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VIDEO: Ketchikan Story Project traces community's path through history

Tara Young

The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau and filmmaker Deby Santos came together to create The Ketchikan Story Project, a series of short videos about the people and culture of the Southeast Alaska community of  Ketchikan. The stories range from mini-documentaries about the fishing community and Alaska Native history to profiles of bush pilots and artists. The intention was to give transient travelers a richer understanding of life in the region.

With the film Ketchikan: Our Native Legacy, Santos wanted to shed light on the complex history of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian communities in Ketchikan.

“I think even among the locals there is a misconception about the Native culture in town. It was an ever evolving story throughout the entire process, revealing complexities, passions, that at various times moved us to tears,” Santos said.

"Ketchikan: Our Native Legacy" received two Emmy awards in 2013 and the project received 7 Telly Awards. On Saturday, the latest segments of The Ketchikan Story Project won two regional Emmys, one for post-production on "The Bush Pilots," and a historical/cultural Emmy for "The Timber Years."

"Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots" chronicles the history of aviation in Southeast Alaska, from the pioneer bush pilots integral to developing the area to today's bush pilots who keep commerce humming and communities connected. Through all the industry booms --mining, fishing, logging, tourism -- Ketchikan's bush pilots have been a lifeline, serving as scouts, air taxi drivers, medevacs and Pony Express all rolled into one. Without them, Ketchikan would remain even more distant from the rest of the world.

“My first years in Alaska were spent flying a Twin Otter filled at times with tourists, fish boxes, mail, supplies and such,” said Santos. “I hold a healthy respect and admiration for the pilots who are faced with challenges unlike any other in the lower 48.  Needless to say, this was a very fun film to produce, coordinating with former colleagues, rescheduling for weather and the good nature of the cinematographer, Richard Cooper, to get in a harness and film from the back of a helicopter (old school/no drones) as we flew around old stomping grounds.”