Follow This Father and Son Duo Document Florida’s Precious Coastal Dune Lakes

Rare Waters

Courtesy of Elam and Nic Stoltzfus

Beyond the famous sugar-sand beaches of the Emerald Coast, another reason the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast is such a distinctive place is because it is home to 15 rare coastal dune lakes.  

Courtesy of Elam and Nic Stoltzfus

Filmmaker Elam Stolzfus

Lakes such as these are only found in a few other places around the world, including remote parts of Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

In an effort to help educate the Emerald Coast community and bring awareness to the area’s coastal dune lakes, Blountstown-based filmmaker Elam Stolzfus, in collaboration with his son, Nic Stoltzfus, partnered on the production of a one-hour, high-definition documentary. Elam is credited with direction and cinematography, Nic with screenwriting. Working with them were Eric Schrotenboer, who created the musical score; Rick Hord, who provided narration; and Joey Dickinson, who served as film editor.

Courtesy of Elam and Nic Stoltzfus

Under the name Live Oak Productions, the evocative and informative film “Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of Florida’s Emerald Coast” features dozens of environmental experts, activists, community leaders and residents in telling the story of the history and current plight of the rare geological gems located in Bay and Walton counties — not to mention the flora, fauna and wildlife that take refuge in and around them.

“We’re storytellers,” said Nic Stolzfus following a recent screening of the film at the Emerald Coast Science Center in Fort Walton Beach. “Our interest in making this film was to help educate about the environmental story in Florida through these lakes.

“We just felt the story needed to be told so the public can better understand how special the lakes are and how they function,” Stolzfus said. “If that results in helping to protect and preserve these natural treasures for future generations, then we’ve succeeded.”

The documentary — which was a year and a half in the making — first aired on public television stations in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi on Earth Day in 2015 and aired nationwide on PBS last July, resulting in three Emmy Award nominations overall (for documentary, music and screenwriting) and four Telly Awards for the father-son film team. The film was featured at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York City and the Orlando Film Festival.

The Stolzfuses also have self-published a 119-page hardcover companion “coffee table” book and produced as a 10-track CD the musical soundtrack to the documentary — all under the name “Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of Florida’s Emerald Coast.”

The book recently received a gold medal for visual arts in the Florida Book Awards.

This is the fourth environmental film for Elam Stoltzfus, who has produced documentaries on the Everglades. With the success of the coastal dune lakes film, book and CD, he and his son are tackling the topic of the Great Florida Cattle Drive — a 55-mile trek in which 500 cattle are herded through Central Florida — through a “historical and cultural lens.” That film is slated to be released in partnership with Tallahassee-based WFSU-TV in 2017.

What is a coastal dune lake?

Courtesy of Elam and Nic Stoltzfus

Nic Stoltzfus

Nic Stoltzfus: “The most inclusive scientific definition I have heard about dune lakes comes from Errol Stock, a geoscientist from Australia … Dad and I met him in September 2014 when we traveled to Australia to do a comparison study of the Down Under dune lakes. Here is his definition: “‘I would say any object which has sand … and water that can pool there for a period of time, that would be a dune lake. And around the world, there are so many different settings where you can get to make a dune lake.’” — Excerpt from “Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of the Emerald Coast”

Categories: Nature, Science & Tech