Date of Submission

Spring 2014

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Peter Hutton

Project Advisor 2

Kelly Reichardt

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Seeing a river full of Pink Salmon pushing their way upstream against shallow swirling currents, affords the individual lucky enough to witness this ancient migration a glimpse into the genius of Nature. Each one of these fish are an empirical miracle. From birth the odds are against them a 1000 to 1. Yet they return in the thousands, crowding banks and pools, before reaching the gravel beds they themselves were born years ago.

It is common knowledge today that Salmon link marine nutrients to the land. A Sitka spruce growing along the banks of a glacier fed river will be composed of Nitrogen that can only be directly linked from the sea. A few decades ago these ideas were challenged. Our understanding of the complexity of ecosystems is rapidly evolving – we live in an incredibly exciting moment.

It is ironic that we live in a period of such enlightenment and such quick destruction. Wild salmon have been reduced to a small fraction of their historic ranges. Many of the rivers that boasted healthy salmon runs in the past are languid, slow, and murky, either because of dams, agriculture, and or development.

My senior project came about spontaneously. I did not plan to shoot a documentary in Alaska. I came to work in Alaska because I was curious about the wilderness. I wanted to see what the world looked like as it had for millions of years before a large civilization moved in. Salmon came to symbolize this journey. As I explored my surroundings I began to film the process.

I shot most of my project at a salmon weir on Redoubt Lake not far from Sitka. Redoubt Lake is a 10 miles long and 2 miles wide and very deep. Sockeye salmon migrate through the lake on their way to spawn in July and August. Earlier in the year a landslide blocked the main inlet stream that feeds into Redoubt Lake blocking the salmon from entering into their spawning grounds. Maggie and Kevin, two hikers, were staying at a cabin that was swept away during the landslide barely escaping with their own lives.

“Weir the Sockeye” provides a glimpse into the day-to-day work involved in managing a weir in southeast Alaska. I juxtapose resource management with shots of the salmon themselves in their quite and mysterious worlds. Maggie and Kevin also tell their story about the landslide that traumatized them. I believe the landslide provides the link needed to empathize with the journey’s these fish endure in their lifetimes.

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On-Campus only

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