Film director Mark Titus is racing against time, and the pandemic isn’t doing him any favors.
Newly into addiction recovery, an urgent threat emerged to spur the fisherman/filmmaker back to the wilds of Alaska, where the people of Bristol Bay and its storied wild salmon runs face devastation if a massive copper mine is constructed.
When you’re on a mission to “save what you love,” as the trailer for his most recent film states, you do what it takes to get that message out.
In this case, it means virtual interactive screenings of “The Wild,” Titus’ award-winning film, to illustrate the potential damage of a mining operation at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home to the world’s last intact wild salmon run.
Titus brings his previously scheduled in-person, cross-country film screening tour to audiences “at” the Magic Lantern Theatre in Spokane, in partnership with the Kootenai Environmental Alliance.
“It speaks to the wild that is at stake in Bristol Bay, Alaska, the primary location for the film,” Titus said. “And it’s also talking about the wild in myself and kind of in all of us, and trying to find a way to preserve that.”
The Pebble Mine
By dismantling safeguards the EPA had enacted to protect the salmon, water and people of Bristol Bay, the current administration in the U.S. has revived a Canadian-owned mining corporation’s pursuit to build North America’s largest open-pit copper and gold mine directly in the headwaters of the most prodigious wild sockeye salmon run in the world.
“Everything is connected by water,” Titus said. “When you touch water in one place, you’re touching it everywhere.”
While much of the world is on hold due to COVID-19, the Pebble Mine is inching toward fruition. If the mining project receives its permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it could open the doors for others to follow. The approval process is moving forward and the USACE expects to render its decision by Aug. 30.
“These places have been eliminated from the earth, time after time after time,” Rick Halford said in the film. Halford is the Republican former president of the Alaska State Senate. “We don’t have the right to do that to future generations. We shouldn’t be selling the legacy of wild salmon from this Earth to some foreign company.”
The EPA estimates the mine, in a seismically active region, could grow to be nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon, cover an area larger than Manhattan, and could fill a major football stadium up to 3,900 times with mine waste. According to the filmmaker, this could threaten the $1.8 billion fishing industry, more than 14,000 American jobs and 46% of the world’s supply of sockeye salmon.
A film about fish that swim upstream is also going against the current to bring “virtual activism” to the Spokane region.
This pioneering idea includes a live screening followed by a panel discussion with Titus and several others who participated in the film.
The film screenings include fresh salmon shipped to registrant’s doors with recipes and rubs, an action kit from the Salmon Sisters and VR goggles to explore Bristol Bay.
“So when we’re offering this experiential package, we’re essentially saying to folks, ‘Hey, we’d like to send you things from Bristol Bay that can help save it.’ ”
It also includes a built-in fundraising campaign to provide resources where they are needed most.
As he traveled around the country, Titus said people would ask, “What can I do to help save the wild salmon runs?”
Initially, his best answer was, “Well, write your legislators and tell them how you feel,” and, “Contribute to your favorite (nongovernment organization) and hope for the best.’ Oh, and, ‘Eat wild salmon from Bristol Bay.’ ”
But with the decision so close now, Titus and others developed a turnkey solution for people that wanted to help immediately.
“We came up with a companion impact brand called ‘Eva’s Wild,’ which is the word ‘save’ spelled backward,” he said. “And we essentially created that immediate answer to the call to action in the film.”
The Eva’s Wild website provides three ways for people to take action that matters – by sourcing wild, wholesome foods; distributing evocative, inspirational media; and arranging passage to pristine, wild destinations. It’s an adventure website which invests in the people and organizations it’s trying to protect.
The film is a combination of Titus’ love of salmon and the outdoors, filmmaking and inherent activism.
“I think it all kind of interweaves together,” Titus said. “My dad, when I talked to him on Father’s Day, I said, ‘Thank you for instilling in me the love of the wild. It was the greatest gift.’ For as long as I remember, I’ve been in love with camping and hunting and fishing and the wilderness, so I think it’s exactly in line with the central element we’ve tried to present: How do you save what you love?”
In addition to the plight of the salmon, Titus brings an intimate look into his battle with addiction as the fight to block the mine coincides with his recovery plan.
“The other really important part about this film, for me, is that we decided to use the narrative of my journey in recovery from addiction to alcohol as the driver in this film.”
What started as a passion project for Titus is now a movement, not just for Alaska residents, but celebrities, fishermen, businesses, fishing companies, educators, influencers, chefs, tribes and former lawmakers around the country to raise awareness about what could be lost forever if the mine is approved.
Some of the celebrity activists in the film include Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor Mark Harmon; restaurateur and chef Tom Colicchio; HBO Entourage actor and founder of a movement to end plastic pollution Adrian Grenier; and Steve Gleason, the Congressional Medal of Honor-winning former NFL player and founder of Team Gleason, an organization dedicated to supporting those with ALS.
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