Sigurd the filmmaker

In 1949 Sigurd Olson wrote, directed, and starred with his son Robert (whom I interviewed some sixty years later) in a 16mm, 30-minute color film entitled “Wilderness Canoe Country” to call attention to the issue of the increasing use of bush planes to fly sportsmen in to fishing resorts. ?Filmed by naturalist and photographer Grant Halladay and narrated by famed broadcaster Paul Harvey, it tells the story of a father and son on a wilderness canoe trip in the Quetico-Superior, whose solitude is shattered when a bush plane lands nearby. “The Film built more vital support for the airplane ban in northeastern Minnesota than all of the speeches, articles, and other conservationist propaganda put together” (David Backes, from “A Wilderness Within ? The Life of Sigurd F. Olson“). President Truman signed the executive order thanks to Sig’s efforts, and the ban stands to this day. Of course there are new threats… ?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


07 2012

What it takes…

Some behind the scenes silliness:


05 2012

Happy New Year

“A new adventure is coming up and I’m sure it will be a good one.”

These are Sigurd’s last written words, found on a sheet of paper in his typewriter after he died while out snowshoeing. ?I think 2012 is going to be a good one, and if all goes well, it’ll be the year this project sees completion. ?Thanks again to all of you for your support. ?Here’s wishing you great new adventures in 2012…

Image “Frozen Stream, Purple Sky” courtesy Bryan Hansel, Bryan Hansel Photography.


01 2012

Footage requests

I had a request from Greg Seitz at Friends Of the Boundary Waters Wilderness for some footage for a video piece he was putting together with people talking about why the BWCA is so important to them ? which I was happy to oblige ? so I put together a sequence of shots for him from which to?select. ?Of course I couldn’t resist putting some music underneath the shots ? which are pretty randomly cut with no regard for timing ? music I will probably use in the film. Shortly after that, a producer from CBS Evening News contacted me (Greg had put him in touch) looking for some HD footage of the area for a piece he was doing on the sulfite mining controversy. ?He was extremely complimentary and enthusiastic about the quality of my work. ?He used the footage and it aired last Friday, but?unfortunately?for the web version?he had to re-edit the story using?his own footage (you can watch it here, sans my footage; it’s about five minutes into the show). ?Regardless, we’re glad to see the issue getting some national coverage. ?I was paid a modest fee for the footage which I am happy to be able to put back into the production fund. ?Here’s the sequence I gave for them to choose from:

Some folks have suggested they would like to hear more natural sounds and less music. ?Please be assured that there will be plenty of “nat sound,” as we call it, in the final film. ?The camera I filmed the above shots with does not have sound recording capabilities built into it, so for the nature shots I generally do not roll sync sound. ?But we have recorded many gigabytes of natural sounds on our trips with a separate, professional audio recorder using some very sophisticated microphones. ?And will do more! ?Thanks for your thoughts, as always, and support.

Post script:

I just heard from Alberto Moyas, the CBS producer of the story on sulfite mining. ?He says that at the last minute his senior producers decided they wanted him to re-cut the story, shorten it, and ?shoehorn? it into a larger segment about mining jobs. ?The controversy of the issue was largely excised from the story ? in fact sulfite mining is never specifically mentioned. ?The conflict between the?tourism (Boundary Waters) and mining industries was barely touched on. They still used my footage but only a couple of shots. ?Alberto has since approached the network about airing the original, longer story on the CBS Weekend Evening broadcast this coming weekend. I will post something when I know more.

Alberto’s a great guy ? he went to Macalaster College and ever since has had an affinity for all things Minnesota, and takes any opportunity he can to spend more time there.


12 2011


To the following people who made our May shoot a reality, either through financial support or donation of services:

  • Professor Alan Brew at Northland College?and his “Pens and Paddles in the North Woods” students: Abby, Elise,?Katherine,?Matt, and Maureen.
  • My crew: Josh Borchardt, Nathan Oliver, and?Brad Studstrup, who volunteered their time and hard work.
  • Steve Piragis of Piragis Northwoods Company, for donation of canoe rental, paddles, PFDs, bear can, and generous discount on purchases.
  • Greg Seitz and Paul Danicic at?Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, for their endorsement, encouragement, and financial support.
  • Ann Schwaller and The US Forest Service, for letting us shoot inside Superior National Forest!
  • Byron and Alis Olsen, Steven Scollard, Bob Countryman, Mark Nolan, Jeffrey Anderson, David Roloff, Hans Gregersen, Thomas Warth,?Rocky Barker, Chris Jensen,?Carolyn Sundquist,?Mark Knox,?Hank Roberts,?Sharon Kaufman,?Tom Pinkerton, Timothy Fie, and others who wish to remain anonymous, for financial contributions.

Look for footage from this important section of the film soon! ?And thank you, thank you, thank you all who helped make it happen.


"Pens and Paddles" class in the BWCA




08 2011