Fundraising effort for film launched

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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A Sequim filmmaker who has dedicated two years to documenting the removal of the Elwha River dams officially kicked off a $10,000 fundraising effort with a party in Port Townsend on Saturday.

According to John Gussman, documentary director and cinematographer, about 30 people attended the fundraiser.

And, as of Sunday, $1,665 had been pledged for the Elwha River documentary project, though it hasn’t taken take a penny of the money — yet.

The party was an awareness event, to show people his vision for the documentary “Return of the River,” Gussman said.

“The Elwha story is a bright light in a tunnel of environmental darkness,” he said.

“One thing we are good at is destroying things, but this shows that we can fix it, too.”

A professional photographer for almost 40 years, Gussman began shooting the film in 2010, captured the September 2011 ceremony that marked the dams’ removal, and said he is excited by the impending return of the river to its original deep canyon riverbed at the former location of the Elwha Dam.

The dam, which is now almost completely gone, is expected to be returned to its natural path in the next week or two.

“It’s great — a very symbolic moment when that happens,” he said.

All fundraising for the documentary is being be done on, a website that helps small projects raise funding.

Up to this point, Gussman has been financing the project from his own pocket, but the film, expected to be released this fall, is almost ready to enter its post-production phase, he said.

Post-production costs include color editing, sound editing, voice-overs and music, all of which can be very expensive, Gussman noted.

With the help of producer and writer Jessica Plumb, Gussman opened an account on the Kickstarter site on Thursday. A filmmaker originally from the East Coast, Plumb has a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University and an interdisciplinary Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College.

Gussman and Plumb set a $10,000 goal. But if they don’t raise that amount before April 1, they’ll get nothing, and donors will not be billed, Gussman said.

Some projects on the website fail to reach their goal and are not funded, while others surpass the goal, he said.

Two more awareness parties like Saturday’s event in Port Townsend are being planned, but as of Sunday, no dates have been set.

To donate, visit and type “Return of the River” into the search bar.

On the website, donors can watch a short video on the project and pledge

Donors can donate $1 or more, and will receive “gifts” for larger contributions.

Donors listed

All donors will be listed on Gussman’s website,

■ For a $20 pledge, donors receive a digital professional photograph of the Elwha River formatted to use as a computer screensaver.

■ $30 — a completed DVD when available and a copy of the Elwha River screensaver image.

■ $50 — an 8.5 by 11-inch print or mousepad print of a photograph of the donor’s choice from Gussman’s image collection.

■ $100 — all of the above, plus special thanks in the film credits, on the big screen.

■ $300 — a fine art 12 by 16-inch signed canvas photograph, ready to hang, plus special thanks in film credits.

■ $500 — a fine art 12-by-16-inch signed canvas photograph, special thanks in the film credits, and donors can choose to have a tree planted on the Elwha River in their name or accompany the director or producer on a visit to the river.

■ $1,000: a fine art 20 by 30-inch signed canvas photograph, and can have a tree planted in their name or join the filmmakers on a visit to the river, and have their name listed as an associate producer of the film.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at

Last modified: March 04. 2012 10:27PM
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