By Kortney Scroger
ST. LOUIS, Mo., January 14, 2013 – After landing in St. Louis a mere 24 hours prior, the MediaLab Water Team began Day One of filming. Our location for today was JB Marine Co, a barge cleaning and repair company located in St. Louis, right on the banks of the Mississippi which often affectionately called the “Big Muddy.”
Our interviewee was George Foster, JB Marine’s owner, president and co-founder. George has worked on the river for 48 years. So, he had a lot to share about the Mississippi, both personally and professionally.
With the temperature outside a frosty 19 degrees, we arrived on site and were immediately pegged as out-of-towners. A woman approached, took one look at us and said, "You're not from Missouri, are you?"
Our fashionable light jackets and stylish flat shoes were apparently red flags.
After that, we were warmly greeted by Mr. Foster, a grandfatherly figure who insisted that we call him “George.” He invited us into his company’s temporary office spaces. As a result of record-low levels on the river, George’s office, which usually floats on the water more than 100 yards away, is now indefinitely stuck on shore. (More on this later).
We began our tour of JB Marine’s facilities by taking a ride on the Patrick Kapper, a maintenance vessel named after George’s late son-in-law, who died three years ago in his early 50s. Carrying cameras and tripods, we donned bright orange life jackets and unintentionally skated across the boat’s icy deck and up a steep flight of stairs.
Once on the boat, filming began. My job was to brave the wind and cold to capture George and the river through my camera lens. Some highlights of the journey included filming the JB Marine Co. dry docks and seeing a massive barge that was stuck on shore because of current low water levels.
After the boat ride, George took us to his old office so we could conduct a formal interview. His former floating headquarters, which the company had occupied for more than 30 years, began tilting in June 2012 as the river began shrinking.
George and his workers decided to rent the new temporary space because the river’s dramatic decline had caused the permanent building to slant at a 10 degree angle, making it impossible to walk straight or even sit in one spot without sliding from one side of a room to the other.
Our visit with George Foster has given me and the other team members better insights into the Mississippi River’s importance, not only for those who live and work on it, but also on a national and global scale.
Working as long as we could stand the 20 degree weather, we also visited other iconic St. Louis landmarks such as the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the downtown waterfront.
Day One of filming was a successful learning experience. Every day that we work on this documentary, my team and I hone our skills, whether it be operating a video camera or conducting interviews.
I can't wait to see what the next nine days have in store for us.