From the Feb 5, 2004 issue of The Star
Documentary Featuring St. Joseph Bay to Premier

This image of St. Joseph Bay, shot by Clyde Butcher near Presnell's Marina is the signature image from the documentary film about Florida's aquatic preserves.

World famous photographer Clyde Butcher and Blountstown filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus collaborated on a documentary film about Florida's aquatic preserves.

by Tim Croft

The child is about to be delivered.

Roughly a year after filming began, a documentary profiling Florida's aquatic preserves, including St. Joseph Bay, is near completion.

The film, entitled, "Living Waters: Aquatic Preserves of Florida," will premier at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 20, at the R.A. Gray Building in Tallahassee.

The premier will be part of Tallahassee's annual "Seven Days of Opening Nights" celebration of the arts.

Crafted by Blountstown filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus and including images and commentary from world-renowned Florida photographer, Clyde Butcher, the documentary looks at a dozen of Florida's aquatic preserves to showcase one of Florida's natural treasures, its 41 aquatic preserves.

"What I experienced, what I saw, what I learned, what I put on film is just a small glimpse," Stoltzfus said from his Blountstown studio while continuing to edit his work down to its roughly 60-minute running time.

"We hope to change people's minds, to have them realize what they have and get out there and protect them," Stoltzfus continued. "We want them to understand that these (aquatic preserves) are ours to keep, ours to play on, ours to protect."

Whether you toss a line, snap a photograph, peer for birds, snorkel for scallops or sail for pleasure.

The catch-phrase is eco-tourism, and the aquatic preserves of Florida are the latchkeys.

"If we don't take care of these, the very reason we are out there, the reason so many people come to Florida, they will vanish," Stoltzfus said.

While the documentary is broken into 12 separate chapters, each spotlighting an individual preserve, as the film evolved the 65,000 acres of the St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve became something of a central player.

One of Butcher's images of the bay, snapped near Presnell's Marina, has become the signature image of the film, adorning posters and a calendar promoting the film, which after its premier will air on PBS stations around the state in March and April.

After airing on television, the film will make a tour of various venues -Êmuseums, etc., - around the state.

The St. Joseph Bay segment will also feature interviews with Danny Raffield and Tom Parker. Parker provided beautiful underwater footage while demonstrating for Stoltzfus the finer points of scalloping.

"(The St. Joseph Bay) piece turned out good," Stoltzfus said. "That piece turned out really well."

Stoltzfus is the finally stages of the editing process, which he admitted had been painful at times as he whittled the film down to its necessary length.

A few interviews, a few gorgeous scenes, some of music director Sammy Tedder's evocative tones, were forced to the cutting room floor.

"It's getting pretty close," Stoltzfus said. "It's pretty much tweaking it right now."

And dealing with the butterflies fluttering around inside.

As Stoltzfus has traveled the state, he said, folks have embraced his project with open arms, going out of their way to assist, to serve as tour guides, to tell him the stories of their corners of the world and the waters that serve, in part, as Mother Nature's petri dish and an area's lifeblood.

Folks have become invested in the project, in its success.

"People have expectations and you don't want to let them down," Stoltzfus said. "I try not to think about it because I still have a lot to do, but it's getting pretty nervous.

"It's a little like birthing a child, holding it close to your heart for a year and then you just need to let it go."