FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Paul Markland
September 8, 2003 651-488-8069
Over a dozen cities along the Upper Mississippi are to be featured in a new television program that will present little-known stories about people, places and events in the region.
Back on the Mississippi - Hidden Trails, Offbeat Tales is slated to appear on public television stations across the Upper Midwest in the summer of 2004. Later, the program will be available to television networks worldwide.
Back On The Mississippi was created in conjunction with Grand Excursion 2004, a cultural initiative that focuses world attention on one of the nation’s most valuable natural resources: the Mississippi River.
“People all along the river have been great,” says J. Charles (Chuck) Strinz, Executive Producer and program host. “We shot the program over the course of twelve days in August of 2003. That’s an outstanding time of year to show the river to the world. The local Grand Excursion 2004 Host Committees, civic groups and several visionary businesses went out of their way to make us feel welcome.”
Strinz conceived the project after years of travel along the river, mostly on the back roads, sometimes alone and other times with his wife and two children. “I was surprised to learn how certain pieces of contemporary life across America – and around the world – originated on the shores of and in small towns along the Upper Mississippi River.
“For instance, few people who work on a ‘deadline’ will have reason to complain after learning what happened to the poor souls who went over a real deadline at the civil war prison of Arsenal Island. How many waterskiers around the world realize they owe a debt of gratitude to Lake City, Minnesota? Do fans of the Wild West know that the river town of Le Claire, Iowa is birthplace to one of America’s greatest legends: Buffalo Bill Cody? And who knows why his boyhood home – his house -- ended up all the way out in Wyoming?”
Getting the project’s unique storyline on the air required Strinz and his crew to take an equally unconventional approach to producing the program. Facing a contracting economy that has removed many companies from the television program underwriting world, Strinz and his partners devised an innovative way to move the project forward: by appealing to the shared enthusiasm of small businesses and other organizations along the route.
“I am amazed at how much support we received,” Strinz marveled. With help from his management team - Director Jim Maloney and Marketing Director Paul Markland – the production company has kept costs to a minimum by assembling volunteers for the crew, convincing local musicians to provide original music, negotiating “ridiculously low rates” for on-camera talent, networking with towns along the route to create strong local support, and lining up an array of businesses who have stepped forward to donate goods and services, such as food and lodging for the crew, in exchange for recognition and association with the program.
“It’s exciting to see something like this come together virtually under its own power,” Strinz said. “The word I keep coming back to is ‘synchronicity.’ So many things have fallen into place, it’s like we couldn’t not do this program. I guess when an idea is powerful enough, nothing can stop it - not even hard times for non-profits.”
Back on the Mississippi has been designated an Officially Sanctioned Project of Grand Excursion 2004, a widespread initiative recognizing the cultural and economic renewal of over 50 cities along the Upper Mississippi River. The Minnesota Film and Television Board is the project’s Fiscal Sponsor, providing technical and financial consulting services and resources.
Later in 2004, students across the Upper Midwest area will have the opportunity to learn more about Back on the Mississippi through an innovative online “virtual voyage” up the river. The students will discover interesting facts along the way, solve intriguing problems, make their own hometown river connections, and put their newly-acquired knowledge into practice by implementing community projects.
Anyone can contribute to the program and receive a tax benefit. In addition, the production company is raising funds through for-profit sales of baseball caps, flying discs and other items available at www.backonthemississippi.com
Following its debut in July 2004, the program will be available for broadcast on PBS affiliates across the country, then to other domestic and foreign outlets. A companion book will be issued when the program airs. Additionally, traditional and long-form commercial time will be offered for inclusion on the VHS and DVD. Strinz and his team encourage those interested in associating their cause or brand with this quintessential river program, or the educational outreach initiative, to contact Paul Markland at the address below.
Chuck Strinz and his team are available for interviews, to provide updates on the program, and offer background information to help publicize the production and its “supporting cast” in the many communities that call the Upper Mississippi River home.
Back on the Mississippi