Foreman history docs win big; new PBS HD series in the works

Like a lot of young boys his age, Gary Foreman was captivated by the rugged boldness of Fess Parker as “Davy Crockett” and “Daniel Boone,” and ultimately became deeply involved in the spirit of the American frontier that pioneers like Crockett and Boone helped tame.

Now a prestigious producer/producer of some 40 historical documentaries and cultural programming, Foreman’s fascination with his heroes has been rewarded with two esteemed prizes.

His “Daniel Boone & the Westward Movement” received the 42nd Western Heritage 2002 Wrangler Award, considered the Oscars of Western genre, presented for outstanding achievement in film, music and literature.

Shot in HD, “Boone” plays hourly to rapt visitors in a specially- designed HD theatre, on a 16:9 screen with Dolby surround sound, at the Cumberland Gap National Park in Middlesboro, Ky.

The second prize comes from the Western Writers of America’s 2002 Golden Spur Award for Foreman’s History Channel special, “Boone and Crockett: The Hunter-Heroes.” (It airs for third time over the History Channel Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.)

Native Sun Productions, Foreman’s production company in Valparaiso, has a virtually exclusive area of historical focus in the period of Frontier-Colonial America to the 1750s early American republic to after the War of 1812.

“We go where few people have the resources we have,” said Foreman, a University of Wisconsin graduate who wanted to become a history teacher and indirectly became one. “We tell stories of survival and the collision course of culture, dramatic soap operas.”

Foreman in 1983 went into business for himself with a “dream to do these kinds of stories long before the History Channel, and at a time when nobody had a real infrastructure to accommodate them.” Forty documentaries later, Native Sun counts A&E, the History Channel and the many arms of PBS, various museums and national parks among its frequent clients.

Currently in development are three PBS shows that he and producer/partner Carolyn Raine have been working on for a long time, although each doc takes about a year to complete.

The most complex and intense of the shows is “First Frontier,” a three-part, two-hour series. The story is about America beyond the Allegany Mountains that leads up to the Lewis and Clark expeditions of 1803. “We have to be very methodical in our planning and execution because we tend to work on comparatively modest budgets” from television outlets.

“Frontier” will be shot like a feature, and produced differently than Foreman’s earlier docs, by shooting again in 24P and employing other new technology, such as CTI animation to show huge battles, for instance, said Foreman.

The second PBS show in development is “Republic,” dealing with early Texas. “We’re trying to move into what is the obviously the next level for us, by blurring the the line between documentaries and features, by breaking the rules on how it’s done,” he said.

The two winning documentaries were written by historian Dr. Paul A. Hutton of the University of New Mexico. Music was composed by multi-Grammy nominee David Arkenstone, an Oak Park native living in L.A.

Post Effects’ Marilyn Wulff edited “Daniel Boone and the Westward Movement,” and David Szabo “Boone & Crockett” at Media Process Group. Roscor designed the Cumberland Gap HD theatre.

Foreman and Raine will accept the Wrangler prize at an April 12 ceremony at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City.

Native Sun Productions is at 219/477-3740,