Thursday, February 17, 2011

Telluride's Film, "Bag It" heads to PBS

Click Here to watch the "Bag It" trailer

From the Mountainfilm screen to PBS

Reel Thing Productions and Felt Soul Media films headed for Public Broadcasting Channel

By Katie Klingsporn
Associate Editor
Published: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 6:08 AM CST
Last May, the documentary “Bag It,” which was filmed, edited and produced by Telluride’s Suzan Beraza and a crew of locals, premiered at the Mountainfilm Festival to a jam-packed Michael D. Palm Theatre.

The film won the Audience Choice award, and its popularity quickly blossomed — suddenly it was hitting the festival circuit hard, traveling from Amsterdam to Hawaii, playing for scores of audiences and grabbing handfuls of awards.

And now, less than a year since its debut, the film about plastic and its effects on our lives is headed for PBS — which will fling open the doors of exposure for the home-grown documentary.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Beraza said. The appeal of the Public Broadcasting Channel, she said, is its reach — millions of people watch PBS each week. The channel is home to well-loved programs like “Antiques Roadshow,” “NOVA,” and “Sesame Street” and its programming encompasses everything from documentaries to history and culture.

And “Bag It” isn’t the only Telluride film headed for PBS.

Ben Knight and Travis Rummel’s film, “Red Gold,” which premiered at Mountainfilm in 2008 — also to a brimming audience at the Palm — will be featured on PBS as a FRONTLINE documentary. The hour-long version, which has been re-edited by FRONTLINE and re-titled “Alaska Gold,” will show sometime this spring or summer. Knight and Rummel’s 2010 film, “Eastern Rises,” has also been raking in accolades on the festival circuit.

It’s been a big year for both filmmakers, proving that despite Telluride’s teensy-ness, it cultivates talent that contends out there in the big world.

With the “Bag It” crew, getting the film on PBS has been a goal for some time — they all grew up on the station, Beraza said, and recognize it as a crucial disseminator of information. Offers from cable channels to air the film had trickled in, but the folks at Reel Thing Productions opted to pursue PBS. They started working with a distribution specialist researching avenues to get on the station, began applying and were accepted.

A 56-minute version of the film — which explores the throw-away world of single-use plastic bags, bottles, packaging and cups — will be aired on PBS starting on April 18.

The way it works: the film is in the national PBS schedule, and individual stations can choose whether or not to pick it up for programming. Reel Thing Productions will have more information in late March in terms of what stations have picked it up and when it will play, but already know that it will be played by stations in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and, of course, Rocky Mountain PBS.

It’s the latest chapter in a whirlwind year speckled with awards, screenings and buzz for the film. Since its premiere at Mountainfilm, “Bag It” has played to audiences from Denver to Hawaii. It gathered awards at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in California, the Dutch Environmental Film Festival in Amsterdam and the Waimea Ocean Film Festival in Hawaii. It’s been screened in schools, mentioned in reports in USA Today and CBS and it’s for sale at Whole Foods.

“It’s just kind of wild because we just never thought that it would have this sort of momentum,” Beraza said.

And it’s not just plaques and statuettes; Beraza said they receive incredible feedback from audience members who tell them that the documentary changed their lives, spurred them to rethink habits and even inspired them to push for legislation.

“It’s just really gone well,” she said. “It’s sort of a shocker for me.”

Rummel and Knight of Felt Soul Media, meanwhile, have watched the popularity of their 2010 film, “Eastern Rises” — a funny and beautiful fly-fishing adventure set in the remote reaches of Russia’s Kamchaka peninsula — explode.

The film, which has been seen by audiences from British Columbia to Georgia, Maine, New York City and Belgium, has nabbed significant accolades this year. It took home awards from the Boulder Adventure Film Festival, Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Rossland Mountain Film Festival and Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival. Perhaps most notably, it won the best Mountain Film Sport award at Banff International Film Festival — a festival renowned for the quality of its adventure films.

“Winning Banff blew my mind,” Knight said. “I just never imagined that a nerdy fishing adventure could rise above all the big-budget mainstream sport films like skiing, climbing and mountain biking.”

Right now, “Eastern Rises” is on tour with both Mountainfilm and Banff, which means it’s being seen by audiences in U.S. cities nearly every week. More than 100,000 people are expected to see it in theaters this year.

Meanwhile, Felt Soul is waiting to see “Red Gold,” hit PBS in the new version, “Alaska Gold.” The film is about an open pit gold and copper mine proposed to be dug at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, a wild place populated with incredible salmon runs, grizzly bears and a culture that depends on the health of its rivers for survival.

Knight said they have been waiting for some time for this to happen, and “when it finally hits the air, it’ll have a massive reach … millions of people will see it, and it’ll be incredible exposure for the Pebble Mine issue.”

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