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Published - Monday, August 18, 2003

‘Hidden Trails' film crew takes in the sights, takes it easy in God's country

The crew of "Back on the Mississippi Hidden Trails, Offbeat Tales" decided to spend a little downtime Sunday in Winona.
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"We chose Winona because it is a good place for that," writer and narrator Chuck Strinz said.

Directed and edited by Jim Maloney, the film reveals some of the more interesting oddities on the Mississippi's shores, tying pieces of the past to realities of the present. "Back on the Mississippi" is anticipated to air on public television in the upper Midwest during Grand Excursion in July 2004.

The 11-member group of filmmakers didn't just sit poolside at the Riverport Inn during the halfway point of their 12-day filming schedule — some kept on working.

The crew spent a few hours at the home of retired Winona County District Court Judge Dennis Challeen to shoot footage from his deck.

"This is God's country," Challeen said about the view from his "boat house in the sky."

"It reminds you that you're not in complete control," said Paul Markland, marketing director.

The crew also shot footage of Latsch and Spider islands, Sugarloaf and the Rock in the House in Fountain City, Wis.
Filming began Aug. 10, Oquawka, Ill., and the group will travel from the Quad Cities in Iowa to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The next stop for the crew is Lake City, Minn., to explore the roots of waterskiing.

"His enthusiasm about this project has been relayed through these stories," Markland said of Strinz. Strinz said he will be writing a book about what won't fit into the film.

Strinz came up with the idea when he used to hit the road and stop whenever or wherever he wanted. Getting the ideas was easy, but getting them out to people was a little harder, Strinz said.

"It is difficult being on camera, but the really difficult part is the writing," he said.

With about 1,000 miles logged on the road already, many crew members said their quest for the Mississippi's strange and titillating features has been memorable.

"I've seen a few towns where I would like to live, given the chance," soundman Alex Alvarez said.

Alvarez said seeing a different landscape from his home in Miami, Fla., has been a rewarding experience.

The crew comes from "all walks of life" such as writing, marketing and, of course, filmmaking, Markland said.

"We have a collective pool of talent here," camera assistant Paul Busta of Roseville, Minn., said.

On a previous project Busta produced said members of the same crew were working for him. Now with a different role in the group, nothing has changed.

"Yeah, I might be carrying a tripod now, but it's not an ego thing. I do what needs to get done," Busta said.

Contact reporter Brian Krans at 453-3541 or news@winonadailynews.com.