Story last updated at 8/21/2013 - 3:31 pm
What do you hope visitors will learn about your community?
Hundreds of thousands of tourists disembark from cruise ships throughout Southeast Alaska every summer. Apart from foray's into shops and adventures on popular tours, what do visitors learn about us?
Ketchikan has taken a look at itself - what the community is, what's it's founded on, how its people thrive - and it has presented a highly interactive series of a project: The Ketchikan Story Project. It's focal point is two-fold, in-depth topical videos, paired with an interactive website that shares hundreds of photos and digital short stories, which expands on what the videos offer.
The topics in the series focus on different aspects that make Ketchikan.
The Fish Story, Our Native Legacy, The Artists, Bush Pilots, Timber Years, and the town heritage are all films either finished, close to release and one yet to be filmed.
The project started in 2009, prompted by the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau with funding by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Patty Mackey, president/CEO of KVB, said the idea was suggested by one of their members.
"In an effort to brand Ketchikan, we're attempting to present Ketchikan as the authentic town that it is," Mackey said. "We put together a film, some short stories and photographs. The idea was presented to the Borough, with the idea to make it available to the cruise industry to make it available to their guests."
"The project was inspired on the concept that people come to town and they see all these wonderful fishing vessels, the city, the Native culture," said Deby Santos, Ketchikan Story Project producer. "They aren't really here long enough to get a deeper understanding of what's going on behind the scenes. It shows what goes on behind the story. We wanted to make sure they understood the story of the fish to the table. Gillnetters, having their net spread out on the dock. What are they catching? How are they catching it? What are they doing? We talked to fishermen while at sea and had them tell us what they do and how it all fits together from the different gear types to the different species that they harvest."
Santos said that people want an authentic story, and that's what the project delivers.
In 2011 Our Native Legacy and The Artists was filmed. At this time, the website was also developed for greater distribution.
"It will get you deeper into a digital story, as well as these interactive elements," Santos said. "We took the website and paired it down to an iPad app. So visitors who are traveling can become familiar with Ketchikan offline. People can become familiar before they get to town."
This summer they premiered Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots and Ketchikan: The Timber Years. DVDs are set to be released in September, and the final titled will be filmed this fall.
"The title is yet to be determined, but focus on the heritage of the town," Santos said. "The culture and how it came to be. How this town evolved, there's unique architecture and its pioneer spirit. That will be a longer film. That will all be bundled up next year on the web. It's been really wonderful to dig deeper into the industries the town has to offer and it's culture."
Tourists aren't the only ones enjoying this video and multimedia experience. The community has responded well to the stories as well.
"That has been absolutely a joy," Santos said. "It's been very well received. I think there's a sense of town pride. They're glad to be a part of it and honored to hear these stories. The main purpose of the films was to really help educate cruise passengers coming to town, enhance their experience. The films are being shown aboard the ships, different cruise lines treat them differently."
"Not only were we really impressed with the project but the community really liked it," Mackey said. "When this was first presented to me my first reaction was, not another project. Once I saw the Fish Story I was a convert. We had such a response back from the community we knew we'd done something right."
Another indicator of success for the project also goes beyond the positive community response. The project won six Telly Awards this year and was nominated for four Emmy's in the Northwest Regional Emmy program, taking home three Emmy's.
"Big smiles," Santos said of what the awards meant. "What an honor. To have Ketchikan be recognized in such a large arena as a viable production company, producing something of value, that was exciting."
The Fish Story hadn't been entered when that was released, but Santos intends to enter the remaining three films to see how well they do.
The director, Kyle Aramburo, won an Emmy for his post-production work on Ketchikan: Our Native Legacy. The project also won for the same production for best historical/cultural program or special - with two awards, one for Santos and one for Laurel Lindahl, editor/producer.
"It's a real team effort," Santos said.
Santos said it's taken a lot of people to complete what they've accomplished, with three primary people on the project of Richard Cooper, Aramburo and Lindahl.
"We've all actually dedicated the Emmy to Gertrude Johnson who was part of the project, passed away last year," Santos said. "It was just so gracious of her to allow us to come into her home and talk about growing up and not being allowed to speak her own language. Everyone was fortunate. So many people, it's hard to say, how many that helped out. "
Part of the project also included the development of two art pillars - made to look like pillars in a pier - that hold iPad's and headphones so that visitors going to KVB can page through the Ketchikan Story Project.
Mackey said they're making the videos available for sale, currently sold out of their office but will move to local retailers.
"And we put the program together with mostly Alaska talent," Mackey said. "The films crews are out of Anchorage have done all of the filming for us. We brought in a writer who spends part of her time in Ketchikan, New York and Minnesota. So we've tried to work with the resources we have in the state and it's worked well for us."
Take a stroll through http://www.ketchikanstories.com/ and see what you can learn about Ketchikan.
Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.