BYU-Idaho Radio · Outdoor journalist regales her experiences among grizzlies
A new documentary is set to premiere in Idaho Falls on August 10. It will be the fifth project from independent documentary filmmaking company Tight Line Media, this time about grizzly bears in a film called “On Grizzly Ground.”
Outdoor journalist and CEO of Tight Line Media, Kris Millgate, started working on the project last June. She’s now in the final stretch before releasing the film to the public. Throughout 2022, she kept her audience updated on what she was working on with weekly road trip episodes dealing with various aspects she would cover in the film on YouTube.
Although that was some of the first work shown to her audience, there was quite a bit of work that came beforehand.
“There’s probably six to 10 months’ worth of work before I go on the road, and before you see a single piece of footage inside one of the episodes from the road trip,” Millgate said. “There’s all the road trip, and there’s another year that goes by before the film comes out, so it’s a multi-year commitment, and it starts with research.”
Once Millgate did get onto the road, she traveled everywhere from Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Parks – covering Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Unlike her work on “Ocean to Idaho,” though, her travels didn’t have her tracking bears nearly as closely.
“There’s a big difference between following a fish and following a grizzly bear,” she said. “A fish can’t kill me. So, there’s a whole other dynamic there that has to be addressed, and that is my safety.”
Millgate followed her documentary subjects far less closely, and as such, there were many days she wouldn’t even see a grizzly bear. Instead, there were many days she would reserve for interviews, and even that had its own variety of unpredictability.
“I’m at the mercy of the wildlife, the wild land, and a lot of times the wild people,” Millgate said. “I mean, I want you to tell me your story. There’s no script, there’s no lines that you read. We sit down, we have a conversation, I ask you questions, and I let you talk to me.”
Millgate picked grizzly bears as a subject for her next documentary after “Ocean to Idaho” because like salmon, grizzly bears are on the endangered species list, and as such are tracked, making it easy to follow their migration.
“I was born the same year as the endangered species act: 1973,” Millgate said. “I just have a natural draw to animals for that reason. I grew up being told bald eagles would disappear by the time I was an adult, and there’s a bald eagle nest on my house that my boys watch every day.”
Informing audiences of endangered species not only is advantageous from a research angle but from a conservationist angle as well – making documentaries on endangered species gives us a voice to the voiceless. She also feels particularly qualified to inform audiences, given her journalism background.
“Biologists can do fascinating work,” she said. “And a lot of times they’re just not so great about explaining to you what they do in the field, and I’m actually glad about that. That’s my job. I get to play translator for all of these smart scientists.”
Millgate will get the chance to show off her work as translator on August 10, at the release of “On Grizzly Ground.” In partnership with Toyota and Fourth Wheel Campers, Tight Line Media will premier “On Grizzly Ground” at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls. Tickets are on sale now.