Viewing entries tagged
science

On "The Devil’s Road"

Comment

On "The Devil’s Road"

Four Santa Cruz filmmakers set out to bring a historic expedition out of obscurity. The result was a feature-length historical-nature-adventure documentary called The Devil’s Road.

The Devil’s Road is a culmination of research, exploration, filming, and post-production work to revive the pivotal work of two of America’s most prolific naturalists: Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman. While these are not household names, their research laid the foundation of scientific studies in Baja and were viewed as a link between Darwin and present-day scientists. 

Nelson and Goldman’s landmark expedition in 1905-1906 was unprecedented and completed in a time when the Baja Peninsula was considered one of the most remote and challenging areas in all of North America. They documented, cataloged, and obtained specimens of never-before-studied flora and fauna, all while trekking over two thousand miles on horseback.  The pair made a number of significant scientific contributions to Baja’s natural history, and their expedition was the most thorough and complete studies of Baja’s ecosystems. They would later spend their careers heralded as some of the most adept naturalists of their time, with hundreds of plants, animals, and geographical features named in their honor.

comparison 1906_2017.jpg

It wasn’t just the early achievements of these two famed naturalists—though undeniably obscure outside of academic circles—that motivated the film crew. “It was only recently that, coincidentally enough, we learned our ‘Uncle Ed’ was the famed naturalist Edward Alphonso Goldman that worked with Edward William Nelson to explore the Baja Peninsula. I have been traveling around Baja with my family since 1990. We had no idea we had much deeper roots there,” explains Todd Bruce, the producer of The Devil’s Road, and the great grandnephew of Edward Goldman. “Baja has captivated us over the years. Nelson and Goldman’s accomplishments, coupled with our familial connection to this unique place, were driving forces behind creating the film.”

The team made a trip to the nation’s capital to pour through documents and glass plate negative photographs in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution. With latex gloves, they sifted through letters between President Theodore Roosevelt and Nelson, read field notes written over a hundred years ago by Goldman, and inspected century-old photo albums and specimens collected by the pair during their expedition. The film crew was also invited by the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to film archived specimens of mammals and birds collected by Nelson and Goldman during their time in Baja.

Campaign Video.00_18_46_00.Still003.jpg
Campaign Video.00_18_38_02.Still005.jpg

The film's director, JT Bruce, and producer then set out on an expedition of their own, spending two months and covering over 5,000 miles of Baja desert and coastline to retrace Nelson and Goldman’s original expedition route on motorcycles. 

The film documents their thrilling quest—by motorcycle, airplane, boat, and horseback—across the Baja Peninsula where, along the way, they observe the vibrant culture and unforgettable people, and endure the challenges of the road. The film includes interviews with biologists and conservationists that provide a reminder of how grueling the original expedition was and why Nelson and Goldman’s work was so fundamental, as well as offer insight into the precarious future of the fragile ecosystems of Baja—and beyond.

On Horseback.jpg

“Much like our predecessor that inspired the film, knowing Baja on a more intimate level makes it incumbent upon us to be stewards of such a unique corner of the world. By sharing it with viewers we hope to help make a case for its conservation,” says Bri Bruce, the film’s associate producer and UC Santa Cruz alumni. “Baja is truly a magical place. There’s really no other way to describe it. I think I speak for anyone that has been fortunate enough to really witness it—stand in its deserts, swim in its oceans, get to know both the animals and the people there—they’ll see it’s worth fighting for.”

“Baja is a biodiversity hotspot,” explains The Devil’s Road Scientific Advisor Greg Meyer. Meyer is an educator at California State University, Monterey Bay, and a professional naturalist who led his first trip to Baja in 1985. He has traveled extensively throughout the peninsula, working for the Oceanic Society, Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic Expeditions, and the BBC. “The Baja Peninsula is still one of the great wildernesses on earth and this film project has allowed us to see the changes over time and to highlight why it needs protection today.”

bow (2).JPG
desert basin.JPG
TDRmain_Nikon_(905).JPG

JT Bruce, the film’s director, expands on the themes of The Devil’s Road:

“Our film is not just a historical documentary or motorcycle road movie. It's not a reprimand on the audience for some perceived failure to protect the environment. It's a chance to gain a wider perspective and view the trajectory that our planet's ecosystems are on, and to help people make their own decisions about how we should approach the future.” 

TDRmain_Nikon_(1485).JPG

The film shows a complex interplay between past and present, and weaves together themes of discovery and change while serving as an environmental call to arms that pays homage to the strange and awe-inspiring Baja California. In an exciting mix of history, nature, and exhilarating adventure, The Devil’s Road is sure to entertain, educate, and inspire. 




 

Comment

Broken Wagon Films at the California Academy of Sciences

Last week, Broken Wagon Films’ The Devil’s Road producer, Todd Bruce, and director, JT Bruce, attended the 2018 Annual Fellows Gathering as guests at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California.

The exclusive event, which took place on Tuesday, October 9th, comprised of an evening of intriguing lectures, awards, and special recognitions. The crew was honored to have been invited among many esteemed scientists.

The Devil’s Road  Producer, Todd Bruce, at the Fellows Gathering.

The Devil’s Road Producer, Todd Bruce, at the Fellows Gathering.


Comment

A Visit to the California Academy of Sciences

So what does the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California have in common with Nelson and Goldman and our documentary film, The Devil's Road? Aside from the obvious scientific research and the institution's exploration of our natural world, the connection was formed on a fortuitous day in 1905. Nelson noted in his 1921 book Lower California and It's Natural Resources that he “reached Ensenada on July 5th and found the schooner Academy, from San Francisco, in port on it’s way to the Galapagos Islands with a scientific expedition from the California Academy of Sciences.” Nelson had several weeks’ worth of specimens that he and Goldman had collected from northern Baja, and needed to have them shipped to Washington D.C. The crew of the Academy welcomed Nelson aboard, agreeing to stow his cargo, and Nelson enjoyed a fine supper aboard the vessel.

On July 11, 2017, our film crew had the honor of conducting an interview with several of the California Academy of Sciences research specialists. We were met at the back door of the Academy by Katie Jewett of the Press Office. She would accompany us during our tour of the Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy. In the basement of the museum we entered the climate controlled room full of specimen collections. Maureen “Moe” Flannery, the Collections Manager has been put in charge of the hundreds of thousands of bird and mammal specimens and introduced us to several specimens that Nelson and Goldman collected over one hundred years ago.

The first specimen was a Mexican cormorant that was collected in 1902 by Nelson and Goldman. The bird was incredibly well preserved. Next, we were shown specimens of seaside sparrows. The particular specimen that Nelson and Goldman procured was collected in 1874 in Washington D.C. and was donated to the Academy many years ago. The last specimen was a Bailey's pocket mouse, collected by Nelson and Goldman in December 1905 from a location just south of La Paz, Baja California Sur.

A well-preserved Mexican cormorant. Note the tag states "Nelson & Goldman."

A well-preserved Mexican cormorant. Note the tag states "Nelson & Goldman."

Seaside sparrow specimens, several of which were collected by Nelson & Goldman in 1874.

Seaside sparrow specimens, several of which were collected by Nelson & Goldman in 1874.

Maureen "More" Flannery, collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, shows us the seaside sparrow specimens.

Maureen "More" Flannery, collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, shows us the seaside sparrow specimens.

Specimens of the Bailey's pocket mouse.

Specimens of the Bailey's pocket mouse.

Jack Dumbacher, Curator of the Ornithology and Mammalogy Department, rounded off the morning with a well-presented perspective of what naturalists like Nelson and Goldman's fieldwork would have been like. He explained how they would have collected, preserved, and organized their specimens during an expedition. We also learned how valuable these specimens are to science. These thousands of study skins and mounts provide a glimpse into the past, how and where these animals lived, and even what they were feeding on when they were collected. As technology and new research methods change, their value will certainly increase over the next century and beyond.

Interview with Jack Dumbacher, Curator, Ornithology and Mammology Department

Interview with Jack Dumbacher, Curator, Ornithology and Mammology Department

We would like to thank the California Academy of Sciences for their continued support of Nelson and Goldman's work and of our film.

Comment

Guest Blog: "The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 8 - Part 1

Guest Blog by Wayne Bruce

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  We caught two of the rare Nelson trout, not found any place else on the planet, at the same location (now the infamous Mike’s Sky Ranch) where the Nelson-Goldman Expedition camped in 1905.  Todd caught the first small trout (about 5 inches) but didn’t get a good photo of it because it wriggled out of his hands when removing the hook. Eric then caught the second Nelson trout and was able to get a good photo of its unique markings.

AN EXCITING, SUCCESSFUL DAY! Four of us, myself, Eric, Scott, and Lauri, along with a lot of food and gear, drove from our lodging at El Dorado Ranch to Mike’s Sky Ranch in Eric’s Honda SUV. Lauri filmed Todd and JT on their motorcycles by standing up through the car’s sunroof.  The sign to Mike’s Sky Ranch was an official green highway sign.  It took us over an hour to drive the 22-miles on a fairly good dirt road.  Only once was it too steep and rough for the Honda, when Eric locked it into 4WD and the transmission slipped, forcing us to stop. Fortunately, there was a bypass cut around the steepness and we were able to continue.

We arrived at Mike’s at about 1 pm. The ranch has about 30 rooms, a mess hall, a lounge, a bar, and a swimming pool full of cloudy water.  Mostly concrete construction, sparse but clean rooms, and a diesel-like smell that might have been remnants from some new paint.  Costs were higher here than surrounding areas, but we understand the difficulty of getting supplies to this remote area and the cost of maintaining the resort facilities.  Other than one couple, we had the entire place to ourselves. The resort is absolutely plastered with stickers, business cards, and T-shirts from other off-road bikers and racing groups that have visited over the nearly 50 years the resort has been here. 

We’re pleased with a day of successful filming, and are looking forward to the road ahead.

Talking Baja and Blue Mind with Dr. Wallace 'J' Nichols

Today we had the honor of meeting, speaking with, and interviewing environmentalist, scientist, and author Dr. Wallace 'J' Nichols. We had the opportunity to talk in length about Baja, his work and experiences there and how it pertains to The Devil's Road, his Blue Mind movement, and the ways in which he's working to inspire in others a deeper connection with nature. 

His work has been broadcast on NPR, BBC, PBS, National Geographic, and Animal Planet and featured in Time, Newsweek, GQ, Scientific American, and New Scientist. His national best selling book, Blue Mind, gives readers a deeper insight into the science behind why being in, on, under, or near water helps us lead healthier and happier lives, inspiring the Blue Mind movement and the concept of neuroconservation, merging the fields of cognitive science, human emotion, and ocean exploration and conservation. 

Please stay tuned for our full interview to come.

Learn more about Dr. Nichols and his innovative, visionary work here.

Hidden Gems Film Club presents a sneak peek screening of "The Devil's Road: A Baja Documentary"

 

SPECIAL "SNEAK PEEK" RECEPTION with the filmmakers of "The Devil's Road: A Baja Documentary” (In Production)

Saturday, February 25th | Aptos Branch Library

SCHEDULE:

4:30PM - Doors Open
5:00 PM - Screening
6-6:30PM - Q&A Session with the Filmmakers!
6:30-7PM - Reception with Light Refreshments

Please join the Santa Cruz Public Libraries’ Hidden Gems Film Club for a special sneak peek screening of “The Devil’s Road: A Baja Documentary” presented by Broken Wagon Films. Audience members will also have an opportunity to meet the team of documentary filmmakers in the midst of their filmmaking process.

In “The Devil’s Road,” local Santa Cruz filmmakers tell the story of over 100 years of ecological change on the Baja California while retracing the steps of renowned American naturalist Edward Alphonso Goldman — a relative of three out of the four production team members. The diverse geographic features of Baja California — from inhospitable desert, to high mountains, and picturesque coastlines — comprise a distinct ecoregion that is home to a number of endemic species, found only in Baja. Who is Edward Goldman and why is he important? What is the importance of Baja’s biodiversity? Is human activity tarnishing this unique place?

Come and learn about Baja’s natural history and its global significance, and the documentary filmmaking process.

Bring your questions for a special Q&A session with the filmmakers after the screening! Seating is limited. Light refreshments will be served.

Learn more about the project at www.brokenwagonfilms.com or follow the crew on Instagram and “like” us on Facebook.

"The Devil's Road" Episode 3: Isla Cerralvo

In the third episode from the Broken Wagon Films island expedition, we visit the shores of Isla Cerralvo, whose sandy washes are inhabited by iguanas and giant barrel cacti.

Help us make our feature documentary where we retrace the 110-year-old route of Nelson and Goldman, two of the first modern scientists to explore the peninsula and study the bizarre flora and fauna of beautiful Baja California.

Indiegogo Campaign Launches! (November 15th, 2016)

In 1905, two American naturalists set out on horseback across the remote deserts of Baja California, Mexico.

Their expedition was the first of its kind to span the entire peninsula and complete a comprehensive survey of Baja's flora and fauna.

Zig-zagging from coast to coast across the desolate interior, Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman described plants and animals unknown to science.

One hundred years later, Goldman's descendants return to Baja to retrace the steps of this landmark expedition on motorcycles, and document the changing nature of this strange and beautiful landscape.


Support Our Indiegogo Campaign to help us bring this story to the big screen.