Falls of the Ohio Unveils New Film

9/21/2018 News and Tribune Article

Falls of the Ohio unveils new film

The film replaces one that had played since 1994

CLARKSVILLE — One of Southern Indiana’s most historically and culturally significant sites has a new entry point for learning.

Last week, the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center’s new orientation film was unveiled at a special screening of around 70 donors, community members and other supporters, receiving much praise.

The film is a 12-minute sensory plunge into millions of years of history — the formation of the earth and the history of the falls, to the convergence of the first native peoples and settlers who would help set the stage for such events as the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the importance of preserving one of the world’s only remaining Devonian fossil beds.

It was produced by the Falls of the Ohio Foundation and local production company SolidLight, which was selected after a nationwide search. The roughly $750,000 needed to bring it to life was donated by organizations including The Ogle Foundation, Town of Clarksville, Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, Gheens Foundation and SoIN Tourism.

The film serves as an accessible entry point to the new $6.5 million interactive exhibits that were installed in 2016.

“It really captures the story not just of Clarksville, but of our region and how much the Falls has affected the entire history of mankind in this area,” A.D. Stonecipher, Clarksville Town Council member, said. “we’re delighted to be home to the interpretive center and the Falls. It’s a great treasure not just for our community but really for the whole world, and we hope that continues to drive tourism to our region.”

And it’s already showing signs that’s happening, said Michael Ellis, board member of the Falls of the Ohio Foundation. Since the new exhibits opened, the Falls has averaged about 30,000 children in school groups annually. Before the renovation, numbers were about half that.

He said the vision for the film came as an outgrowth of the exhibits, and he hopes both act as a platform for more curiosity and learning.

“We don’t want this so much to be a destination point as more of a launching point for education,” he said. “There’s so much more to know about the area than the Falls — the native people that were here, the history of how the Falls developed the area, the more recent history.”

Actors in the film include native Shawnee tribe members from across the country. Presently, there are only 64 people nationwide known to speak the native Shawnee language, Ellis said.

“We’re very proud of them, we had a good relationship with those folks,” Ellis said. “We utilized representatives from all the tribes when we produced the film.”

That’s not to say the old film didn’t serve its purpose well; in the 24 years it was running, an estimated 1 million visitors watched it. But that meant the well-worn film eventually began to degrade.

“It was almost like you were watching it underwater, it was so worn out,” Ellis said. The previous film still showed at the center until recently, and Ellis said it will be preserved and copies made for schools to use if they wish.

Luanne Mattson, assistant director of SoIN Tourism, said the new film is a good representation of the influence the falls have had on the region, in a bright and modernized way that can help draw more people in.

“Video is becoming so important,” she said. “It makes it more accessible and the film has a way of marrying different senses together. It can help you remember things because of sight, sound, and then you can read about it to reinforce it.”

And more educational opportunities are on the way. The Foundation, which places emphasis on expanding learning experiences, is working to raise $65,000 for an interactive classroom, slated to begin implementation in fall.

The new classroom will give students and schools the chance to view and learn about the fossil beds, even without attending in person.

“The virtual classroom will be utilized for many purposes,” Ellis said. This could mean kids experiencing the Falls remotely if they have disabilities that would prevent them from getting the full experience in person, or if the weather is harsh or admission fees a barrier.

Funding will be raised in part by the Foundation’s 14th annual fundraiser, Rock on the Rocks, from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29.

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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