On Jan. 14, video storyteller Mark Dawson’s short film “White RiverStories” was featured at the Indiana Forest Alliance’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival that took place at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in Bloomington, Indiana.
Mark Dawson began his filmmaking career at AU as a mass communications major. Since graduating in 1989, Dawson has worked as a producer and director, as well as cinematographer, camera operator and editor on most of his projects.
For seven years, Dawson worked as a television photographer and editor, earning 17 awards in total. He spent two and a half years working as a producer for a Nashville, Tennessee film and video production company.
Since 1998, Dawson has been honored with Telly, ADDY, Aurora, Angel and Ava awards as well as two Regional Emmy Awards and three nominations. He served as cinematographer for the acclaimed documentary “A Ripple of Hope,” which was screened at several festivals across the United States, including the Newport Beach Film Festival, where Dawson represented the film.
“I’ve shot across the United States and around the world,” says Dawson. “My current full time position is video storyteller with the AU Office of Communication & Marketing. In August, I will have worked at AU producing videos for 20 years.”
Dawson’s inspiration for his recently featured short film, “White RiverStories,” was to make a difference in the fight to protect the White River in Madison County.
In the interview-based short film, two people reflect on what the White River means to them and the treasures it has to offer. The film shows the connection it maintains with its local citizens who live near the White River and who have delighted in its beauty for many years.
Both “White RiverStories” and its “sister” film, “White RiverScapes,” were self-funded by Dawson, who owns video production and editing equipment and was able to produce the project at very little cost.
They also feature the award-winning Native American flute music of Andersontown Pow Wow regular Douglas Blue Feather.
Dan Valleskey, president of Friends of the White River, was one of Dawson’s interviewees. “He offered to take me out on the river to do some filming from his canoe,” says Dawson. “I took him up on the offer and he turned out to be a wonderful interview subject.”
He met his second interviewee, Michael Pace, at the Andersontown Pow Wow, where he’s served as arena Director and emcee. “I was looking for a Native American perspective on river protection and he graciously agreed,” says Dawson.
The “White RiverStories” project began in the Spring of 2015 and is Dawson’s first endeavor into activist filmmaking.
Talk in the community of damming the White River to make a reservoir has been a discussion for several years.
Dawson felt that he had to take action through his filmmaking skills, and thus produced his short film.
“At its core, the film was created to stop construction of the Mounds Lake Reservoir, which would have destroyed our beautiful free-flowing White River,” says Dawson.
The Indiana Forest Alliance Wild & Scenic Film Festival is a partnership within those two organizations, IFA and WSFF. Wild & Scenic Film Festival is a well-known environmentally focused film festival in Nevada City, CA.
They offer a program called Wild & Scenic On Tour whereby local groups, such as IFA, can partner with WSFF to show a section of films screened at WSFF at a local event. This is what IFA did with the addition of four Indiana-based films.
Dawson’s film, among others, was part of a one-night event. There were no awards at the Bloomington event; however, at the end of the final film of the evening, all of the Indiana-based filmmakers were called to the stage to receive recognition.
“I was honored to be included with the three other Indiana-based films in the IFA Wild & Scenic Film Festival,” he says. “I started being an active supporter of the Indiana Forest Alliance in the Fall of 2017 due to their Save Yellowwood campaign. I produced a short video for the Save Yellowwood campaign and also provided some technical support for the IFA Wild & Scenic Film Festival.”
When the filming process commenced, the shoots for both segments in “White RiverStories” turned into some memorable adventures.
“Getting out on the river with Dan Valleskey, his son and our friend and kayaker Brent Hagan, was a wonderful time,” says Dawson.
“Since that first canoe shoot, I’ve joined them on other occasions just paddling the river for fun,” he says. “The shoot at Mounds State Park with Michael Pace was also fantastic. The afternoon light on the river was gorgeous and being able to film Mike in his Delaware tribal regalia as he walked the trails was a very special experience.”
Dawson’s fight and passion to preserve the White River stays steady in hopes to avoid the reservoir and keep the river in Madison County.