tempestas et caelum productions » history & purpose
History & Purpose
Everything on Earth that is experienced by humans whether it is the influence of the landscape, cultural diversity, or life itself is a story waiting to be told. Those are the stories Cameron Douglas Craig wanted the youth to tell on a special platform, the documentary film. Coming from a musical background in vocal performance, conducting, and composition, Craig created the meager film production company, Tempestas et Caelum Productions, in 2004 as an opportunity for students of broadcast meteorology, history, geography, and technology to develop, write, film, and produce documentary films.
While working toward his Master's degree in Geography at Indiana State University, Craig was graduate director of the Indiana State University Climate Laboratory and led several students in Tempestas et Caelum Productions' first documentary film, "A World of Winter." The film highlighted historic winter storms, storm tracks, winter preparedness tips, and winter safety presented by four students who worked in the laboratory.
Craig became a faculty member in the Department of Geology/Geography at Eastern Illinois University in 2005 and quickly took the new Broadcast Meteorology Program under his wing. In so doing, he again used the documentary film company to provide Eastern students of Broadcast Meteorology to gain experience in presenting weather and climate topics for film. Four students produced the company's second documentary film in the fall of 2006 entitled, "An Illinois Winter." The film required the students to research and write a script about the "Winter of the Deep Snow" in Illinois in 1830-31. The public reception of the film sparked Craig to continued to develop Tempestas further for student experience.
In late winter of 2007, Before realizing the purpose of the film, "Expedition Nature's Realm," Craig asked his student, Kevin Jeanes, who showed a great willingness to understand nature and its functions, if he wanted to do a film project to enhance his education in broadcast meteorology and to explore the natural environment. Without a single question, he took on the task. Jeanes had not truly experienced a natural environment first hand in his life. Craig thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see Jeanes' reaction to an impressive landscape and take in all the questions he had throughout our journey. Jeanes asked all sorts of questions, not realizing that the questions, in the end, would be the foundation of the film. Then, when reading Jeanes' diary entries of his adventure, something caught Craig's attention that really hit the nail on the head, "Nature is more than just animals and trees. It is a representation of the coexistence of both living and nonliving things that is Earth." That statement not only regards the natural living and nonliving, but us and how we coexist with nature. Jeanes' words became an eight-part documentary series, "Expedition Nature's Realm," that explores the coexistence of nature and humanity that is Earth.
Later in 2008, Craig and Jeanes worked on Craig's major historical film, "Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives: The Dust Bowl." The film delves into the causes and emotional struggle of the Great Plains farmers and focuses on the children that experienced the drought. Craig used and continues to use the film in his courses to educate the reasons behind the event as well as the importance of remembering it. Many students have commented that they had never learned how bad the drought was in the 1930s. "Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives" continues to be shown in schools around the world.
Tempestas Productions took on a new level in June of 2008. Craig and Jeanes jointly incorporated Tempestas et Caelum Productions. Craig believed the opportunity was necessary in order to continue to provide students exceptional learning opportunities.
Craig, getting back to his musical traits, became a member of the Farrington Grove Chorale in Terre Haute, Indiana. The choir, under the direction of Ramon E. Meyer, asked Craig if he would film the concerts. Craig set up the opportunity to have his broadcast meteorology students film the concerts using, for the first time, three cameras to test-drive a multi-camera edit to make the experience professional. Craig and his students filmed four concerts for Dr. Meyer and the Choir. The successful products led to additional opportunities with a Terre Haute, Indiana barbershop ensemble called, "Banks of the Wabash." Tempestas filmed two concerts for the group. Although the musical venues faded from Tempestas, the opportunity would resurface in later years when Craig returned to his music.
On April 20, 2010, the Deep Horizon oil rig exploded killing several workers and setting in motion an environmental disaster that impacted the population along the Gulf coast. Craig, wanting to do a documentary on the disaster, was limited by his personal funds and shelved the idea until after a couple of months. The previous project, "Expedition Nature's Realm," was completely funded by Craig and the possibility of funding an expedition to see first-hand the impact of the oil spill was extremely difficult. After discussing the situation with Craig's colleague, Pete Grant, director of multimedia services in the Center for Academic Technology Support at Eastern, Grant stated to Craig that he should seek funding from the university to provide his students with this exceptional experience. Craig took Grant's advice and the university funded the expedition. People interested in providing students an opportunity to witness for themselves the disaster also provided personal donations.
The expedition was divided into two parts. In June of 2010, the first team included Zach Nugent (co-director), A.J. Schubert, and Michael Gismondi established the problem. The result was a significant learning experience from a group of residents on Dauphin Island, Alabama. Later, in February 2011, a team comprised of Zach Nugent (co-director), John DeMatteo, and Bobson Mercier returned to Dauphin Island to document the changes in the disaster. The two expeditions culminated in the full-length documentary film, "Returning to Paradise: Voices of the Human Spirit." This would be Tempestas' first documentary film dealing with a current event. Not only did the students learn something new about producing such a film but also Craig learned that current events are a different challenge. The project was a learning experience for all.
During the period after "Returning to Paradise" and before the next major project, "Expedition Endurance," Craig suffered from the lack of ideas. Many of the films produced were exciting works that he and his students could learn. In an effort to challenge himself, he produced a short educational series entitled, "Without the Sun: There is No Weather Fun!" The series highlights the concepts of weather and climate for students. In each episode, Craig stands in front of a chalkboard and delivers a lecture on weather and climate. It is just Craig and the camera. His students as well as many individuals around the world have used Craig's series to learn about the functions of the atmosphere. One particular Grammar School in England used the series for an entire quarter.
Craig's lack of documentary ideas led him to rethink the role of the documentary film genre for Tempestas. Between 2011 and 2013, Craig forced himself to think about the reasons behind the success of "Expedition Nature's Realm," "Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives: The Dust Bowl," and "Returning to Paradise: Voices of the Human Spirit." His philosophical points led him to return to simple ideas. Ideas that many humans take for granted. "What is one thing that humans must have and many struggle to survive without it?" Craig asked himself. Over the course of Craig's block, he lectured students and the public about droughts and the significant drought of 2012. The public and classroom interest in the topic prompted Craig to come to the conclusion that the lack of water ended ancient civilizations and could do the same for modern society. The spark ignited a new project for the documentary film about dwindling water resources but a new venture delayed the project.
WEIU producer, Lori Casey, creator of "Heartland Highways," approached Craig about a new show the station wanted him to develop and produce. Craig accepted and requested that his colleague of geography, Chris Laingen, Ph.D., assist him in developing the 30-minute show about weather and geography in Illinois entitled, "Illinois' Skies." The magazine aired during the change of the seasons and used students to research and present geographic topics about central Illinois and the relationship of events across the planet to Illinois. Although the magazine project was a method to provide students an opportunity for experience, the looming problem of the next documentary project continued to plague Craig's mind.
In the spring of 2014, Craig approached four students of different backgrounds if they would be interested in traveling to the Southwest United States to research the drought situation and dwindling water resources to educate the residents of the Midwest of the problem. The project would provide an awareness of how the lack of water impacts the Southwest that could happen in the Midwest. The team for the project included Nathan Page, a broadcast journalism major and sports anchor at WEIU; Aric Ascot Pelafas, kinesiology and physical education major; Jay Bushen, a geography major; and Darius Holland, graduate student in technology. The expedition team left for a two week experience in the Southwest United States to interview water resource managers, residents of Huron, California, Palm Springs, Fresno, Tucson, and various other locations.
Previous documentary projects were usually completed within a semester or a year after the initial idea. "Expedition Endurance" continues to be researched due to the continued water problem in California and new information about the dwindling water resources due to climate change. While the project continues to be researched, a new venture for Tempestas was beginning to develop that would expand its teachings and offerings for students and the public.
In 2014, Craig further widened the scope of the production company to include the arts after he returned to music with his participation in the choral ensemble, the Oratorio Society, at Eastern Illinois University. With the help of Richard Robert Rossi, director of orchestral and choral activities at Eastern Illinois University, the two have worked together to have all concerts and recitals filmed by Tempestas for the public and university. The educational value of including the arts is that student members of Tempestas get first-hand experience in filming a musical venue and students of music can have an opportunity to relive their performances. TCPArts was established in 2015 as a new division of Tempestas et Caelum Productions.
Craig began to think how TCPFilms and TCPArts could benefit students' creativity. In the fall semester of 2015 and after Craig filmed the spectacular lunar ecplise and blood moon, he began a new venture in TCPFilms 'creating the arts.' A longtime composer, which he has composed all of the music for his films, Craig began writing the music for a major work in the ballet form and incorporated two students in the first artistic TCP production, "Der Prinz des Blutmonds (The Prince of Blood Moons)." Not only does TCPFilms produce award winning documentaries and concerts, but it is venturing into creating the arts in order to provide students a platform to create stage productions.
While the documentary film, "Expedition Endurance," continues to be researched and filmed, Craig has found a new idea to return Tempestas back to making another historical film. Many of Craig's colleagues and students know he is extremely passionate about water. During a weekend of sickness, Craig was reduced to resting and watching Netflix. He came across an interesting Chinese film produced in 2012 entitled, "Back to 1942," directed by Feng Xiaogang and based on the novel, "Remembering 1942," by Liu Zhenyun. The film focuses on the forgotten famine of Henan, China in 1942-43. Craig's emotions determined that this is another story that needs to be told. During a lecture in his weather and climate class, students were mesmerized by the devastation of the drought while Craig made comparisons to the Dust Bowl situation. Craig will once again determine a team of students to research the historic event and possibly lead an expedition to Henan Province in a couple of years to learn more about the event. The working title of the documentary film is, "Ko'Lian: The Forgotten Voices." "Ko-Lian" was the word exclaimed by begging children meaning, 'have pity,' as Theodore H. White, Time magazine journalist, explained in his reports.
Craig's ultimate purpose is to continue to emphasize the cross-campus collaboration of departments as well as provide students experiences to learn about the world in which they live. Tempestas Productions believes in letting the students take the platform and critically think about their world, past and future. Without these younger thoughts, our world will never progress. Tempestas Productions at Eastern Illinois University has become very popular among students whom desire a Chance to tell their story...And their story will continue to be told in order to give those Chances.
With the non-financial support of the Department of Geology/Geography, College of Sciences, Department of Music, and WEIU-PBS at Eastern Illinois University, the organization continues to support the goal of providing students with a foundation that will enhance their future careers and protect the only thing worth saving...The Human Element.
(Revised December 2015)