasn’t E.T.’s way of communicating with Elliot?

Ora Best holding ET tree

Ora Best holding a message for Elliot

ET the extra-terrestrial tree

E.T.: The Extra-Tree-restrial?

 

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We recently received an advanced copy of the new Ken Burns film, The National Parks – America’s Best Idea, which begins airing on PBS starting Sunday, September 27.  You can see images from the FHS Archives in the first three episodes and our name in the credits.  (By the way, if you can’t get to your TV when those air, the PBS website will be streaming the video of each episode after it airs.)

As we watched here at the Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters for our images to appear in the film, we got to talking about other films in which our moving footage and still images have appeared.  Of course, tops on the list is The Greatest Good: A Forest Service Centennial Film.  (Normally, I’d say, Buy the book – don’t wait for the movie. But in this case, I say, Buy them both and now!)  Footage from the two films we’ve produced, Up in Flames and Timber on the Move, has appeared in a number of documentaries and television shows over the years.  Our images have appeared in films as varied as Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues to Fungi: Pennsylvania’s Hidden Treasures.  Below the photos that we think appear in The National Parks is a partial list of video projects with images or footage from our archive.

The other thing we discussed is how FHS expertise has been used in productions.  Sometimes it’s in a very hands-on manner, as with The Greatest Good.  That was fun because two of us were involved in reviewing the script and rough cuts of the film, and we were listed individually by name in the final credits.  Other times, we’ve been asked to do research that finds its way into scripts.  The latter is true for an upcoming History Channel show, America: the Story of US.  You can see the results of that in the spring.

Here are just a few of our images to look for in the Ken Burns film.

Colorado

FHS3521

Montana

Sheep grazing

And here’s a list of some of the other productions in which our archival material has appeared:

- On PBS, from the American Masters series – Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues.  Hank briefly worked as a logger.

- Firestorm: The Fire Suppression Paradox, follows a firecrew from Ontario who joined with firefighters from the U.S. and other jurisdictions to fight a fire in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana, in the summer of 2000.

- Chief Mountain Hotshots: Firefighters of the Blackfeet Nation tells the history of one of the most respected Hotshot crews in the country.

- The Forest Where We Live – The Series (Louisiana Public Broadcasting)

- The Ultimate 10 Dangerous Jobs (“Ultimate 10″ series on TLC) – has footage of smokejumping from Up in Flames.

- Fungi: Pennsylvania’s Hidden Treasures is an award-winning full-length documentary produced by the State of Pennsylvania’s DCNR’s Wild Resource Conservation Program and Commonwealth Media.

- The Lord God Bird documentary film is about the ivory-billed woodpecker.

- The History Channel Toolbox Series – the episode on Mechanic’s Tools and Chainsaws.

- The History Channel series Modern Marvels – “Logging Technology” episode has footage from Timber on the Move.

- And for the upcoming 12-hour series on the History Channel, America: The Story of US, we conducted research and provided background material on 19th-century log drives in the upper Midwest.

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Prior to the expansion of railroads and later use of trucks, the logging industry relied on river currents to move large amounts of cut timber to sawmills. In October, we highlighted six photo galleries related to various aspects of river log drives. Since this posting, searches for “log drives,” “log drivers,” “moving logs on rivers,” and “logger photos” have frequently led readers to Peeling Back the Bark and the FHS Photo Collection.

To further satisfy reader interests, I would like to share our top-viewed YouTube video, an excerpt from Timber on the Move: A History of Log Moving Technology, a documentary film from the Forest History Society. This clip illuminates the river driving process as only action footage can. This segment also includes informative narration describing the effect of the log drives, such as flooding of farmland adjacent to the river banks.


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As part of our ongoing efforts in using new technologies to provide online access to materials in our library and archives, the Forest History Society is pleased to announce the launch of its own YouTube Channel.

youtube logo

YouTube, the leading online video community, allows organizations to  reach a huge audience of users through the creation of a centralized channel for posting videos and sharing content.  We will use the FHS YouTube Channel to share clips of historic films from our archives, such as footage of logging operations, river drives, forest fire suppression, and much more.  Other content will include classic Smokey Bear television PSAs, and selections from documentaries such as Up in Flames, Timber on the Move, and The Greatest Good.

Below you will find two selections from the FHS YouTube Channel.  The first, an excerpt from Timber on the Move, is archival footage from the late 1920s of cypress logging in a Louisiana swamp.

The second selection features Kukla and Ollie (from “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie,” a popular 1950s kids show) as they help to spread Smokey Bear’s message about how to prevent forest fires.

We encourage you to check out all of the video content at the FHS YouTube Channel, which can always be found at the following URL:

http://www.youtube.com/foresthistory

And for those with a YouTube login, please feel free to subscribe to the channel in order to receive updates, or just check back often as we will continually be adding new content.

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