Friday, August 28, 2015

Welcome to the Alaska State Fair!

Greetings from beautiful Palmer, Alaska, where the Alaska State Fair opened yesterday. There's an old saying that if you don't like the weather in Alaska, wait five minutes, and it will change. That saying proved itself yesterday, as the skies changed every five minutes, from a glorious sunrise, to thunder and rain, to mild and sunny, to cold and wildly windy, to, finally, one of the world's most spectacular sunsets, followed by a late-night treat: the Northern Lights. Temperatures in Palmer plunged to 34 degrees overnight, but today dawned bright and clear, and we're ready for a spectacular day at the Fair.

We're back again in the historic Wineck Barn (just inside the Red Gate), where we are showing Alaska Far Away daily at 12:30 and 5:30 p.m., and our other Matanuska Colony films (including the popular Where the River Matanuska Flows) daily at 12:30. Stop by to watch our films, check out the fantastic displays by the Palmer Historical Society (more on those in another post), or just say hello.

The sweet peas are already 8 feet tall, and smell heavenly as you walk by them to enter the Barn.

On opening day we were delighted to greet visitors from all over, but were particularly pleased that so  many members of Matanuska Colony families stopped by to chat. Earl Wineck, son of colonist Ed Wineck, who built the Wineck Barn, came up from Anchorage for his annual visit with us. It is always a pleasure to sit down with Earl and hear his stories of growing up in the Colony, as well as his subsequent adventures throughout Alaska and the world. We look forward to his return next week to take part in Senior Joke and Storytelling Day in the Wineck Barn.
Earl Wineck and his wife Rebecca with Palmer Historical Society president Sheri Hamming and her daughter Samantha (above), and with Joanie Juster (below)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Happy 80th Anniversary, Matanuska Colony!

This weekend families are gathering in Palmer, Alaska for Colony Days, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Matanuska Colony.

Twenty years ago, in June 1995, we traveled to Palmer to begin principle filming for Alaska Far Away at the 60th anniversary reunion. We filmed people at the Colony Days parade, at the Alaska State Fairgrounds, in the historic Wineck Barn, in their homes, at the Depot and the Colony Inn in downtown Palmer, and anywhere else we could get them to stand still long enough to share their stories. We filmed them on Friday as they arrived at registration for the weekend's events, at the "mug-up," where they sat and chatted over mugs of coffee, at the big reunion dinner and dance on Saturday night, and at the casual barbecue that ended the weekend's festivities on Sunday.

The interviews and footage we shot during that reunion formed the foundation of Alaska Far Away.  Footage from that 1995 Colony Days parade opens the film (seen in the trailer, here: That weekend introduced us to the heart and soul of the community, and so we have spent the past twenty years making our films and showing them all over the country, to share those stories, and that community, with the world.

This weekend, we salute the folks in Palmer, Alaska, and all others who were part of the bold government experiment that was the Matanuska Colony. We feel privileged to have played a part in preserving their heritage.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On the air again: More broadcasts

There are few things more gratifying to a filmmaker than to show your film to a live audience. We've been blessed with many opportunities for live screenings: film festivals from Alaska to Northern Ireland; community screenings from coast to coast in theatres, schools, colleges, churches, libraries, and historical societies; and, of course, our repeated visits to the Alaska State Fair, where we are honored to show our films several times a day in an historic Matanuska Colony barn. Nothing compares with being able to watch an audience become engrossed in your film, and to answer their questions and discuss it with them afterwards. 

But films can also be shown on television, and Alaska Far Away has developed a life of its own on the public television circuit. Thanks to the good folks at KAKM/Alaska Public Media and American Public Television, Alaska Far Away has now been shown from Miami to Fairbanks, from Maine to Los Angeles, from Bemidji to Austin. Some stations show it over and over again (thank you, ThinkTV in Ohio!), and when we sat down to crunch the numbers, they looked like this:

- 55 public television stations
- in 29 states
- for a total of 335 broadcasts
- to a potential audience of 107,665,518

Those numbers blew us away. That means that a whole lot of people we've never met have been watching Alaska Far Away in the comfort of their own homes. 

Now, remember that "potential audience" means every person in a household with a television set within range of those 55 stations. And, of course, no one show - not even the Superbowl or the Oscars - is watched by absolutely everyone. However, if even 1% of that potential audience has seen our film, that would be well over one million people. We'd be pretty happy with a number like that.

And if you haven't seen it on your local station yet, there are a few more chances coming up in the next week:

Idaho Public Television
Sunday, January 18
11:00 a.m.
Additional broadcast 1/19 at 1:00 a.m.

Oregon Public Television

Sunday, January 18
7:30 p.m.

Colorado Public Television
Saturday, January 24
9:00 p.m.

A full house for the screening at the Moose Lake Public Library in Moose Lake, Minnesota
Glamorous marquee for our film festival debut in Muskegon,, Michigan

Daily screenings in the Wineck Barn at the Alaska State Fair

An overflow audience at Nicolet Technical College in Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Now that we're home from the Alaska State Fair and (mostly) unpacked, we wanted to take a moment to bask in the afterglow, remember the beauty of the Matanuska Valley, and reflect on what it all meant. 

For us, the Alaska State Fair is about more than just the fabulous food, fun, and heart-stoppingly beautiful scenery. As a filmmaker, it gives us a rare and precious opportunity to show our films all day for 12 straight days to live audiences, and watch the audiences as they are moved, entertained, informed, and changed by what they see. We get to talk to our guests and teach them, and learn from them. We are part of the process of preserving and passing along history, and introducing children to the fun and excitement of learning about people who came before them. We are honored to listen to the stories of Alaskans who walk through the door and share their remarkable histories with us. It is a tremendous opportunity that most filmmakers don't get, and we treasure it.

Thank you to the good folks at the Alaska State Fair for bringing us back each year, and for giving us the opportunity to share this history in the magnificent Wineck Barn.
Thank you to the schools who send their third-grade classes to learn about Matanuska Colony history each day during the Fair, and to the students who are so eager to learn.
Thank you to the Palmer Historical Society for doing such a wonderful job of decorating the Barn this year, creating fun and informative exhibits, and providing such great docents to help welcome our guests.
Thank you to Helen Hegener and her family for helping out in the Barn, and for providing vintage farm implements to help bring the story of the colonists to life.
Thank you to Janet Kincaid, Sheri Hamming, Earl and Rebecca Wineck, Wayne Bouwens, Roy Hoskins, and everyone else who helped make our stay at the Fair both possible, and successful. 

And, of course, warm thanks to everyone who came by the Wineck Barn during the Fair to watch our films, share their stories, admire the Barn, and help us keep this community going.