When former Columbia College classmates Jamie Gallant, now an associate producer at DDB, and British native Vern Cummins first visited the Falkland Islands last year, “we recognized the need for the voices of the Falklands to be heard,” Gallant says.
An archipelago off the southern tip of South America, the Falklands have been a British territory since 1774 and the site of a 1982 war between Britain and the military junta that ruled Argentina.
They found very little material about the Falklands that existed “besides the conflict and the wildlife,” he says. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the conflict between the UK and Argentina over the fate of the islands.
In their web series 51º South they set out to capture the Falklands’ far-flung population of 3,000 and its distinct Antarctic ecosystem of no native trees and few native vertebrates, most notably penguins and sea lions.
They raised $11,000 on Kickstarter and in-kind support from sponsors The North Face, Redrock Micro, Zeiss Lenses and Land Rover/Chicago. They shot over 10 days in April, traveling west across the archipelago “by bush plane, 4×4 and boat,” Gallant says.
51º South consists of seven short, highly visual profiles of a taxidermist, a transport pilot, the territorial governor, a pastor, a female soldier, and a lighthouse keeper, each interacting with the stark landscape.
Christine Wolf and Caleb Hepler edited. Postproduction by Whitehouse Post, Filmworkers, Audio Producers Group, and Dan Kenyon Audio.
Gallant and Cummins began rolling out episodes in June, with the final installment released in September. They’re talking to the British consulate here about co-presenting a live screening in October, with hopes for screenings at universities and other national venues. And they envision this as a template for future work.
Planning docs to thrive in “digital capacity”
“We’re building upon this model, potentially looking to return to the Falkland Islands along with new potential destinations in the future,” Gallant says.
“We’re keenly exploring the potential of creating a community interested in small pockets of the world/cultures/geography and establishing a successful platform for documentaries of this sort to thrive in a digital capacity.”
Their mission was to produce a documentary series that introduces audiences to a very little known culture—perhaps strikingly similar to own frontier mentality—in a universal way.
“We looked for human stories that were relatable around the world no matter where you watched but that were also very special and unique to this place,” states Gallant.
Gallant and Cummins have been working together for five years, since they were students at Columbia College, making documentaries about the Grant Park Spirit of Music Garden, Chicago Lit Fest, Two Brothers Brewing Company, Lincoln Park Chess Pavilion, and the Chicago Marathon.