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By Jayme Dittmar
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About this project

 

We are a small grassroots media team who have joined together to create a film about the Road to Ambler proposal in the Northern Alaska Brooks Range.

Last summer, we completed a 350-mile packraft expedition and filmed the Brooks Range as it has never been seen before. This year we are going back to complete the story. 

 

The Brooks Range is North America’s most rugged wilderness and one of Earth’s largest roadless areas. In 2013, the State of Alaska proposed building a 225-mile industrial access road to facilitate the construction of an open-pit copper mine near the village of Ambler. This would be the largest road development project in Alaska since the Dalton Highway, built to facilitate the construction of the pipeline. 

The Ambler Road would parallel six subsistence communities, cross 161 rivers and streams (two of them designated Wild and Scenic Rivers) and pass through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. The proposed Ambler Mining District serves as habitat for salmon, whitefish and sheefish as well as a crucial migration corridor for Alaska's largest caribou herd, the Western Arctic.

Simultaneously, society’s demand for copper increases and the Ambler Mining District is estimated to hold one of the richest copper mineral deposits in the world. Trilogy Metals, a main stakeholder of the road, believes that the road and mine will bring well paying jobs, training and educational opportunities to a region of high unemployment with few other economic prospects to local villages while providing for a growing worldwide demand. The Bureau of Land Management is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment, the first step in building a road to Ambler.

THE AMBLER MINING DISTRICT | The remote bornite mining camp located outside of Kobuk is operational for three months every summer and employs over 100 people to drill for core samples and produce environmental assessments of the area.

SUBSISTENCE LIVING | Paving Tundra will actively address the potential sacrifice of subsistence lifestyles to meet the demands of a larger society dependent on copper. 

Paving Tundra will be a 30-minute documentary that follows several characters embodying their own definitions of progress in the heart of Alaska’s Brooks Range. Our audience will be brought to the home of Inupiaq elder and subsistence resident Harry Douglas, who is fighting for his culture in the village of Ambler, where rapid modernization has already played a significant toll on traditional livelihood. We will spend time with 21-year-old Iri Hailstone, who is raising her one-year-old child while living in her family’s fish camp. She survives off the land as her ancestors have for centuries, and will eventually teach her son to do the same. We will also take the audience into the Ambler Mining District, where William Patterson, one of the most respected young hunters in the village of Kobuk, reveals his story as a machine operator in the mining industry. Trilogy Metals has named William the caretaker of the mining site while also offering him benefits, including a college scholarship. Additional interviews will feature the President of Trilogy, more Iñupiaq and Athabascan tribal members and other stakeholders. We will challenge audiences to examine their own concept of progress as we reveal the environmental complexities of the Brooks Range that resonate on an international scale.

THE NARRATOR | Seth Kantner, is a homesteader of the Brooks Range and a best-selling author. His writing and photographs have appeared in Outside, National Geographic, Orion and the New York Times. According to Mark Kamine of the New York Times Book Review, Seth’s novel, Ordinary Wolves, “has scope and style to match its subjects, the wide-open spaces of Alaska and youth.”

Last year we packrafted 350 miles into the Brooks Range to film and live in six of the Iñupiaq and Athabascan villages. We attended village council meetings and rites of passage, wrecked gear, camped with bears and mosquitos, hunted caribou and slept in fish camps. Some nights we didn't sleep. Some nights we questioned where the next day’s food would come from. We watched the sunset at 2am and sunrise at 4am. We wondered what progress meant in this place that felt isolated from everything we knew. And we filmed it all, seeking to capture Northern Alaska as its never been seen before. This critical first expedition helped us find characters and capture the landscape of one of Earth’s most remote places.

We need more time to film in the Brooks Range to develop this complex story of progress. This year we will be spending time at the exploratory mining site, following several of our pivotal characters, and develop the film's narration on the ground with Seth Kantner. 

 

 

 

 

 

JAYME DITTMAR | Director

Jayme is a national award winning filmmaker and producer. She has directed and created content for Montana PBS, the National Park Service, the Wilderness Institute and Teton Gravity Research.

TOM ATTWATER | Cinematographer 

Tom is a photographer and filmmaker living in Missoula, Montana, where he received his BFA in Media Arts and Digital Video Production from the University of Montana. When he’s not behind a camera, he spends his time working as a river guide and backcountry instructor. 

LANE BROWN | Cinematographer 

Lane is an artist and an award winning documentary filmmaker. He grew up exploring the rivers and mountains of Montana while earning his BFA in Digital Filmmaking. He is focused on sharing unique stories through his art

JAMES Q MARTIN | Producer | Expedition Photographer

“Q” is a national award winning filmmaker, providing 20 years' experience shooting film and photos in over 30 different countries, spanning 6 continents. Deeply rooted in the outdoor industry, Q crafts authentic, story-driven, supporting content seen in international film festivals, network cable television, and social media.

KRISTIN GATES | Logistic Coordinator  

Kristin is a long distance hiker, dog musher, wilderness EMT, and writer. She has trekked 10,000+ miles on long distance trails since the age of 18, paddled the length of the Yukon River, and is best known for becoming the first woman to traverse Alaska's Arctic Brooks Range solo on a 1,000 mile route. 

AATCHA UQTUNIQ | Morale Canine Unit

Aatcha was born and raised in the village of Shungnak in the Brooks Range. We adopted her in as part of the crew while the Paving Tundra team was temporarily living in the Cleveland family fish camp on our first expedition. She continues to provide moral support for the team while in production.

We have partnered with the outdoor industry, several Alaskan artists and other "friends of Paving Tundra" to offer you a wide variety of award levels to choose from. From hammocks and ulus to sled dog rides and other inclusive documentary experiences, we hope you can find something that calls to you and inspires you to join our campaign.  

 

Risks and challenges

Filming in the far reaches of the Brooks Range above the Arctic Circle is challenging simply by its geographical isolation. Then you add the realities of local politics, crazy weather and the vast distances between villages, it can quickly feel overwhelming. We are aware of our challenges and how to overcome them. This is our second field season and we have gathered terabytes of footage and developed our experience in how to navigate this area to work effectively. WE LOVE THE PHYSICAL CHALLENGES OF THIS PROJECT, and the process it takes to navigate creatively. We now have the contacts and the connections with the people on the ground as well. With our combined strengths, we will be able to finish gathering the footage we need to produce this film.

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    MOUNTAIN WINDS

    A personal thank you, shouted out from the Kobuk River into the mountain winds of the Brooks Range!

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    DELIVERY FROM THE ARCTIC CIRCLE

    We will be sending you a premium print post card from the Arctic Circle with a photo from our expedition photographer to say THANK YOU!

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    KLEAN KANTEEN + ALPINE START COFFEE

    Get stoked for your next outdoor adventure with coffee from ALPINE START & store it in a new 16oz KLEAN KANTEEN insulated Tumbler! Klean's stainless steel Insulated Tumbler 16oz will quickly become your go-to cup. Alpine Start is an Instant Coffee That Actually Tastes Good™, made from high quality, high altitude arabica beans.

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    SWALLOWED BY THE GREAT LAND

    Like Alaska? If the land, wildlife and people of this place fascinate you, this is a book you need to add to your list. Seth Kantner was born in a sod igloo in the Brooks Range and will captivate you with his collection of short stories of living in a place that some call desolate, but he calls home.  Seth will be narrating our film, Paving Tundra and also signing your copy of the Mountaineers Books - "Swallowed by the Great Land" to send your way.

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    PROPS + DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

    At this level you will see your name in the credits, our website and our social media channels under special thanks. You will also be one of the first to watch the film from the comforts of your home. We are sending you a copy after its film festival tour.

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    KLEAN - KEEP IT COOL

    Be one of the first 6 to donate at this level and we will send you a Klean Kanteen Growler you can fill with beer, wine, cold brew coffee, kombucha or any other favorite beverage. So good, that your drink will stay iced for up to 5 days!

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    FORGED FOR LIFE - ADVENTURE OFFICE BAG

    Work hard, play hard, and stay organized. The new 2018 Mountainsmith Adventure Office shoulder bag has all the convenient pockets to keep both your electronics and adventure gear safe and easy to find. Highly recommended for the businessman/woman who can't quite commit to the briefcase or the outdoor dirtbag who wants to up their professional game. Also at this level, you will see your name in the credits, our website and our social media channels under special thanks. You will also be one of the first to watch the film from the comforts of your home. We are sending you a copy after its film festival tour.

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    PATAGONIA BACKPACK+1 MONTH VOKE TAB

    We are sending you the Patagonia Arbor Grande Backpack 32L, the largest of their heritage-style packs built with all the right features to elegantly organize your day. Inside you will find a month's worth of VOKE tab vitalizing focus and energy supplements (one Voke tab a day).

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    CLIF BAR ADVENTURE PACK

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    PATAGONIA BACKPACK+16 CUPS OF COFFEE

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    OSPREY BACKPACK + ALPINE START COFFEE

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    DRAWN TO THE ARCTIC+ALPINE START COFFEE

    We are sending you a never before seen 17x22" print from luminary artist-in-residence, Jeremy Collins's, most recent trip to the Arctic and a month's supply of coffee from Alpine Start, an Instant Coffee That Actually Tastes Good™, roasted from high quality, high altitude arabica beans.

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    PLAY DIRECTOR - BROOCH

    Your contribution is invaluable, and so is your insight. What do you want to know from our characters about this issue? Submit five questions you would like us to ask one of our characters in our second filming session this summer. The first person to donate at this level receives a specially designed brooch from Boreal Jewellery, a young talented Canadian artist who uses tundra as her inspiration source.

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    PLAY DIRECTOR - BROOKS RANGE PRINT

    Your contribution is invaluable, and so is your insight. What do you want to know from our characters about the Ambler Road? Submit five questions you would like us to ask one of our characters in our second filming session this fall. You will also be receiving a one-of-a-kind beautiful Brooks Range print on high gloss metal, after you choose from a selection of professional photos from our expedition photographer.

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    ALASKAN WOODEN SNOWSHOES

    Be the first to donate at this level and we will send you the gift of winter travel - a pair of classic wooden snowshoes from Clyde Risdon, our favorite dogsled and snowshoe builder. We only have one pair of these, pick em' up.

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    LEAD DOG - ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

    You are leading the way in making this film a reality. We will take you out for an unforgettable afternoon dog mushing with one of the stars of National Geographic Channel's "Life Below Zero." Jessie Holmes and a team of Alaska Huskies will give you the ride of your life, followed by a kennel tour and salmon dinner caught from the fish wheel served around the fire. Don't like snow? That's okay! We can go out in summer as well with a wheeled cart. You pay travel, we take care of the rest. Your name will also appear in the credits as Associate Producer.

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    CARIBOU - ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

    Join the heard, our film crew, at the Paving Tundra world premiere (TBA). This includes red carpet tickets to the show and dinner with the crew. You pay travel, we take care of the rest. Your name appears in credits as Associate Producer.

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    • DOG MUSHING WITH LIFE BELOW ZERO PERSONALITY JESSIE HOLMES
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    GRIZZLY BEAR - EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

    The grizzly bear is at the top of the food chain in Alaska. To show our endless gratitude let's work together to plan your ideal Alaska Brooks Range adventure weekend, fishing, dog mushing, ski plane, packrafting or a variety!

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    • + ALL AWARDS AT $5000 LEVEL
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    KLEAN - KEEP IT HOT

    Receive Klean's best selling stainless steel Kanteen, a wide 20oz, that will keep hot drinks hot for 14 hours and your cold drinks cold for 40 hours. We only have 12 of these. Get one while its hot!

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    HAMMOCKS

    Siesta in style in the Therm-A-Rest Slacker Hammock. With 100% ripstop nylon fabric, it is durable, dries fast and can be packed down to fit in almost any pocket as a lightweight sleeping option for adventure on the go.

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    • THERM-A-REST SLACKER HAMMOCK
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    TUNDRA NAP

    Or lay low in the tundra with a compact, insulated NeoAir® Venture Therm-A-Rest mattress. Comfortable enough for the frontcountry and lightweight enough to take with you in the backcountry.

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    BUILT TO GO FAR

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    CULTURE CAMP

    In Alaskan native culture you cannot receive without giving. 15% of this amount will be donated toward the Allakaket culture camp, where children learn Athabascan subsistence skills and values every year in the summer. As a special thank you, the first five to donate will receive a homemade Iñupiaq ulu, the traditional salmon skinning knife.

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    WINTER IS COMING

    We will fill the freezer of the first person to donate at this level. They will receive a 10 lb. box of wild Alaska sockeye salmon containing 20 individually flash frozen, vacuum-packed, boneless portions, harvested sustainably, provided by the Salmon Sisters.

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    • SALMON SISTERS FILL YOUR FREEZER
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