When filmmaker David Becker moved to Saugerties from Brooklyn three years ago, he rediscovered his childhood love of the Hudson Valley’s natural beauty. He was so moved he decided to make a film about our environment and the people who love it. It’s called “To Be Forever Wild,” and with the help of numerous local volunteers — including interns from Saugerties High School — Becker, a media teacher at Woodstock Day School, is now in post-production at an office off Partition Street.
“The heart of the film is really the people we meet in the film,” Becker said. “It took several months of research to come up with an initial list, and then one person kind of led us to another from there. And some people we met by chance. It was a whole combination of ways that we met and connected with the people in the film. It’s their stories and passion. They all share the love of nature and interact with it in their own way. The people who we profiled, they get so much out of this interaction with nature that it becomes their life.”
The film profiles a number of local residents who interact with the wildlife and landscape of the Catskills in different ways. Among those interviewed are geologist Bob Titus, Ellen Kalish of the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, natural historian Michael Kudish, and members of the Fertile Minds Collective. The film follows each of its subjects as they both talk about and experience the majesty of the local outdoors in the way they most enjoy it: a tantalizing trailer on the film’s official website opens on a group of children sitting along a stream talking about how much they like the sticks they find, shows aerial footage of a flight by astronomer Bob Berman as he takes the Castkills in from above, and visits drum circles and artists, community farmers and cliff divers. It visits with Kalish, who has set up her wildlife center in her own yard, and Mary Dette Clark, whose hand-tied fish flies are so popular that fishing enthusiasts travel from all around the world to visit her shop.
The film doesn’t just use locals on camera. Its production has also enlisted the aid of students from Saugerties High School, Ulster County BOCES and Bard College in a variety of capacities.
“I was really impressed with all the passion at Saugerties High School for filmmaking,” Becker said. “The program they have there is great.”
SHS alum Alexandra Hayes helped out as a production assistant. Now entering her sophomore year in Syracuse University’s TV, Radio and Film program, Hayes said her experience was invaluable and exciting.
“I didn’t know much about being a PA at all,” Hayes said. “I didn’t think I would be as important as I felt working on this project. They made me feel I was important; they were just all so nice to me and made me feel like I knew what I was doing.”
Hayes said she performed many jobs as a PA, from picking up breakfast and driving the crew to or from the Catskill cabin that served as their home base to ensuring all people who showed up on camera were prepared to sign a waiver allowing the footage to be used in the final film.
Hayes, who hopes to intern as a PA with NBC Universal next, said her experience at Saugerties High helped her feel more comfortable on a shoot than she might have otherwise.
“I was really quite nervous going there for the first time,” she said. “If I hadn’t had the experience I had in school, I don’t know that I could have done as well.”
Hayes said working on the production didn’t just further her appreciation of filmmaking, but also made her see the Hudson Valley in an entirely new light.
“Honestly, I never knew all the things we had around here until I was a part of this,” she said. “I always hear people say that there isn’t anything to do around here, and that’s what I always thought. When I was a part of this, it opened my eyes up to many new things and how beautiful the area is. The film will make people appreciate what they have right around the corner.”