Jason Aigeldinger for SCN –
Alaskan Earthquake Artwork: Seward Children of 1964, a documentary by Seward filmmaker Kris Peck, will be shown at the Anchorage International Film Festival early next month.
The four minute film consists of a collage of fragments or details of crayon on paper drawings created by a handful of children who had documented what they saw and experienced in Seward when the Good Friday Earthquake occurred fifty years ago last March 27th. The fragments follow a narrative that is an eye witness account of the events of that day from the perspective of two adults who also survived the catastrophe.
Peck said that the children’s artwork had been displayed in the old library basement for several decades and that a few years ago he approached librarian Patty Linville, wanting to digitize the artwork, intent on making a slide show or movie about it.
“At the time there wasn’t a whole lot of interest and the logistics of it were too complicated,” said Peck. “With the 50th anniversary of the earthquake, there was suddenly a lot more interest.” After the Seward library staff digitized the drawings and artwork using the Anchorage Museum’s oversized scanner, Linville allowed Peck to use the files to assemble into a story.
The drawing fragments follow a narrative that is comprised of excerpts from one letter. “I went through some of the library archives looking at letters people have written about the earthquake and found the one that was written by Ruth and Bob Stanton. It seemed to, just in one letter, kind of provide a really good overview of the event from an adult perspective,” said Peck. “And then the children’s artwork matched it pretty well compared to events that were described.”
Peck chose local historian Lee Poleske and his crisp, mature voice to narrate the film. Lee served as curator of the Seward Museum when it was located in the ground floor of the Seward Senior Center. “He is one of the authoritative voices on Seward history as far as I’m concerned,” said Peck. “I wanted to have him lend his talents to the project.”
Layered behind Poleske’s narration are a variety of sounds that add to the intensity of the destructive event being described. “I thought it would be cool to kind of have a layered or several layers of other sounds going on in the background, kind of like flames crackling and buildings blowing up and earthquake noises and stuff like that,” said Peck. He said that he pulled most of those sounds from a sound database which is a component of the editing softwares, Final Cut Pro, in which he uses to edit his films.
The film was put together back in February and March of last year, right around the actual anniversary of the earthquake. Peck stated that an estimation of how many hours he put into the film is hard to say. “I kind of lose track, you know,” said Peck. “Editing takes up so much time, its kind of trial and error and experimenting. But I would say (it took) probably about two weeks to finish.”
Peck is a big fan of the Anchorage Film Festival and Alaskan Earthquake Artwork will be his fifth entry into the annual festival, which showcases films from around the world, and includes a category for Alaskan made films. “I think its just a really cool event for the wintertime in Alaska,” said Peck, who plans to attend the final weekend of the festival. ” I’ve had a film in the festival the last four years. I’m looking forward to seeing it on the big screen up there.”
Most of Peck’s earlier films shown at AIFF are centered on documenting and celebrating his family’s passion for rough terrain unicycling. His wheel films, “Tour de Seward (2009),” Whittier by Wheel (2011),” and “Waterfall Beach (2011),” have all been shown at AIFF as well as at festivals in Skagway and Cooper Landing and festivals in Estes Park and Durango, Colorado. Peck said that he was influenced to ride and make unicycle films by his father, Magistrate George Peck, who pioneered unicycling on rough terrain back in the early eighties. In the mid-nineties, the elder Peck removed the frame and seat, riding around balancing on just the pedals affixed to a wheel. Peck also rides this stripped down version of a unicycle in “Tour de Seward” as well as “Whittier by Wheel.” He calls it simply the “ultimate wheel.”
“I guess I’m kind of carrying the torch for the ultimate wheel because I don’t know of that many people, if any, who are into that and I’m trying to bring it to a wider audience,” said Peck. “Its kind of fun watching the wheel films with an audience because usually about half way through people start to realize that there is no seat and you can hear them whispering to each other.”
Last year, Peck took a break from his wheel films and entered “Seward Harbor Flip Book” into AIFF. He refers to the film as “an experimental film that was kind of stop motion photography of the harbor area.” The scale in this film really makes it interesting to watch. Its shot from above at just the right distance so that no detail of the cars, boats or buildings are lost. “With the harbor flip book I felt that it made the boats and the cars and stuff look like little toys and it probably stems back to being a kid and enjoying matchbox cars and making plastic model kits and stuff like that,” said Peck.
When asked what his next project will be, Peck said that it is time to make another wheel film. “I’ve been kinda taking a break from those the last couple of years. Its time to make another one,” said Peck. “That will probably be my next project once I get back to Seward.”
Alaskan Earthquake Artwork: Seward Children of 1964 will be shown in the Wilda Marston Theatre located in the Lousaac Public Library at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 6th.
Kate Rullman, a library technician with the Seward Community Library and Museum, said that Peck’s film is available to be viewed upon request this winter. Museum hours are Tuesday-Friday 12-1:00 p.m. and Saturdays 1-4 p.m. During the summer, Rullman said that the film will be shown along with “Waves Over Seward.”