How well do you know your favorite places? Maybe you’ve walked by the same lake for years or know just the perfect seats in that old movie theater. But what’s the history behind your favorite places? What’s all there? Who made it what it is today?
Photographer Alan McConnell had those same questions about a spot he’s visited hundreds of times when he and Elaine McConnell, his wife, began work on “Discovering Turkey Run,” an extended look how Turkey Run State Park has evolved over the years.
The 45-minute documentary, split into 10 “episodes” but available in its entirety on YouTube, is just the second program in this style the McConnells have created together. Alan told us it allowed them to renew their love of education.
“It was a continuation of our being teachers, in a sense,” he said. Both Alan and Elaine taught at Delphi Middle School; she taught special education, and he taught science for just shy of 40 years.
McConnell said he’s been visiting the park since he was a kid in Covington. When he landed his teaching job, he made a point to bring his students there on field trips (most of whom had never been, despite the park being just two hours away from Delphi).
The years of visits gave McConnell plenty of Turkey Run trivia to work with, but he wanted to use the production as a chance to take historical, biological and geological approaches to learning about the park.
McConnell took inspiration from one of his documentarian heroes, Ken Burns, while playing to his own experiences as a photographer; that all added up to photos being used for much of the program’s runtime. And while Alan lent his photography skills to the project, Elaine took on much of the writing duties.
The duo also took on voicing the majority of the documentary, with a little help from some friends, Mike Harbeck and Glenda LePage. McConnell said he had some fun directing LePage, who played writer Juliet Strauss during her attempts to save Turkey Run from being bought out by the Hoosier Veneer Company.
“The first time she read through it, we said, ‘That’s fine,’” McConnell said. “’But [now] as you’re reading along…I want you to get a little pissed.’”
The McConnells wanted Strauss’s voice of passion for the park to be one they carried into the documentary.
Alan and Elaine started the project in July 2017. A few months and several trips to Turkey run later, they showed off their finished product at the Delphi Opera House Gallery, of which Alan is a co-owner.
The McConnells are planning on screening “Discovery Turkey Run” again in October for one of Alan’s photography shows at the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library. Until then, he and Elaine are thinking of what documentary project to tackle next.
Watch: WTIU’s The Weekly Special pays a visit to Turkey Run State Park 100 years after it was started. (via The Weekly Special)