PLATTSBURGH - Mountain Lake PBS has received a national award for "Dead Reckoning: Champlain in America."
The public television station won its first National Educational Telecommunications Association Award for Content Production for the 2010 documentary during NETA's annual conference held recently in Nashville, Tenn.
Colin Powers, director of production and programming for Mountain Lake PBS, accepted the award on behalf of the local PBS station, calling its an honor "coming from a group of peers in the television industry.
"I was happy to be the face of the station accepting the award," he said. "I was certainly involved in every aspect of the project, but I accepted it on behalf of the dozens of people here and our partnering organizations who made this happen. You don't do a production of any scale without a lot of teamwork and when you get into this kind of complexity, it's a big, big collaboration with a lot of people."
"Dead Reckoning: Champlain in America," is an hour-long, state-of-the-art animated documentary produced by Mountain Lake PBS detailing the exploration of North America by Frenchman Samuel de Champlain. The project - produced in recognition of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial marked last year - was a bold leap for Mountain Lake PBS, which has traditionally produced documentaries featuring live actors, said Powers.
"This was really stepping out for PBS into an area that it hasn't typically addressed," he said. "The key was to do that without turning off our more mature audiences who are used to a reenactment-type documentary."
"The response has been very enthusiastic," he added.
The advantage of producing an animated documentary, said Powers, was that it gave creators more creative license with putting people back in the time of Champlain during the early 1600s.
"It had much more attention to detail than we would have ever been able to do if we had reenacted it," said Powers. "Everything you see in the film has been meticulously researched and cross-checked, whether it's the exact firearms being used or the utensils or the buildings themselves or even more subtle things like body types."
The advantage of an animated documentary could also be felt in that station's pockets, said Powers.
"If we were to have done this as a live action production, we would be talking many millions of dollars," he said. "We produced this film for less than a half-million dollars and in under a year."
NETA commended Mountain Lake PBS for combining its documentary with a bilingual companion Web site, www.champlaininamerica.org, which contains lesson plans which meet New York State and National Learning Standards to assist teachers in using "Dead Reckoning: Champlain in America" in the classroom.
"From the very beginning, we recognized we were going to be able to do much, much more and go into much greater depth on the Web site than we were ever going to be able to do in an hour," said Powers.
Combining the documentary with the Web site and a writing contest for students during the Quadricentennial has helped paint an overall picture of how Champlain has had a lasting impact on the region, said Powers.
"Champlain's story is one we can't celebrate enough," said Powers. "It needs to constantly be trumpeted."
(Editor's Note: "Dead Reckoning: Champlain in America" is available for $19.95 through Mountain Lake PBS by visiting www.mountainlake.org or www.champlaininamerica.org.)