Thanks to everyone who has contributed, we have raised enough to edit the film! But we still have other expenses, such as making a website for the film, and making the DVD Special Features, including an illustrated lesson on bear facts and bear biology for teachers to use in their classrooms. So your help is still needed -- and very much appreciated!
Short & SweetRIVER OF BEARS celebrates the brown bears of Alaska's McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge. Filmed in 2011 and 2013, this was the first wildlife film ever made specifically for a full-dome (planetarium) theater.
Now we are making a longer version for a regular screen, so people all around the world can see it! We think wildlife films like this are one of the best ways to help people understand why it is important to preserve and protect special places like McNeil. This is especially important right now, when many of Alaska's wildlife sanctuaries and refuges are in danger of being opened to development.
100 copies of the RIVER OF BEARS DVD and 5% of all contributions will be donated to the Friends of McNeil River, whose purpose is to preserve the Sanctuary’s bears and their habitat.
TIMELINE: We will begin to edit RIVER OF BEARS in July 2014. We expect the film to be completed in late September or early October. At that time, we will manufacture the DVDs, and as soon as we receive them, we will send them to the supporters of this campaign.
Please visit our River of Bears Facebook page for updates on when the DVD will be available, as well as short clips from the film as we are editing it.
The Story of RIVER OF BEARSEvery summer, at the peak of the salmon run, more brown bears congregate at Alaska's McNeil River State Game Sanctuary & Refuge than anywhere else in the world. From 2011 to 2013, Open Lens partnered with Dr. Travis Rector and the University of Alaska Anchorage Planetarium to create a full-dome film about this remarkable place. This was the first wildlife film ever produced for a planetarium screen. RIVER OF BEARS, the resulting 25-minute film, has been a sold-out success at the UAA Planetarium and Visualization Theater, and it’s now starting to be distributed to other full-dome theaters. As a filmmaker, it’s extremely satisfying to stand at the back of a planetarium dome and watch the audience members turning their heads in every direction, excitedly pointing things out to each other, as they explore the film on the huge 6-meter full-dome screen.
The problem is, there are very few full-dome theaters, and we want to share RIVER OF BEARS with as many people as we possibly can. But making a flat-screen version of a full-dome film is not a simple re-processing of files. The show must be completely re-edited, using different software. The long cuts that work on a dome (which give audiences a chance to look around and explore their 360-degree environment) seem dull on a flat television or monitor. So we’ll be rebuilding the film from scratch. We will be making it longer, expanding it from 25 minutes to 40. We will add extended lyrical scenes that allow viewers to indulge in the stunning landscape and creatures of McNeil River. We’ll also be able to go into greater detail about the history of the McNeil River viewing program and how individual bears have taught the staff amazing things about bear behavior.
DVD Special FeaturesIn addition to the new version of RIVER OF BEARS, the DVD will have several special features. It will include a short video about filming in bear country, and an educational sub-menu with resources for teachers, including a captioned slide show with behavioral and biological facts about bears. So this new version of RIVER OF BEARS won’t simply be a DVD version of the original: it will be in many ways a totally new beast.
What We Need & What You Get
The filming for RIVER OF BEARS was done in 2011 and 2013, so all
the costs remaining are for post-production. This includes editing,
writing and recording the narration, adding more music, designing and
manufacturing the DVD (menu, cover, copyright, duplication, etc.), and
then creating a trailer and website for the film, to let people know
it's out there. This adds up to about $18,000, if we do everything as cheaply as possible (which means, doing everything ourselves, which is the Open Lens way of life).
Break It Down:
Our real goal is not to raise $8,000, but to raise $22,500, so that we can receive $18,000. Here's why.
First, here is how Indiegogo campaigns work: If we make our goal, Indiegogo keeps 4% of it. Not bad. If we don't make our goal, they keep 9%. Ouch. This encourages us to set our campaign goal lower than what we actually need, just in case. And there are other fees:
1) PayPal charges about 3%.
2) 5% of all contributions will go to Friends of McNeil River. (This is a good thing. More on this organization below.)
3) Then there is the cost of perks and shipping. Even though this takes some funds away from the production, we are delighted to be able to send our supporters these presents.
So, for every $1,000 raised, about $800 goes toward making RIVER OF BEARS.
Or, in other numbers: We must raise $22,500 to receive $18,000.
We are offering several perks -- TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTES! -- that we are very excited about.
1) Explore the McNeil River Sanctuary with 360-degree videos! Four videos filmed in 360-degree technology will be posted for you to explore from your computer. Just move your cursor, and you will move around the McNeil River Sanctuary. We are setting up this private web page just for contributors. Any level of contribution will get you a link to this page!
2) RIVER OF BEARS Ringtone: Yes, that's right, everyone will be sent a ringtone of roaring bears and screaming eagles recorded at McNeil River. Instructions for installing this ringtone on your iPhone -- should you dare -- will be included. (At this time, the ringtone will be processed only for iPhones.)
3) Grateful acknowledgment on the RIVER OF BEARS website. We couldn't make this film without you.
CONTRIBUTORS OF $30 AND ABOVE will receive, with their DVDs, a packet of postcards made from photos taken at McNeil River by Director Jonathan VanBallenberghe and Executive Producer Dr. Travis Rector. This packet will include our cover image of the bear with a fish emerging from McNeil River.
Other perks, at different levels of contribution, include:
ALASKAN MOOSE: A Journey with Giants The Anchorage Daily News called this "the greatest ode-to-moose film ever made." We like to think of this as a compliment. You can watch a trailer at: alaskanmoosemovie.com.
McNeil River Panorama A beautiful 25-inch by 9-inch panoramic photo of the McNeil River, showing 20 bears! This will be printed in a limited edition of 40 (numbered and signed by the director, Jonathan VanBallenberghe) on high-quality Giclee paper.
And an extra-special perk for people living in or near Anchorage, Alaska:
Private Screening of RIVER OF BEARS -- original full-dome version -- at the University of Alaska Anchorage Planetarium!!! A private screening for up to 64 people, hosted by Dr. Travis Rector, Professor of Astronomy at the UAA. Come be surrounded by bears! And bring all your friends! It's the next best thing to visiting McNeil River, and you don't have to take a float plane. (Sorry, transportation is definitely not included.)
We now live in Tucson, Arizona. But one of us -- Director Jonathan VanBallenberge -- was born in Anchorage and raised in Juneau, Alaska, and goes back to those places every chance he gets. Being commissioned by the University of Alaska Anchorage to make the full-dome version of RIVER OF BEARS was a dream job. But this devotion to Alaska's magnificent landscapes and wildlife comes with a strong desire to protect and preserve these places and creatures. It seems like there are always threats to wildlife and habitat, everywhere in the world, which is why it's so important to us to remind people that animals and the places they live need to be protected. Right now, Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell is attempting to change existing regulations to make Alaskan wildlife refuges, sanctuaries, and other protected areas easier to develop. To learn more about some of the current threats to Alaska's refuges and wildlife sanctuaries, we recommend the articles by Rick Sinnot published in the Alaska Dispatch on April 23 & 24, 2014.
One of our goals is to support the Friends of McNeil River, whose primary purpose is to preserve the Sanctuary’s bears and their habitat. This campaign, and our film, will support them in several ways:
1) 5% of all contributions will go to the Friends of McNeil River.
2) We will be creating, gratis, 360-degree videos for Friends of McNeil River to put on their website.
3) Friends of McNeil River will be given 100 copies of the RIVER OF BEARS DVD and lots and lots of postcards, to use in any way they wish.
If you wish to learn more about the Friends of McNeil River, you can visit their website at mcneilbears.org.
Thanks for your support!
Lastly, we'd like to thank the funders of the original full-dome RIVER OF BEARS: The Rasmuson Foundation, Friends of McNeil River, The Anchorage Museum, Olé, and Members of the UAA Planetarium and Visualization Center.