Early on in the process of creating “From Hurricane to Climate Change: A Region Responds”—a documentary film produced by Franklin Pierce University’s Monadnock Institute of Nature, Place and Culture—it was clear that this film was not going to be just another historical documentary on the Hurricane of 1938. Instead, says Producer and Editor Douglas Challenger, “the decision was made to enlarge the story to include the contemporary weather-related threats caused today by climate change in order to make the film more relevant to audiences today.”
“Many films on the topic show the consequences of climate change in other parts of the world and leave people feeling rather hopeless about making change, but we began to see that there was great value in showing images that are about climate adaptability locally, and the regional efforts being made to adapt our lifestyles and lessen our impact, however minimally, on climate change,” Douglas continues.
With a clear, local, relevant and uplifting mission, the team got to work.A Collaborative Effort
In addition to Douglas, the faculty production team was led by John Harris who, when the film began production, was the Director of the Monadnock Institute. John raised the money for the film, in large part, through grant proposals to the New Hampshire Humanities Council and the Keene-based Putnam Foundation, and kept the team on track throughout the process, playing the role of executive producer.
Jerry Burns, of the Humanities faculty at Franklin Pierce, was the "project humanist" for the guidelines of the New Hampshire Humanities Council grant and, along with John and Douglas, played a central role in research, interviewing, and the crafting of the story.
Verna Delauer of the Natural Sciences faculty at Franklin Pierce and Dr. Melinda Jette, also of the Humanities faculty, provided ideas and feedback on all aspects of the production process over three years. Verna additionally made contact with local organizations to facilitate interviews, as she moved into the role of Coordinator of the Monadnock Institute. Laurie Challenger assisted the filming of a couple interviews and provided key consultations on the film’s direction, storytelling, and editing.
The team also involved student support. When the film was in its earliest stages, Melinda recruited a student intern named Anna Milne ’15, who helped gather important historical information and materials on the Hurricane of 1938 at the Peterborough Historical Society.
John and Douglas worked with three students in Documentary Studies courses—Morgan Baker ‘16, Ian Hayden ’15, and Antoine Gisore ’15—early on in the editing process to experiment with how to tell the story of the Hurricane of 1938 in Peterborough. The students’ contributions were presented at the 2015 Academic Showcase, and their work helped inform the production team’s thinking about editing the film.
Morgan went on to work as an intern his senior year as a production assistant on the film as part of his capstone course in the Documentary Studies Certificate Program. He graduated in 2016 with a major in Communications and a Certificate in Documentary Studies.Global and Local Intertwined
As a collaborative effort between the University and Institute, as well as area residents, officials, business owners and nonprofit organizations, and regional and national subject experts, “From Hurricane to Climate Change” integrates the voices of experts and ordinary citizens to document how the greater Monadnock region is addressing the challenges of an increasingly unstable climate. It then offers a model for how communities across New England and beyond might respond to this unprecedented environmental challenge.
The film opens with the Hurricane of 1938, the most dramatic local meteorological event in recent memory, showing regional towns like Peterborough working together to rebuild flood-ravaged streets and support the construction of projects like the McDowell Dam. It also details the devastation and loss of life in the Alstead flood of 2005, and the repeated flood damage that Keene has suffered since 2000.
The story then transitions into present and future challenges and how human activities that release carbon into the atmosphere are causing temperatures to rise and episodes of extreme precipitation to increase. The film highlights a range of regional responses designed to adapt to this new norm and to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, including culverts being resized, businesses competing to introduce renewable energy, young people growing crops and investing in farmers’ markets, and townspeople working together to envision and implement community resilience.
Well-known environmental writer Bill McKibben said of the film, "People around the globe are needing to live in this new, unstable world, and keep it from getting even hotter. This film is a good example of how the global and the local intertwine."A Receptive Audience
“From Hurricane to Climate Change” has been presented across the state and region to enthusiastically receptive audiences, with panel discussions following most screenings to encourage reflection, conversation and debate around the topic of climate change.
View two such panels:
Panel with Christine Hatch and Alex Kent
Panel with Solomon Goldstein-Rose and Dwayne Breger
A number of venues have played host to the film, including:
Rough Cuts and Sneak Previews
Other Regional Screenings
Amherst Media TV and distributed by Amherst Media through Telvue Connect (an online media content system) for download and broadcast on public access channels across New England.
The latest development for the documentary will be its broadcast on New Hampshire Public Television (NHPTV) this week. NHPTV will also make the film available for streaming and VOD (Video on Demand) for Comcast and other distributors.This week’s broadcasts will be aired as follows:
NHPTV PRIME (11.1)
NHPTV EXPLORE (11.2)
Most recently, the film was presented by the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, MA. Following the screening, panelists “seemed to agree that ‘From Hurricane to Climate Change’ went farther than any other book or film they've seen on this topic in sketching out a positive vision of the future and what a new life might look like beyond the crisis of climate change,” Challenger said.
A review by Jeffrey Martin in The Amherst Collective seems to echo Challenger’s perception, stating, “The film serves up local history, economics, and philosophy in a way we haven’t really seen before.” Martin continues on to say that, “For a documentary, especially one that’s locally produced, the movie is gorgeous… If the subject matter doesn’t get your attention, the camerawork will.”
The Franklin Pierce Community would have to agree.