From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 14 - April 3, 2008
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Lights…camera But when is the DVD in action?

by Alecia Warren

In mid-September 2007, aspiring filmmakers Fred Pflughoft and Ryan Coston presented the Sublette County Tourism Board with footage produced after months of scouring the Wind Rivers for idyllic shots: an hour-long, high-definition DVD about county recreation activities.

The five board members happily extolled the work — comprised of one 30-minute film and three 15-minute films featuring hiking, climbing and fishing — which the board had earlier commissioned from the two men. The sharp close-ups of golden trout surging out of Wind River streams and overviews of endless landscape, these would give an innovative and memorable new face to the county’s Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce, the board announced.

Road trippers who stopped by the facility for the restrooms might watch the footage and decide to set up camp here instead of Jackson, or book a night at a local hotel to squeeze in some unexpected mountain climbing.

Tourism Board Chairman John Godfrey predicted an immediate turnaround with the DVDs, which would play on TV monitors in the lobby and a separate media room by November, with DVDs for sale by Christmas.

“It’s just another example of how the lodging tax dollars are being put to work,” Godfrey was quoted in an October 18 Roundup article about the films. The lodging tax is the board’s primary source of funding. But apparently Godfrey, as well as the other board members, changed their minds about the project’s urgency.

Five months after Coston and Pflughoft handed the board copies of the footage, and also after the board handed Coston and Pflughoft $30,000 for their work, the DVD has yet to be viewed by anyone.

No TV monitor glimmers in the lobby. A Blue Ray DVD player sits boxed up in the Visitor Center media room.

Christmas is long gone, and seemingly with it, the board’s enthusiasm for the project. “To me, it’s a little bit of a backwater issue,” Godfrey said last week, adding that the board has been preoccupied with “bigger picture” issues like how to use a new grant for landscaping and interior design changes at the center.

Coston, meanwhile, waits with mounting frustration, as he was hoping to earn other commissioners for his film company Timberline Productions after people viewed the Visitor Center DVD.

“This isn’t what we planned,” Coston said. “Of course not everything works out the way you planned. This should’ve been done long ago. That’s a lot of taxpayers’ money that should’ve gone the right way.”

The board expects to set up the media systems by June, Godfrey said, eight months later than planned. What was the holdup? Among other things, the board couldn’t find time to watch the DVD again to tell Coston where to cut for length.

“It just got put on the backburner,” Godfrey said.

But there were other delays, too.

After Godfrey drove roundtrip twice to Salt Lake City in October to purchase the necessary Blue Ray player — the first player he bought was mislabeled as a DVD player, he said — the equipment has remained boxed in the Visitor Center kitchen, which will eventually double as a media room.

Godfrey holds the Chamber of Commerce responsible for not installing the equipment, as the chamber is the “operating entity” of the Visitor Center facility, he said. The Tourism Board is tentative about wiring a TV monitor in the lobby, too, he added, because once the facility undergoes its interior design makeover, there might not be room for a monitor.

Nor a gift shop, he added, rendering the facility incapable of selling merchandise like DVDs.

Finally, shelving the DVD right now is “no biggee” because “there’s nobody to show them to,” Godfrey said. The board hasn’t pushed people to enter the building because the center has been plagued with frozen water pipes for the last month and a half.

“We haven’t even been operating out of there for more than a month,” Godfrey said.

Only the Chamber of Commerce has met in the facility, he added, and the Visitor Center has meanwhile operated out of the home of Tourism Board consultant Mindi Crabb.

But Forest Wakefield, Chamber of Commerce president, said the Visitor Center has remained open and operating, and the pipes were only frozen for a couple weeks. He did agree that few tourists drift through the Visitor Center at this time of the year anyway, though.

No one approached the Chamber of Commerce about setting up the Blue Ray player in the media room, Wakefield said, and he asserted that because the Tourism Board purchased the equipment, the board members should set it up.

“They’re really their own complete board,” Wakefield said, explaining that the chamber and board rarely consult each other on their individual projects.

Godfrey admitted the board waited five months to review the DVD and give Coston editing suggestions.

“It was not a major issue with us,” Godfrey said. “Yes, we’ve spent a long time getting around to it, but we haven’t had time to sit down and watch an hour’s worth of video. People are busy.”

Godfrey said he welcomes the blame for that, as he has frequently left town to conduct seminars for his private consulting business. The DVDs are actually pretty decent in their current condition, he admitted, and would be appropriate for viewing without any additional editing, but “we want to make sure the DVDs are up to everyone’s satisfaction,” he said.

The board attempted to watch the DVD a few weeks ago, but discovered that Godfrey’s personal Blue Ray player (the one at the Visitor Center remains packed) wasn’t programmed to play the DVD.

Coston mailed Godfrey software that will update the player, and the board plans to review the DVD at its April 17 meeting.

Board member Mary Thompson said she isn’t disappointed about missing the original deadline for showing the DVD.

“It’s all part of the process,” Thompson said. “I’m really celebrating what has been accomplished so far. I think the DVDs will be a great tool for business organizations, students and residents here to share with families who live in other places.

“The collection (of footage) will really highlight the great assets of Sublette County.”

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