Reel World: Kivalina Documentary Shot on the 5d + 7d

In the book “Packing for Mars,” author Mary Roach describes a condition NASA refers to as “space euphoria.” The first two NASA astronauts to walk in space experienced not only an odd euporia but also a disinclination to get back inside the capsule. As we flew inside a plane sparsely peppered with passengers from Anchorage to Kotzebue, we stared out of the window and watched in awe. The sun was rising amidst some of the heaviest, billowing clouds we had ever seen. We were over the mountain range the natives refer to as Denali or, more commonly known, as Mount McKinley. The majestic apex peaked its head through the clouds and we suddenly realized we were experiencing our own sort of “space euphoria.” We got the sudden sense that this whole thing was bigger than either of us.

It’s an all to rare occurrence in life that we get to truly step outside our comfort zone. We are extremely grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Most of you have probably never heard of Kivalina, Alaska. In fact, until Mike Collins approached us about filming this documentary series, neither had we. After some initial research, it became quite apparent that this tiny island had it’s own story that had to be told. As one of the few remaining Inupiaq villages in the United States, Kivalina has struggled as a community to fight for what they deserve, a solid, safe place to call home.

Our time spent with the people of Kivalina is something we’ll never forget. It’s such a humbling experience to go into a new environment where despite not having all the luxuries we now consider necessities, the community defies the stereotype of being “needy” and, is in fact, one of the most giving we’ve ever encountered.

Below is the short we edited. The final product will be  a longer documentary and the first part of a series about poverty within the United States.

Thanks so much to our good friend and the series producer, Mike Collins, for giving us such a great opportunity. Also, thank you so much to our new friend and the producer, Lynette Wilson.

Some technical notes:

Shot on the Canon 5d and 7d with the Singh-Ray Vari-ND200 f/2.0, 85 f/1.2, 50 f/1.2, 24 f/1.4, 24-70 f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8, and 16-35 f/2.8.While we shot mostly on tripods, we also used the Kessler Crane Pocket Dolly with the Oracle Controller and Elektra Drive motor and the Zacuto Z-Finder.

Jon Connor:

Cristina Valdivieso:


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33 replies
  1. Ron Risman
    Ron Risman says:

    What an amazing job you guys did on this film. Now I want to see the other films in the series. It’s amazing the amount information that is held back from us.

  2. Philip Bloom
    Philip Bloom says:

    Looks great, some gorgeous shots in there and a good story that needs to be told…

    My constructive criticism: I would rather hear more natural sound than the music…which felt a little intrusive and at times felt overbearing. I think it’s a personal thing though. i am not a huge fan on vocal tracks for things like this, I like instrumental but that’s just me…

    anyway well done…when will the longer version be done?

    See you soon guys x

  3. Dustin
    Dustin says:

    Wow, awesome….. You captured “it”. You know, “it”. That thing that you can’t describe but you know is there. That thing a director tries to articulate that he/she wants you to capture but can’t quite put it into words. Yea, ya’ll (sorry I’m from Texas) got “it”.

    Beautiful, meaningful, storytelling images….. Can’t wait to see the rest!

    • MikeCollins
      MikeCollins says:

      I’m normally on every shoot but couldn’t make this one. In a great call before they left I tried to tell Jon and Cristina how I saw this in my head, the shot composition, the feel, the narrative voice…Cristina let me know it was up last night and it floored me. They got without any doubt what it was I was looking for. Now my job is to do justice to their amazing work. Here’s to this being the first of many fantastic collaborations.

  4. Roman France
    Roman France says:

    You guys did a fantastic job (not that I thought you’d do anything but that). Beautiful footage and a powerful story to give purpose to the imagery. The HDSLR Dynamic Duo! I’ll see you guys soon.


  5. Maribeth Ratajczyk
    Maribeth Ratajczyk says:

    PHENOMENAL use of this powerful tool that you have a gift in using!! Obvious how each shot has a purpose, a communication. Great sound, great color, and wow what a message! Congrats on this = it must have been an amazing feeling to finish this edit and set it free!! Good job, great work.

    So happy to have met both of you. KIT and Keep on going!! 🙂


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