Cultivating the Wild: William Bartram's Travels
The Story Of America's First Great Environmentalist
More than two centuries have passed since the publication, in 1791, of botanist William Bartram's Travels. Many consider the book the first great example of American literature. Travels fostered the development of a truly American strain of natural history, transcending scientific boundaries to deeply influence the writers and intellectuals of the time.
From 1773 to 1777 William Bartram traveled across the Southeast, from North Carolina south to Florida and west to the Mississippi. Far more than a mere catalog of the region’s flora and fauna, Bartram observed both the landscape and early American society. A Pennsylvania Quaker considered the “South’s Thoreau," Bartram possessed a reverence for all aspects of nature.
Wolves, deer, bears, panthers, and alligators populated the landscapes of Bartram’s Travels. He canoed along sparkling rivers, traversed savannas decorated by vast expanses of wildflowers, and marveled at birds everywhere, noting them as “the study of priests and philosophers."
Bartram’s writings and observations, however, were not limited to cataloging plants and animals. Travels contains some of the earliest descriptions of the culture of both the Cherokee and Creek Indians. A moral visionary, he wrote on the lives of the south’s Native Americans, countering the notion of the “savage” in need of civilization.
The documentary film Cultivating The Wild: William Bartram’s Travels is both a scholarly examination of the scientist’s life and work as well as a meditation on what has come to pass in the more than two hundred and twenty years since Travels was written. Today, the south’s natural resources suffer mightily from neglect and exploitation. The film, by focusing on both Bartram and select “modern day Bartrams," the people today who continue his work and philosophies, will make a committed stand for our living but vanishing world.
Who Are We? Producer/Director/Editor Eric Breitenbach is one of Florida’s most well known documentary photographers and filmmakers. He is a Senior Professor at The Southeast Center for Photographic Studies at Daytona State College. He has directed films for National Geographic Television, The Sundance Channel, national and regional PBS, and a variety of museums and non-profit organizations.
Producer Dorinda G. Dallmeyer directs the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program at the University of Georgia. A native of Macon, Georgia, she holds advanced degrees in both earth science and law. At UGA, she teaches courses in environmental dispute resolution and marine environmental ethics. Currently she serves as the president of the Bartram Trail Conference. She edited one of the most highly regarded books on William Bartram: Bartram's Living Legacy: The Travels and the Nature of the South, which the American Library Association called “… a timeless book… a reminder of what the world has lost and a tocsin to save what is left…”
Director of Photography Scott Auerbach is a cinematographer and editor with nearly 30 years' experience in broadcast and non-broadcast production. His award-winning work spans multiple genres, including documentary television, advertising, children's educational television and corporate communications. From 2008 to 2014, he served as a DP and editor on the nationally syndicated civil rights documentary series Andrew Young Presents.
A self-described 'lifelong photography nerd,' he graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology's world-renowned Photographic Illustration program, majoring in still and motion picture photography. Based in Atlanta, he is known for his keen sense of light and broad curiosity. His clients include several television networks and many Fortune 500 companies.
When will the film be finished?
Schedule of Filming, Editing, Distribution of production
Production Part I (completed, Fall 2015)
To determine the narrative and scope of the documentary, preliminary interviews were conducted with the following noteworthy Bartram scholars, authors, and naturalists.
Dr. Casey Blanton - Professor Emeritus, Daytona State College
Dr. Kathryn E. Holland Braund – Hollifield Professor of History, Auburn University
Sam Carr – Chair, Putnam County Bartram Trail
Dorinda G. Dallmeyer - Director, Environmental Ethics Certificate Program, University of Georgia
Dr. Thomas Hallock - Associate Professor, University of South Florida
Dr. Nancy Hoffmann - Department of English, Villanova University
Andrea Wulf - Garden writer, New York and Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times
Production, Part II
(Winter 2016 - Spring 2017)
During this time the production will document the work, lives and philosophies of scientists, naturalists, artists, and scholars, filmed on location in and around the Bartram Trail in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The efforts is to prompt viewers to consider what has been gained and lost in the 225 years since Travels was first published. During this location production phase, the following individuals will be profiled:
- James Holland, environmentalist, activist, former Altmaha Riverkeeper-
- Philip Juras - Artist and essayist, Athens, GA Author, The Southern Frontier: Landscapes Inspired by Bartram's "Travels"
- Dr. J. Drew Lanham - Professor of Wildlife Biology, Clemson University,
- Janisse Ray - Author, naturalist, and environmental activist, Reidsville, Georgia
The filmmakers have also completed a significant amount of drone filming of the landscape, several examples of which can be seen on the film's website: www.cultivatingthewild.com
Post-production will take place in Florida and Georgia and includes dialogue editing, design and creation of animations, titles and graphics illustrating the narratives and passages of Travels, sound mix, technical post
Distribution - (Fall 2017)
WJCT, the flagship PBS station of Jacksonville, Florida, has indicated an interest in being the presenting station of the film and upon acquisition will distribute the film though PBS networks in both Florida and Georgia. You can view letters of interest here.
Acquisition by colleges, universities, libraries and museums will complete the distribution phase of the documentary. Copyright will be shared by the producers and major funders of the film. Copies of the scholar interviews will be housed at the Bartram Trail Conference archives.
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Risks and challenges
It is becoming more and more difficult to produce independent documentaries to a broadcast level. Time, cost and equipment (we're shooting in 4K) have been the biggest hurdles. We're fortunate to have dedicated producers and a great crew. We were able to raise enough money to complete half of production and with our Kickstarter initiative we're confident that we'll finish the film.
While many good documentaries are eventually completed, distribution also remains a challenge. The good news for Cultivating the Wild is that the producers have already broadcast films on PBS stations in both Florida and Georgia, and those stations have already indicated strong interest in broadcasting Cultivating the Wild.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)