Friends of Tamarac host premiere of documentary, 'Rhythms of Refuge'
The 30-minute documentary film, which had its debut at the Fargo Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 13, was shot at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, located in the heart of Becker County, Minnesota.
FARGO, N.D. — Five years, for a half an hour of film.
That's how long it took for filmmakers Chris Walker and Jared Eischen to shoot, edit and compile the footage for the documentary, "Rhythms of Refuge," which had its premiere at the Fargo Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 13.
"I finished the credits this morning," said Walker, who is also an assistant professor with the School of Communication and Journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead .
And it's still not quite done. "This isn't the last cut we'll do, by far," said Jared Eischen, the Fargo-area cinematographer that Walker brought in to work with him on the project.
As he revealed during a question-and-answer session after the film's 7:15 p.m. screening on Thursday, Eischen and Walker are contemplating the possibilities of submitting the documentary for film festival consideration.
"I'd like to," said Eischen, but added that they would probably have to do a shorter cut, as many festivals prefer shorter-length films to fit their format: Thursday night's premiere clocked in at 29 minutes, 30 seconds.
Shot within the confines of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, the 43,000-acre preserve for native flora and fauna is located about 17 miles north and east of Detroit Lakes in Becker County, Minnesota, the film was a labor of love for the two men.
"After we started working on it, for the first two or two-and-a-half years, neither one of us went out there (to Tamarac) without the other one coming along," Walker said. "We very much did it together."
Though Walker has extensive experience as a professional photographer and writer, "Rhythms of Refuge" was his first deep dive into cinematography, he added.
"I had one, one-week class in video," Walker said, "and four years of being friends with this guy (pointing to Eischen)."
So rather than trying to take on the project solo, he enlisted Eischen's help. "It didn't take too much to talk him into it. We've collaborated before," he said.
Though Walker initially relied heavily on Eischen's expertise while he was honing his video-making skills, "it was a good collaboration for both of us," Eischen said. "I learned a ton from him, and he from me."
When asked about doing a sequel to the film, Eischen noted that they're still working on this one. "We're never going to be done with it," he joked. "It'll just keep getting bigger and bigger."
Walker noted that the current film includes footage he shot during his very first trip to Tamarac, in 2017, as well as footage he took just a couple of weeks before the premiere, and everything they've shot in between.
"He's a perfectionist," Eischen said of Walker, noting that he might spend eight hours at the Refuge, shooting video and still photos, but only get a few seconds of what he considered usable footage.
Patience is definitely needed when trying to capture wildlife, whether on video or in photos, he added, which is one reason why this particular project, which was intended to be "a seasonal journey" through the Refuge — i.e., to contain footage from all four seasons — has taken so long to come to fruition. The actual documentary is a combination of still photos, live video and animation (the latter credited to Hanna Loegering). It also includes a script written by Tamarac Park Ranger Kelly Blackledge and narrated by Josh Behl.
Blackledge noted after the premiere that the film would make its debut at the Refuge on Dec. 4, at an open house set to take place from 12 to 4 p.m. The film will be screened in the Visitor Center theater at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. "Seating in the theater is limited, please reserve your seat on Eventbrite.com ," Blackledge said.
"Another director's cut will be shown at the Friends of Tamarac Annual Meeting on Jan. 12 at the Historic Holmes Theatre (in Detroit Lakes)," she added. "Tickets to this event will be open to the public."
A shortened version of the documentary, approximately 15 minutes in length, will become the regular introductory film shown daily inside the Visitor Center's theater when it reopens in the spring, Blackledge said.