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Backcountry Pictures’ California Forever Set for PBS


Backcountry Pictures’ latest project, California Forever, will air nationally on PBS stations throughout fall 2012, beginning in California in September. California Forever is a two-part television special that eloquently tells the moving story of California’s magnificent state parks from 1864 until present day. The program has won a number of regional and environmental film festival honors in the run up to its broadcast premiere.

Backcountry Pictures is known for telling compelling stories with stunning imagery and high-end production values. Oscar-nominated director-writer David Vassar, Backcountry Pictures co-founder and producer Sally Kaplan and cinematographer Christopher Tufty capture the arresting visuals of California’s state park in two, one-hour documentaries.

Episode one highlights the discovery and creation of California’s state parks system, taking viewers on a scenic, cultural and historical tour of California’s state parks. The second episode presents the very real challenges that the state parks are currently facing, including habitat destruction by overuse, protection of native species at the expense of recreation, reclaiming industrial brown fields to create new parks in dense urban areas and park closures.

California Forever was produced over two years, and comprised more than 70 days of shooting at more than 45 state parks, including complex indoor settings such as Hearst Castle and the California Railroad Museum, as well as vast outdoor spaces like Yosemite and the California Coast. From the majesty of Lake Tahoe to the arid inspiration of the Anza Borrego Desert, the filmmakers bring the vibrant California State Parks to life.

“I am inspired by the natural world and our creative challenge is to infuse passive scenery with character as well as a story that builds through each episode,” says Vassar, whose credits include Discover Hetch Hetchy, the award-winning film hosted/narrated by Harrison Ford, which served as the centerpiece for the Environmental Defense Fund campaign to restore the lost valley in Yosemite National Park. “To have the ability to take this historical and in-depth look at the incomparable California parks system was an amazing opportunity. With California Forever, we hope to encourage viewers to explore the state parks, not just in California, but across the country. There are so many right in your own neighborhood.”

The Backcountry Pictures’ filmmaking team has a history of using the latest production tools and pathways. The team’s 2001 film, Spirit of Yosemite, broke ground in its use of digital technology together with 35mm film, garnering best special venue program at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, as well as screening for two consecutive years at the Cannes International Film Festival for its “outstanding achievement in digital cinema.” In Grand Teton National Park, Backcountry created three “Video Rivers.” The short HD programs are projected up from the basement onto glass panels set in the floor of the visitor center – the audience walks on the screens.

Backcountry captured California Forever with RED cameras in 4K, giving the filmmakers stunning images and a future-proof master. “I believe that we are in an era of a quickly-evolving toolset that will continue to support stories – be they narrative or documentary,” said Vassar. “With each new project, we push the technology a bit closer to the edge. No matter what the resolution or the technology, the star of our programs remains story, story, story.”

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