Director of Photography
So where to begin...This film started as a vision in my head in late 2009. I have always loved the Elwha, it is one of my favorite places to go on the Peninsula. When the dam removal process began to pick up speed in 2010, This was a chance to document this once in a lifetime event in a place I care deeply about. I felt I was the right person, in the right place at the right time with the passion to pull it off no matter what.
So here it is 4 years later, and while the story is far from over, the film is done. Along the journey I have had many incredible experiences. It really is humbling to be part of a process much bigger than any one person. To meet so many others who share the same vision and passion, many who have substained this dream over decades. In the end this story is about change, and how it is possible to do the right thing. We can not only save nature, we can repair it.
And while this film began in my head, I could have never pulled this off without the help of my partner Jessica, my "magic word fairy", and the support of so many others from our team, our friends, and the community.
Co-creating this film has been a remarkable opportunity: to tell a story about a place I love, and to explore the questions that matter to me most. I believe that the relationship between people, and the land & waters that sustain them, is the defining dilemma of our time.
It’s hard to say which is more thrilling in the Elwha River’s story: the power of the river and its salmon, or the tenacity of committed people who fought for them. I will never forget standing above the Lower Dam, as shuddering blows dissolved cement, and the river began to roar with freedom.
This symbolic moment committed me to telling the Elwha’s story, however seeds for the film were planted much earlier, first on a beleaguered urban river in Boston, then by an unforgettable experience: witnessing China’s Three Gorges Dam under construction and visiting places soon to disappear under the world’s largest reservoir.
It is a rare joy to make an environmental movie steeped in hope. I am very grateful to John for sharing his commitment to the Elwha, and to the countless people who’ve supported our efforts. We’ve been witnesses to a remarkable story. Making a film is a long journey, but it pales beside the determination required to restore an ecosystem. Watching salmon return to the Elwha makes my heart sing. I hope that our telling of this story will do the same for you.
Producer and Chief Editor Jessica Plumb came to live on the Olympic Peninsula a decade ago, leaving behind a career in Boston and Beijing. Jessica is a filmmaker and writer whose work focuses on the relationship between people and the places they call home.
As the Director of Plumb Productions, www.plumbproductions.com, Jessica has produced numerous educational and promotional videos for clients in the arts and environmental organizations. She has worked on documentary and narrative films screened at festivals in the role of editor and behind the camera. She has created award- winning short films that are best described as video poetry.
The intersection of place and human experience is a theme that runs throughout her work.
Jessica holds a B.A. from Yale University and an interdisciplinary MFA from Goddard College. She has pursued continuing education in documentary film, digital storytelling and photography at the New School University of New York, Anderson Ranch, 911 Media and the Maine Photographic workshops.
Jessica is delighted to be collaborating on a film about the land she's grown to love. She is intimately familiar with the Olympic Peninsula, having hiked many of its valleys and ridges with her family.
Working with Jessica Plumb and John Gussman to help actualize a film documenting the remarkable restoration of the Elwha River to its pre dammed state has been an inspiring endeavor.
The success of this major environmental project is a beacon of hope for the many projects both contemplated and underway across the nation. It has been a long journey involving a myriad of differing political and economic positions.
Documenting the building of a slow but solid consensus among opposing factions to return the Elwha to its free flowing state is a complex and moving chronicle.
Executive Producer Sarah Hart recently returned to the Northwest after 20 years of teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Before heading east decades ago she lived on San Juan Island and in Seattle where her work was involved in documenting family owned commercial fishing fleet in Washington and Alaska. Her long standing commitment to documentary work about environmental issues, with an emphasis on the marine environment, was a natural fit for becoming a part of the team producing Return of the River.
Sarah received her BFA from the University of Washington and MFA from CalArts. She has done extensive photographic, video and web work in Russia, Western Europe and the US. She has taught in the photo/film/media departments at Hampshire College, Rutgers University and the Rhode Island School of Design.