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York River Project

A Film by Tom Jackson

The Little Cove Beyond the Hill: A Study of the York River in Maine


This film will tell the story of the York River. There will be a few key threads that run throughout the film:

First and foremost, the beauty of the river is going to be a key voice featured prominently throughout the film. Additional sub-themes: We will note the tragedy of the commons; this is a part of the country that has been growing rapidly for decades, in terms of housing and small businesses.

In this microcosm in Maine, can and should we accommodate these additional residencies and businesses, if it is at the expense of public enjoyment and/or the environment itself?

Where we as Americans draw the line between private property rights and the commons has always been a place of tension. Is it possible that through discussion and common ground we can work this out, or has our ability to communicate between each other become so polarized that any common ground remaining is unreachable?

We’ll also note the capacity for community dialogue. Can these communities find common ground for something that is loved by all, but which prompts disagreements as to its needed preservation or conservation?

After a look at the history of the river, including from the days before Western Europeans arrived, we will focus on a current issue:

In 2014, a group of people from York, Maine attempted to persuade Congress to designate the York River as a Wild & Scenic Partnership River, in accordance with the National Park Service. The first attempt resulted in the bill stalling for lack of a sponsor in the Senate. A subsequent voter resulted in the current study of the river, without prejudice to designate or not designate it as a Wild & Scenic river. The decision on designation will come at the end of the study when the towns through which the York River flows decide for themselves whether they want the federal designation or not.


The York River project will follow a chapter structure.The first chapter will begin with an introduction to the river and surrounds, including its history, culture, recreation, and natural beauty.Next we’ll look at a recap of the Congressional outcome.We will then then look at the differences of opinion that may or may not prevent further protection for this area of the country, within the above-noted sub-themes. This will not be a judgmental look at either side of the arguments. Rather, it will be looked at from the perspective of common ground that could be found. The connection will be made to the many problems created by this kind of polarization in society today, thus bringing the story beyond a local disagreement on how to conserve a small river and a relative few acres of land in Maine.


This story of attempting to bring people together to protect a river and surrounding land will be narrated by either a celebrity voice, or someone involved in environmental issues such as Steve Curwood from Living on Earth. Either voice will be the thread that holds the program together (with minimal narration). Local acting talent will be utilized as readers for any key letters, diary entries, etc. that were created before the recording era.Weʼll combine contemporary footage of York River and its surrounds with a wealth of archival footage, photos, artists renderings, etc. Most of the contemporary footage is being shot verite-style (with interviews mixed in), and all footage shot by our production team will be in 4K. This footage will include on-the-ground shots, shots from a boat on the river, aerial shots (in 4K) from a drone, and under water shots. We will juxtapose the positions held in the debate about whether federal protection for the land is desirable or needed.The reasons behind their disagreement will be slowly revealed layer by layer.

Weʼll listen in as a farmer with a Libertarian view urges people of the town to keep the federal government out of the issue, while others point out the advantages of adding federal protection for the river.


The dramatic rise in popularity of documentary films over the past 20 years or so has been widely noted. This production will be viewed world wide at film festivals, and on television networks. Content of this quality will be of interest to PBS (local and national), the History Channel, Telesur, LinkTV, Free Speech TV, numerous global networks from countries outside the USA, and other networks. The film will also garner substantial interest in the educational market. Numerous organizations will also be interested and seeing and screening this documentary, including Sierra Club, Conservation Law Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, and the Nature Conservancy, and numerous other environmental groups throughout the world including the International Union for Conservation ofNature (IUCN), and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will also have interest.

Current Status

We are just getting into production. We have just started to do a few interviews, keeping it local for now. We’ve interviewed a 98 year old dock manager who has lived on theYork River his whole life. We are scheduling a trip on a lobster boat with a long time lobsterman and historian of the river. We are also scheduling a 4K drone shoot, and an underwater shoot within the next couple of weeks. These interviews and b-roll will go into the fundraising short mentioned in the fundraising strategy page.


These days the population of the United States is more polarized than any time since at least the Vietnam War era, and perhaps as far back as the Civil War. A conflict such as the one over gaining federal protection of the York River may seem like a small local issue, but once we get inside the public debate, we see a manifestation of the general polarization among the US citizenry, and how that polarization contributes to confusion and conflict.


Director Tom Jackson has directed award winning long-form documentaries which have aired onFreeSpeech TV, Link TV, and Telesur. Among his past productions are “Out of Balance” (2007), a documentary about ExxonMobil, climate change, and climate change”skeptics” ( The film aired on Telesur, which broadcasts throughout the Spanish speaking world. It aired numerous times on LinkTV, which is on both major US satellite networks. The channel also produced a special program on the documentary featuring Van Jones, and used Out of Balance as a fundraising perk during their fall 2007 fund drive. Out of Balance screened at 40+ film festivals worldwide, winningBestDocumentary-Environmental, Artivist Film Festival, Hollywood, CA (November 2007), Best of Festival, Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival, Seattle, WA (November, ʼ07), SpecialJuryAward, International Film Festival of Lifestyle, Szolnok, Hungary (Oct. ʼ07), and 2nd Place,Best International Feature, Aotearoa Environmental Film Festival, New Zealand (Julyʼ07).Out of Balance is available through NetFlix (in DVD), iTunes, Cinequest Online, and via download on the film’s website: Home DVD distribution through Cinequest. Jackson also directed “Greetings From Missile Street” (2001), a documentary about the devastating effects of economic sanctions on Iraqi civilians. The documentary screened at 15 film festivals worldwide, screened at grassroots events in the US, Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand, and aired numerous times on Free Speech TV. All of Jackson’s documentary work has centered around social justice themes such as the power of large corporations including their influence on climate change policy. His work has taken him to Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, the 2006 ExxonMobil shareholderʼs meeting, and elsewhere. Footage shot in Iraq by Jackson appeared on Michael Mooreʼs “The Awful Truth” television show, the documentary “Independent Media in a Time of War”with AmyGoodman from Democracy Now!, a recent Hot Spot Films documentary on Iraqproduced forAl Jazeera, and on television news programs for ABC-Chicago, and other media productions.(

Cinematographer Dave White has been a professional photographer for over 30 years. In the past few years, he has brought his astonishing eye and technical ability to 4K video. Take a look at his website ( and you will see a mix of photo and video projects. He has produced creative outdoor productions such as Elk Quest (shot inMontana), and corporate productions for Direct Capital, Denny’s, and others. His photography spans subjects and locations such as fly fishing on the Rapid River,Merrill’s Marauders (A group of US Army men who fought in 1944 against Japan in the jungles and wilds of Burma. Dave’s father was part of Merrill’s Marauders.), Burma, and Phillips Andover.

Producer Chuck Ott is an educator, who worked in a NH school district for many years. He is now retired, and as a resident of York, Maine since 1969, has a deep concern for the river and abutting land. He personally knows many of the key individuals to be interviewed for this film, and he knows the land and river well. He also is very versed in the story of attempting (unsuccessfully) to get the river designated by the federal government as a Wild & Scenic river.

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