Hunting the Mastodon: A Documentary Film

Backed by Jason P Schein
Farmington, Michigan
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About This Project

How do researchers turn a jumble of broken bones, dirt and rocks into an accurate picture of life in the past?

Hunting the Mastodon is a short film about how one group of scientists from Ashland University and the College of Wooster are using their skills and knowledge to piece together what happened on the edge of an ancient lake thousands of years ago.

Ask the Scientists

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What is the context of this research?

The field work for this excavation is complete and has been filmed. (You can see some of the footage I shot at the site in the project video.) I need to film the lab work to finish the film and tell the full story of this mastodon excavation.

What is the significance of this project?

Hunting the Mastodon is significant for two reasons:

1. No documentary like this has been produced about the Great Lakes region, the last bastion of the mastodon. Filmed records of mastodon excavations in the area are also very rare, and I know of none that show and explain how laboratory and field work go together.

2.The negative for all of the 16mm film shot for this project will be donated to an educational institution where it can be properly archived to create a future research tool for scientists and an interpretive tool for the public. The three leading candidates for archives are The Ohio History Connection, Ashland University and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

What are the goals of the project?

The three goals of Hunting the Mastodon are

1. To show how researchers develop and test theories about what may or may not have happened at a certain spot in the past.

2. To create a lasting, archivable record of the field and laboratory research for future researchers and the public.

3. To show why the life of the past matters and how it holds lessons for the present.


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All funds will go towards the production of the documentary Hunting the Mastodon.

Funding for films* like Hunting the Mastodon is very difficult/impossible to find. The lab work for this site, which I must shoot to complete this film, is going on now and there are no grant opportunities available.

Completing Hunting the Mastodon is not possible without your support.

*We're shooting Hunting the Mastodon on 16mm film instead of a digital format so we can create a lasting visual record of this excavation. Motion picture film has proven archival properties that digital formats do not, and by using film we're assuring that a record of this excavation and the following lab work will be available for researchers and the public far into the future.

Meet the Team

Aaron Martin
Aaron Martin

Team Bio

I live in the Detroit area where I work as a freelance television producer. I've been fascinated with natural history since I was a child and Hunting the Mastodon is my first opportunity to make my own film on the subject.

Aaron Martin

I am a producer and director dedicated to telling stories about how humans and the environment interact.

I produced The Ethanol Effect, an hour-long documentary for national PBS examining the political and economic effects of producing fuel from corn, and was the producer/director of Beyond the Tap, a half-hour special on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan for PBS WORLD Channel.

I have recently produced segments for the PBS NewsHour, SciTech Now and Local USA on subjects ranging from a deadly disease affecting bats to paleoart. I also regularly produce segments on the environment, blue economy and natural history of the Laurentian Great Lakes.

Additional Information

Rewards for Backers:

$10 or more: An HD download of the finished film!
$25 or more: The Minidon - a handmade, pocket-sized Pleistocene pal!
$50 or more: Movie and a Minidon!

The Mindion:

The Site:

Lining up a shot of volunteers sifting for bone fragments and flint:

Filming in the excavation units:

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