Over the summer, Rich Cooper and Herb VanCleve floated down the Copper River, sea kayaked with humpback whales, climbed glaciers near Haines and fished, fished, fished.
Now Cooper has to sit down and edit four months of fun into a series of 12 half-hour programs scheduled to be broadcast nationally next spring on the Outdoor Channel.
"Back in the back of my mind, I always wanted to do a show like this," said Cooper, a Haines videographer who grew up watching fishing shows. "We live in such a great area for that kind of thing."
So last year Cooper took the video camera when he went fishing with VanCleve. It turned out to be a great day on the water and, after editing the film, they sent it to the Outdoor Channel as a pilot for a show.
"They called back and said they just loved it; could we do more than just fishing," Cooper said.
The series ended up to be about half fishing and even the fishing segments are rife with glaciers, mountains and wildlife.
"Basically we're trying to just kind of show off Alaska," Cooper said. "It's a great opportunity to do that."
The Outdoor Channel promised them a spot on the national network, which is watched by 14 million households, leaving Cooper responsible for finding sponsors to pay for the program. That channel is not broadcast in Juneau, but they are trying to arrange for the series to be seen in Alaska as well.
Cooper won't know what time and day the show will run until December.
Since Cooper is doing the filming, he rarely gets to fish. It's VanCleve who baits, waits and hauls them in as the on-air host. The 6-foot-1 ex-logger is the image of a rugged Alaskan, complete with a short beard and flannel shirts. He's a natural on camera, said Cooper, who encourages VanCleve to just be genuine. That's not easy when every move is on tape.
"You've just got to always be aware of the camera," said VanCleve, "always trying to think of witty things to say, which doesn't come easily. Your mind's always trying to think of something to say."
But occasionally VanCleve forgets the camera's there. Rafting past the 300-foot face of the Child's Glacier on the Copper River, which ends in Cordova, he was overcome by the awesome sight.
"You're rafting amongst all of the icebergs and stuff that has calved off and it's real exhilarating. In fact, it's just almost overwhelming," said VanCleve, who was assigned to push icebergs away from the rubber raft. "Of course, you're trying to do that with half your brain and taking in the whole experience with the other half."
Even Cooper forgot to film when they found themselves in a pod of killer whales after a day catching silver salmon and halibut near Glacier Bay.
"I actually sat there and watched three full breaches, with my camera down and my mouth open. It happened so fast," Cooper said.
VanCleve is a professional fishing guide, but he's had to try new things for the show, from kayaking to ice climbing.
"I'm real excited to get him up on the glacier and strap him into a harness and see how he climbs ice," Cooper said. "He said he'd give it a shot."
VanCleve's been a good sport, though he balks at the suggestion of hang gliding.
"I suppose eventually we may find where my limit is," VanCleve said.
Next year Cooper hopes to take a RV into the Interior and shoot all summer. This year the show is all based in Southeast Alaska, going only as far north as the Copper River. They fished for steelhead in Yakutat, watched killer whales in Elfin Cove and filmed other segments around Haines and Wrangell.
Alaska Coastal Airlines and Haines Airlines sponsored the show's travel. Cooper is still looking for other Alaska sponsors to cover other expenses in exchange for promotion on the program.
Cooper is also looking for ideas for next year and welcomes calls at his company, Talon Productions, (877) 51-TALON.
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