Lawrentians involved in PBS John Muir documentary

Maggie Brickner

“John Muir and the New World”, a documentary about the life of naturalist John Muir, will air nationally on PBS Monday, April 18 at 9 p.m. EST. The documentary, a part of PBS’s “American Masters” series, is the product of the hard work of many Lawrence students, alumni and professors.

Catherine Tatge ’72 was the director, co-producer and co-writer of the film. Tatge, an Emmy award-winning producer and director from New York City for Tatge/Lasseur Productions, was encouraged by President Jill Beck to involve other members of the Lawrence community.

Many students, alumni and professors eventually became involved in different aspects of the filmmaking process. The majority of students helped with the filming in Wisconsin. Stephen Anunson ’10, who had previously interned for Tatge, was location manager for the shots in Wisconsin.

Seniors Katy Harth and Naomi Waxman worked with costuming while the film crew was in Wisconsin. Katie Langenfeld ‘10 and junior Ali Scattergood worked as production assistants, helping with lighting and any other tasks assigned by the crew.

The soundtrack for the documentary was composed by Garth Neustadter ‘10. His work, breaking from the usual electronic muzak used for many documentaries, was recorded for the film by music students at Lawrence.

Some Lawrentians were involved with work in front of the camera as well. Senior Mark Hirsch played the part of the young John Muir as a University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate during the mid-nineteenth century. Professor of Anthropology Peter Peregrine was also involved in the film, playing the part of John Muir’s father.

Scattergood said of the experience, “I met some amazingly talented individuals such as Catherine Tatge and the other professional crew members working on the film. It was a great learning experience to work on such an intimate but experienced set like this one.”

The film was screened in the Warch Campus Center Cinema Sunday, March 27. Tatge was in attendance, and the film was followed by a question and answer session.

The 90-minute documentary follows Muir throughout his life, including his childhood roots in Wisconsin. It continues on to portray his time in Alaska, California, the Sierra Nevada and, of course, Yosemite.

In addition to telling the story of Muir’s life, the documentary also reminds modern citizens of their environmental responsibility and the importance of nature.

The airdate was planned in honor of both Earth Day, April 22, and John Muir Day, April 21.