Constantly on the move, Kit Tyler is not easy to track down.
Reaching him by phone, a whoosh of air in the speaker gives away his all too common location – the great outdoors. This time he’s at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery near the Battle Creek Tributary of the Sacramento River shooting the annual Return of the Salmon Festival.
With a career that spans over 25 years of stage, film and broadcast experience, Tyler is unexpectedly humble. Reluctant to boast about his accomplishments, which include being a co-Producer and Director of Photography for the award winning PBS documentary, Saving the Bay, our conversation turns to his passion for his work and the Legacy Project’s public television film, Becoming California.
How did you get into documentary film making in the first place?
“I started my career in photo journalism working for TV news but found that the content there was ultimately superficial. The stories I wanted to tell were longer than TV allowed – I found the longer form more rewarding. Documentary film making was not in my plan when I graduated from college but somewhere along the line, fate intervened.”
Why did you get involved with this project?
“I love to do environmental documentary film work. I think this is the critically important work of our generation – to forge a new relationship with the natural world.”
What would you like people to know about the film, Becoming California?
“We can no longer afford the gap created by extreme viewpoints when it comes to the environment of California. This film is meant to provide an understanding of California to a broad audience regardless of ideology – it attempts to mend conflicts.”
For Producer, Kit Tyler, many days begin before dawn. Though he sometimes curls up for the night in a tent or the back of his Land Cruiser, he usually tries for a Motel 6. Midway through field production on Becoming California, we take a look at a typical day in the field for Kit. Camp stove coffee fuels a long day of filming in the eastern Sierra Nevada. Up at 4:30 AM, Kit begins the day by framing a quiet sunrise over Mono Lake in the northern Owens Valley. A quick jaunt across the Valley takes him to the White Mountains, where he captures the evening’s sunset just as it offers up its magnificent golden colors. Other days might be spent hiking…toiling even. Four miles up to Dana Glacier, at over 11,000 feet in elevation, he and his crew carry fully loaded packs of camera equipment, “that one almost killed me!” says Tyler.Still others are spent choreographing on-camera interviews with distinguished scientists such as Michael Barbour, Eldridge Moores and Terry Jones – key members of the project team and experts in biodiversity, plate tectonics, and ancient human colonization of California.
Of course, many of his hours are also spent doing the more mundane and less glamorous tasks of filmmaking – research. But this is what allows him to tell the story of California as it’s never been told before. “This film is different from others in its scope – it is the grand story of California. It is documenting the big picture of environmental change in the state, from its geological formation 200 million years ago to today; it emphasizes civilization’s relationship to this place,” says Tyler.
With the production’s aerials starting soon, cutting edge animation work underway and upcoming interviews with renowned scientists like Kevin Starr, there is still plenty left to be done.