Emmy Award for Driftless Film

The producers of the documentary short, Mysteries of the Driftless, took home an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Programs” at a posh gala in downtown Chicago. Hosts of the event included Tamron Hall, a co-host on the Today Show (NBC); Ginger Zee, meteorologist from Good Morning America (ABC); with special celebrity guest host, television and film actor, Larenz Tate, Rush (USA Network), House of Lies (Showtime) and Gun Hill (BET).

New Film Project Launched

Producers of the Emmy-winning Driftless documentary, Mysteries of the Driftless, embark on a new film project to feature the scientific puzzles, majestic beauty, and abundant outdoor adventure in the Driftless Region. While the first film was produced through a partnership of Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC) and Untamed Science, Driftless Environmental Education Project, LLC (DEEP) has replaced MVC for this new project. However, the two producers formerly with MVC are leading the new effort.

Filming has Begun on New Feature-Length documentary

Although the majority of filming for Decoding the Driftless is anticipated to take place in 2016, Producer Tim Jacobson has begun filming, including capturing dramatic footage of Raptor Resource Project’s John Howe and Amy Ries rappelling down 500-foot-high cliffs over the Mississippi River during banding of peregrine falcon chicks. The dramatic story of the successful reintroduction of the peregrine falcon to the Driftless Region will be a key part of the new film.

NEWS RELEASE – For Immediate Release September 21, 2018


Tim Jacobson, President & Co-Producer, Sustainable Driftless, Inc., 608.386.2563

George Howe, Co-Producer, Sustainable Driftless, Inc., 608.397.7423


LA CROSSE, WI – Go on a wild ride of adventure above, on, and below the amazing Driftless Region through a new film of exploration. Soar over ancient, rugged bluffs, skim the surface of primordial rivers, venture deep underground to secret worlds, marvel at sacred archeological treasures, hang perilously over massive rock cliffs, and travel across time itself to explore and decipher ancient clues of the unglaciated Driftless Region landscape, with its captivating scenic beauty.

Local Emmy Award-winning filmmakers George Howe and Tim Jacobson of Sustainable Driftless teamed up again with national TV series host Rob Nelson of Untamed Science to produce a feature-length film about the amazing origins and diverse natural and archaeological resources of the Driftless Region. This time, the creative team added Swedish filmmaker Jonas Stenstrom of Untamed Science, six-time Emmy-winning wildlife cinematographer Neil Rettig, and YouTube sensation Mike a/k/a “PleaseStandBy” (formerly “ChimneySwift11”) with his 1.8 million subscribers. The team delivers extremely rare footage of natural phenomena and scenic beauty in the Driftless in a way never seen before!

The D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership is hosting the world premiere of the one-hour documentary in the 1,100-seat main theater in the Fine Arts Center at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for this free event, open to the public, with opportunities to meet and mingle with the creative team and the cast.

Rob Nelson, CEO of Untamed Science said, “I’ve lived in a lot of pretty places — Hawaii, Miami, Australia, Montana, and Colorado — places people often go to for beautiful scenery. In those places you have high expectations. The great thing about the Driftless is that it catches you by surprise. People don’t usually think to travel to northeastern Iowa for amazing scenery. They don’t realize the area contains beautiful waterfalls and dramatic cliffs rising above twisting rivers. When you get there you think, ‘Boy, I just found a hidden treasure.'”

“I believe the real and personal stories, fascinating natural phenomena, and surprising natural history presented in this film, are going to profoundly touch the lives of many, many people, and inspire them to connect with nature,” said George Howe, one of the producers and writers for the film and a co-founder of Sustainable Driftless. “When people connect with and enjoy nature, many good things happen. We are truly part of the natural world, and it’s important for people to know about the land where they live, and develop a good sense of place.”

Tim Jacobson, president of Sustainable Driftless, Inc., and one of the producers, cameramen, and writers for the film, said, “The Driftless Area of the Upper Mississippi is most amazing to me, not solely for its attribute as the only ‘island’ driftless region in the world, but because of the sheer number of truly remarkable characteristics in its geological and archaeological history as well as its modern biological and cultural significance. It’s the center of the only place on Earth with a concentration of ancient effigy burial mounds. It’s one of the largest migratory flyways for birds in the world. With Lake Pepin, it contains the widest naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River, which became the birthplace of waterskiing. It’s the birthplace of the modern soil and water conservation movement, too. It has the nation’s largest organic farming cooperative. The region contains the Earth’s highest concentration of coldwater streams, which makes it a world-class trout-fishing destination. And as a landscape photographer, I know that it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” Jacobson added.

The documentary film was a huge undertaking that required the founding of a new nonprofit organization, Sustainable Driftless, Inc., with board members drawn from all four states of the Driftless Region. The group had to ramp up its efforts quickly to raise six figures of funding to cover the production budget. The director, Jonas Stenstrom, was flown in repeatedly from Sweden, and one of the producers, Rob Nelson, made multiple trips from his home in North Carolina. Local cameramen Tim Jacobson, Neil Rettig, and Jordan Kjome captured video footage while tromping through and flying over the rugged landscape throughout the seasons. The crew endured various mishaps and setbacks, including one of the editing computers crashing, also having to switch editing software mid-project, and contending with unpredictable weather during narrow windows of filming time. Producers Tim Jacobson and George Howe put much of their professional lives on hold to focus major parts of their time on the project over several years.

“Working to create this film has been a labor of love for me,” said Howe. “It’s a way I can give back to this amazing region that has fascinated and inspired me for decades. I feel very blessed to have grown up in the Driftless Region, study and enjoy it for decades, and work to conserve and restore rare resources here. I have always had a passion for sharing with others what I’ve learned and felt, so creating and sharing a film like this is a dream come true.”

“Now that we have our finished film in hand, it’s apparent that all the sacrifices and hard work were very much worth it,” Jacobson said. “I couldn’t be happier with the results.”

“The goal of both the Sustainable Driftless organization and the film is to inspire resource conservation, vibrant local communities, and sustainable growth in the region,” Jacobson explained. “We want the film to serve as a tireless cheerleader for this amazing land, both locally and abroad. We see the Driftless Region as a remarkable international geo-tourism destination with huge untapped potential.”

Jordan Kjome, who serves as one of the guides in the film and who also did camera work, said, “Even after a lifetime of living in the Driftless Area I am still discovering beautiful and amazing scenic wonders around every corner.”

“This film really will blow people’s socks off,” Rob Nelson added.

The film includes a diverse cast of scientists, conservationists, and guides: Eric Carson, Ph.D. (UW-Extension); Colin Belby, Ph.D. (UW-La Crosse); Dylan Blumentrit, Ph.D. (Winona State University); William Gartner, Ph.D. (UW-Madison); Mark Cupp (Lower Wisconsin State Riverway), Kendra Pednault (USFWS), John Howe, Dave Kester and Amy Ries (Raptor Resource Project); Tom Presby (UW-Green Bay); Kaitlyn O’Connor (Prairie Moon Nursery); Scott Leddy (The Prairie Enthusiasts); Jordan Kjome (Driftless enthusiast and photographer); Steve Barg (Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation); Duke Welter (Trout Unlimited); Buzz Bocher (retired from UW-La Crosse); Mike Van Sicklen (Driftless Area Land Conservancy); Jonas Stenstrom and Rob Nelson (Untamed Science); George Howe and Tim Jacobson (Sustainable Driftless); Mike a/k/a PleaseStandBy (YouTube celebrity), and Jeff Thurlow (private geologist).

In addition to the lead production and science roles of Sustainable Driftless and Untamed Science, a number of organizations and businesses are supporting this film and educational project, including PMG Foundation, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Applied Ecological Services, Paul E. Stry Foundation, Dr. Kirk Jacobson, Prairie Moon Nursery, D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics and Leadership, Raptor Resource Project, MarketSharp, Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort, Driftless Environmental Education Project, Grant County Economic Development Corp., Dublin Square, Honda Motorwerks, Justin Trails Resort, North Ridge Guesthouse, Nature Nooks Retreat, 3M, and Innovative Graphics, LLC.


World Premiere of Decoding the Driftless

Viterbo University – Fine Arts Center, 900 Viterbo Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

6:45 pm           Live music performance by Ryan Howe – FAC Main Theatre

7:00 pm           Welcome, Introduction, and Film Screening – FAC Main Theatre

8:10 pm           Q&A with the Director and Producers – FAC Main Theatre

8:30-9:30 pm   Post-Screening Reception with Live Music and Cash Bar – FAC Lobby

Links to more information about the documentary:

Website:                       SustainableDriftless.org

Facebook page:            facebook.com/SustainableDriftless

Twitter page:               twitter.com/SustainDriftles

Film trailer:                  https://youtu.be/GjjTLDTcSOA


Sustainable Driftless, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring resource conservation, vibrant communities, and sustainable growth in the Driftless Region. The group believes that the region is an epic natural, cultural and historic treasure. While it is well known among some circles, it is widely unknown to most people outside the area despite having resources that could stand up to very-well-known assets such as Yellowstone National Park and the Smokey Mountains. By promoting its value to the local public, Sustainable Driftless believes it can help strengthen conservation efforts and serve as a catalyst to better ensure that local communities are vibrant and sustainable. And by promoting the Driftless Region’s value to the larger (global) public as a premier international geo-tourism destination, we can help ensure the landscape’s conservation by demonstrating its value as an economic engine for its rural communities and its thoughtful, sustainable use.


Untamed Science, Inc. is a group of passionate scientists, educators, and filmmakers who have come to the conclusion that learning about science should be fun and easy. They have a diverse collection of working professionals, including a production team of award winning science-filmmakers, a team of on camera talent, and a collection of science content writers who are dedicated to helping expand the untamedscience.com outreach portals. Information about Untamed Science can be found at www.untamedscience.com.


More to follow…

More to follow…