Eye Witness

Sunlight in the Appalachian forest

Sunlight in the Appalachian forest

I discovered, in making my first film, how important light is. In arising each day from darkness, light carries with it a kind of tension or contradiction: it is always bound in our minds to the conflict or rivalry with darkness. Of course the light I am used to is not North of 60º, much less South of 60º. “My light” is closer to 45º N, along the St. Lawrence Valley and in the northern Appalachians. I had to learn about new kinds of light.

Church, Aurora Borealis

Frederic Edwin Church, Aurora Borealis, 1865

Besides light, film-making requires movement, interactions between people and Nature that are shown rather than described, and most of all an unfolding and compelling story which draws viewers into a previously unknown world.

I came to film-making from the world of written narratives and radio documentaries. Film-making offers a better chance of showing how things really are, or were. In fact it forces the film-maker to seek the best light, to experience, to share – even to suffer. When my camera froze at -50° C (or -58° F), I froze too! Actually the wind chill got down to -68.3° C (or -91° F)! Moments like that not only taught me more about the polar environment than I could ever have learned in a library – excruciating cold became part of the story! It forced me to respect the people I filmed, because the message of a film depends on the comfort or discomfort of people on screen, on their authenticity, on giving their very best on camera.

Getting the story

Getting the story: photo by GT