The Nuance of Documentary Storytelling

A look inside “The Maybell Project”. Hidden Woods Film Co.'s latest micro-documentary for The Nature Conservancy.

In the Fall of 2022, we had the pleasure of working with The Nature Conservancy to tell the story of The Maybell Project - an initiative to repair a diversion in the Lower Yampa River that over a dozen ranchers rely upon. Given the ongoing drought in the Colorado River Basin, the success of this initiative was, and remains, paramount.

Aerial image of the Lower Yampa River.

As longtime supporters of Conservation Colorado, environmental initiatives like this always hit home for the Hidden Woods team. Our core crew (Dave, Aidan, and Helena) jumped in the van and drove out to Maybell, CO for two long days of skeleton crew production.

Hidden Woods Film Co. Director, Aidan McCarthy, interviewing David Graf.
Hidden Woods Film Co. Director of Photography, David Stewart, capturing b-roll.
Hidden Woods Film Co. Director of Photography, David Stewart, capturing b-roll out of a car window.

Every great documentary seems to have at least one defining moment or character that stays with you. Ours ended up being Colorado rancher Mike Camblin (and his Corgi, of course). Mike seemed to defy a lot of the stereotypes you might have about a cattle rancher. Historically, ranchers and environmental groups aren’t known for being the best of friends - but, for Mike Camblin, the only thing he’s concerned about is finding solutions to the climate crisis that puts the future of his ranch in jeopardy. Mike’s insistence on crossing party lines, telling his story, and listening to the perspectives of others was incredibly refreshing. As he puts it in the documentary, “I hope we get this done… just to prove to people that a bunch of rowdy cowboys can dang sure work with The Nature Conservancy and other groups outside my box… because I can learn from them, and I hope they can learn from me also.”

Mike Camblin, Colorado Rancher & President of the Maybell Irrigation District

Mike’s story, and his willingness to share it with us, pointed out one of the reasons we love making documentary films so much. Oftentimes in mainstream media, the nuances of someone’s background and viewpoints are brushed aside to expedite a certain talking point or pre-determined narrative. In a documentary format, we do the exact opposite. We strive to make sure those nuances sit at the forefront of the narrative, because at the end of the day, our nuances are what make us human - and humans are pretty damn interesting.

*If you’d like to donate to The Maybell Project, click the link below.

By Aidan Sëan McCarthy

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