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Documentary Innovations - Outdoor Adventure Canada - Pt 1

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Program Innovations 1: Outdoor Adventure Canada
Filmmaking Behind the Scenes: Program Innovations - To try to make their television programs more interesting for the viewer, the best filmmakers are constantly trying to create new elements and approaches in storytelling so that their programs will have more appeal for television viewers. Below are some ways we have departed from the standard conventions of documentary creation, and how viewers have responded to our innovations in past programs.
Program Innovations - Part 1

A Television Pioneer: "Outdoor Adventure Canada"- A 2008 DVD release

Proudly, A History Documentary Pioneer
We showcased a new way to shoot history documentaries - following reenactors on historic treks - by filming the recreation of the historic "Quest for Gold" trek across Yukon's Chilkoot Trail. "Ho for the Klondike" followed a group of outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs, as they followed the trail of the original gold-seekers of 1898, and packed hundreds of pounds of gear, 1000 miles, from Skagway, Alaska, to Dawson City, Yukon, there to "strike a claim" and hopefully find gold. Our innovative history program was honoured with multiple international Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals.
We were invited to create a new cable television series called "Outdoor Adventure Canada," for Atlantis Broadcasting Inc. This series, which set out to explore Canadian heritage experiences in the outdoors, was one of only 10 proposals Atlantis selected for "development funding" out of 251 "extremely high quality submissions," from Canada's leading film and television producers. It was in the end, we believe, the only one ever to go to air.

We believe the reason Atlantis Broadcasting singled out our proposal for such a unique honour, from among hundreds of competing submissions, was because of our background in successful television production, our original conception for the show, and the many innovative video and audio design elements we decided to use in the creation of "Outdoor Adventure Canada."

Though we were working for an "economy" cable channel, we were determined to be creative, and make a series unlike any other seen before on Canadian television, and one whose quality would be every bit as good as programs created on the regular networks with their huge budgets and enormous creative staffs.

1 - An original idea, conceived by Joan Goldi and John Goldi csc, to explore Canada's heritage entirely through the eyes and voices of Canadians, gave rise to a unique Canadian television series.

The series aired on Atlantis Broadcasting's Life Network. We were most flattered when others later copied our techniques, notably the CBC who adopted and amended our concept for its own heritage series. But, "Outdoor Adventure Canada" remains the only television series to have explored Canada's heritage entirely through the actual voices of Canadians.

"So many shows which sound good on paper disappoint when they are finally produced. But your show, which thrilled us so much in your proposal, turned out even better than we could have imagined."
- Jan Platt, Academy Award Winner, Vice-President, and Founding Partner, Atlantis Broadcasting Inc.

At Quebec City's world famous Winter Carnival, Andre Rodin tells the camera about his 12 metre high statue "Woman in a Hurry!" in "The Magic of Winter."

2 - In "Outdoor Adventure Canada," we also pioneered a documentary style, which, for the first time, did away completely with, not only a host, but a narrator's voice as well.

No host; no narrator. While everyone else used one or the other, or both, we alone, used neither, pioneering a technique of program construction that has been wildly adopted by other producers and broadcasters in the years since.

The story for each of our programs unfolded entirely, through the creative and skilful inter-cutting of the voices of enthusiastic participants featured in the documentary.

Now for the first time in a television series, the "People of Canada" were the host and the voices that spoke about Canada's heritage.

Our innovative editing style worked well because of enthusiastic interview clips which our director was able to evoke from participants like Anne Clement and Yves Laforest of St. Eustache, Quebec (above), who met while kiting and now fly the biggest kites in Canada. They were two of many kite fliers featured in "Go Fly a Kite," - shot in Verdun, Quebec - which won 5 international television festival medals: 3 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze.

Our innovative technique won praise in other shows, like the two programs we did on Quebec's world famous Winter Carnival: "The Magic of Winter" and "What an Ice Canoe!"

"We have, of course, seen many, many programs done on Québec's Winter Carnival, but yours is by far the best we have ever seen.  It was wonderful, and easy to see that the people who made it have great affection for Québec and its people. Merci!"
- Program Executive, Radio-Quebec, Quebec Educational Television.

Members of the world's only woman's ice canoe team, hard at work training in the middle of the St. Lawrence River.

"Wow! We really enjoyed the feature you did on the Québec snow sculptures. Very tight editing and action packed!"
- on "The Magic of Winter" by Peter Vogelaar, Captain, Canadian Olympic Snow Sculpture Team, Winlaw, BC

3 - Carrying innovation further, we also directed that everyone would talk directly into the lens at the television audience - not off axis to some unseen director/interviewer/producer - the standard technique everyone else has been using for decades.

(Left) Leader of the Canadian Olympic snow sculpture team, British Columbia's Peter Vogelaar, scored an unheard-of artistic triumph at Quebec's Winter Carnival by winning an unprecedented four top First Prizes, (Judge's Prize, Artist's Prize, and Two Public's Prizes) for his two sculptures.

Speaking directly into the lens he explains the concept behind his prize-winning sculpture "Time."

4 - Our innovations continued by making programs - like "Spring Fever," - that interwove, and gave equal prominence to, the "natural" heritage and the "cultural" heritage of Canada. For the first time - thanks to the multi-level background and skills of our director/cameraman (lifelong naturalist and wildlife cinematographer) - it was possible to see a high quality nature heritage show on a cultural history series. (Because it takes a totally different set of skills, knowledge, and sensitivity, for each, the CBC maintains the split, turning the cultural history series over to the news guys, and letting David Suzuki handle the natural heritage.)

"An awesome educational film! I wish more films were like it."
- Festival Juror, Missoula International Wildlife Festival, Missoula, MT

"I was particularly pleased with how thoroughly you captured the flavour of waterfowl migration at Presqu'ile. We have had many film crews here but none invested the time and energy that you did. I had high expectations for the film. However, my expectations were exceeded! Thank you again for the excellent work."
- Don Tyerman, Biodiversity Specialist, Presqu'ile, ON

"I would like to thank you for producing the outstanding video about the Presqu'ile Waterfowl Festival. I have spoken to a number of field naturalist clubs across Ontario who said they watched this video and were most impressed. I was personally impressed by the cinematography and sharp, crisp photography. Also, I felt that the film captured the essence and excitement of the event. Films such as yours are vital in reminding us just how important our public lands and parks are for wildlife and for people."
- Donald A. Davis, Life Member, Fed. of Ont. Naturalists

Jim and Harry Cornwell (left), discuss their observations after their encounter with the Great Grey Owl.

"Spring Fever," shot at Presqu'ile, ON won 3 international medals: 2 Silver & 1 Bronze.

"I am writing to let you know how much I enjoyed "Colossal Fossil". I like the way you integrated the public and professional participants, views, opinions, and knowledge at the various dinosaur digs. Your series exposes us all, as viewers, to what an exciting and diverse country we live in and what rich opportunities are available to us all."
- Martha Dunsmore, Palaeontologist, Drumheller, AB

Darren Tanke (left), pointing to the site where he accidentally discovered the skull of a Daspletosaurus - and looking straight into the camera - tells of the thrill of finding his first Tyrannosaur jaw. "If this doesn't give you a thrill," says Tanke, "then I'm sorry. You might as well be as dead as the dinosaur."

"On behalf of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, thank you for the excellent portrayal of Field Experience."
- Marty Hickie, Director, Public Relations, Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, AB

"In Search of the Colossal Fossil," shot in Drumheller, AB, won 4 international medals: 3 Silver and 1 Bronze.

And the quality of the "nature shows" on "Outdoor Adventure Canada" was just as high as the "cultural history" shows.

Suzuki had One, CBC Witness had One, Discovery had One: At the world's largest science documentary festival, hosted by the French Service of the CBC, in Montreal, PQ, Joan Goldi was the only English-language producer (out of 27 from around the world) to have TWO programs "Selected for Show," both from her cable television series "Outdoor Adventure Canada."
At the North American Outdoor Writers Film and Video Festival at State College, PA, our show on birding at Point Pelee - featuring outstanding bird photography by John Goldi csc - won the top award, the Four Star Award, in an international competition that featured programs from the CBC - which had 7 entries - the NFB, Keg Productions, and a host of other US competitors.

5 - Introducing the "Great Canadian Trek" in the making of a history documentary: Carrying innovation further, we introduced the "Then & Now" feature in the making of a history documentary, featuring places and events as they were "then" and how they appear "now." Since almost all history documentaries were made/continue to be made, in the studio from archival footage, we determined to innovate and to shoot history programs outdoors, where the history was actually made, and to cut back and forth between past and present.

We created two international award-winning programs that featured historical reenactors as they retraced great Canadian historic treks: in "Westward Ho the Wagons" we accompanied the Boundary Commission Wagon Train reenactment across Southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, in "Ho for the Klondike" we followed a group of reenactors as they recreated the trek of the gold-seekers from Skagway, Alaska to the gold fields at Dawson, Yukon. These programs showed innovative ways to make history documentaries more interesting. The technique has since been widely adopted by others.

Bringing the Past Alive with Yukon Quest: To show the world that history shows don't have to be dull, uninspired, and boring, but can be shot on location with verve and zest, we created "Ho for the Klondike," and showcased a new approach in the making of history programs, by shooting a reenactment of a historic trek.

We documented an enthusiastic group of men and women re-enacting the "Trail of 98", the historic route taken by the gold-seekers in 1898, 1,000 miles from Skagway Alaska, across the Chilkoot Pass, and down the Yukon River to the gold strike at Dawson, Yukon.

Our camera followed them as they - just like the men and women of a century before - packed their hundreds of pounds of gear up the steep mountains slopes, crossed the Chilkoot Pass, then braved hundreds of miles of windswept lakes and the twists and turns of the Yukon River (below). Their aim: reenact a historic trek, reach the goldfields at Dawson City, and strike a claim. And hopefully find Gold!

(Above the the Quest for Gold in 1898, approaching the top of the Chilkoot Pass, and below, at the same spot, reenactors savour the Quest for Living Heritage.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Left, the end of the Quest for Gold, fabled Bonanza Creek where this Trail of 98er staked his claim and stops to look up as he pans for his fortune.

And some of the "Gold" our innovative program "Ho For the Klondike" won at international television competitions.

 

(Top, Gold at Worldfest International Film & Television Festival, in Flagstaff, Arizona, below left, the Gold Plaque at the prestigious Chicago International Television Festival, right the Gold Camera Award at the highly regarded US International, and the the coveted "Silver Apple" at the World's largest educational film and television festival in Oakland, California.)

Our camera recorded the groanings of the re-enactors as they carried their heavy packs up the hills at Dyea and over the Chilkoot Pass, captured the terror of a near drowning and dramatic rescue, the disappointments and the triumphs, and throughout had them comparing their current trials and tribulations with those of the gold-seekers, who had done the same trip a hundred years before. But far from being only a "sports" adventure program, like one can see on The Discovery Channel, each program was illustrated with historic archival photographs taken at the same locations to make a strong "then and now" history link with the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then & Now: Kate Moylen (below) went down Miles Canyon (above) 100 years after her namesake, Klondike Kate (right).

"The program did an outstanding job of capturing the uniqueness of the event, which attempted to recreate as closely as possible the gold rush of 1897-98, and the personal experiences of the individuals involved. I was constantly impressed and surprised to find the Goldis in isolated places where one wouldn't expect the media to venture. Their efforts were well reflected in the quality of the final product."
- on "Ho for the Klondike" by
John Firth, Whitehorse, YT

"Ho for the Klondike," shot in the Yukon, won 6 international medals: 3 Gold, 1 Silver, & 2 Bronze.

Bringing the Past Alive with Prairie Quest: We applied the same techniques when we created another great Canadian trek reenactment, "Westward Ho the Wagons" and showcased a new approach in the making of history programs. It's an idea that has caught on elsewhere.

We accompanied an enthusiastic group of men and women - almost all were history buffs - re-enacting the historic Boundary Commission Wagon Train trek across the prairies of Saskatchewan and Alberta. And we mixed in lots of real history.

"I believe the Goldis did a super job, and so does anyone who has seen this production."
- Marvin Bascom, Trail Boss, Eastend, SK

"As the original organizer of the Trek West, I was pleased to see that you emphasized the historical aspects of the Great March West as well as highlighting the efforts of the modern day adventurers. The original intent was to promote the historical significance of the trail and you have helped enormously in that regard. The audio was excellent and the photography was super. Thank you."

- Jim Crawford, NWMP & Boundary Comm. Wagon Train, SK

"Westward Ho the Wagons" was a Finalist at the prestigious New York International Film Festival.

 
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