It’s easy to get Doug Knutson talking about movies. The 58-year-old local filmmaker has been producing documentaries for years, many of which show up regularly at both Belleville’s Downtown Docfest and the Quinte Canadian FilmFest in Quinte West.
And while Doug acknowledges he makes his bread and butter shooting work for corporate clients, he’s happy he can still devote time to projects in which his interests get a little more personal.
Whether Doug hopes to shine a light on a local issue or one with international roots, his passion always comes across loud and clear.
“The first time I heard of Belleville Docfest was in an article I was reading in an airport,” he chuckles. “I was on my way to do a short documentary in Africa.”
He was heading to Tanzania to film Saving Mothers, a documentary highlighting maternal mortality during childbirth, an ongoing challenge in poor, rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. Likewise, Doug has also sought to bring attention to the plight of Haitians trying desperately to recover from the 2010 earthquake in his documentary, A Hope in Hell.
“They’re getting there, but it’s at a crawling pace,” says Doug.
The documentary producer acknowledges that keeping pessimism at bay can be tough, but it doesn’t seem to stop him from getting involved.
Doug’s own efforts in Haiti go well beyond filmmaking. He’s also participated in short-term mission work, and has long been part of a group—spearheaded by a handful of Haitian-Canadians—based out of Montreal who are trying to maintain a school in the beleaguered Caribbean country.
Often Doug’s desire to help right the balance in life takes on a local angle.
For years he has made films for the Bay of Quinte Remedial Action Plan, or BQRAP, a movement dedicated to cleaning up the Bay of Quinte since the 1980s. Thanks to hard work and publicity garnered through Doug’s films, this beautiful body of water edges ever closer to BQRAP’s goal: removal from the Great Lakes list of Areas of Concern.
Even closer to home, Doug discovered the subject matter for one of his most recent films while on a neighbourhood walk with his wife. When they heard what sounded like an animal in distress, the couple investigated further and discovered a beaver caught in a trap. As Doug later found out, trapping and drowning beavers stands as popular urban practice in many municipalities.
Luckily for Belleville beavers, the story Doug tells in the film Dam Beavers has a happy ending. The city decided to enlist a simple device called a “Beaver Deceiver”, which tricks the beavers into thinking some prime spot the animals fancy won’t flood to desired levels. Discouraged, the beavers invariably head upstream towards less populated areas.
“The City of Belleville could have gone the route of hero or villain on this one,” says Doug. “Fortunately, they decided to be heroes.”
And while Doug applauds Belleville’s forward-thinking attitude on beavers, he’s quick to point out plenty of other reasons he’s happy to call the place home. Referring to an ongoing sixteen-year long project about city founder Captain John Meyers as a labour of love, Doug describes two other Knutson films revolving around Trenton’s heyday as Hollywood of the North with equal enthusiasm. Clearly Quinte provides great fodder for documentary shorts.
“I have been involved in a few big projects,” Doug declares, describing the kind of financial freedom common when working on big films like The Edge, a Hollywood feature which starred Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins. “Money was no object, but you’d have to live in Toronto, and I enjoy living here.”
When not behind the camera, the filmmaker likes to get out on the Bay for some rest and recreation. An avid windsurfer and sailor, Doug figures this area offers world-class conditions for the kind of sports he enjoys most. Those who know him well totally understand why his business goes by the name Windswept Productions.