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Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks

last modified Jan 31, 2011 01:50 PM


The Salute to Hometown Heroes Event Coverage

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The Making of Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks

Airboat Rescue 1 Mark Mazur Trent Hilborn on Ice

On Ice (from l-r) Radio-TV-Film student Mark Mazur, ice rescuers and brothers, Colin and Perry Lee, and student Trent Hilborn on Lake Poygan. Photos by Shawn McAfee/UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.

By Katie Holliday
COLS Special Reports Intern

Grace Lim loves a good story. She loves hearing them. She loves telling them. When she heard about the Lee family and their quest to keep the community safe through an airboat named Rescue 1, she knew she had the ingredients for a great story.

Airboat Rescue 1 Grace Lim and students
 Airboat Rescue 1 Film Crew: Radio-TV-Film students Mark Mazur (left) and Trent Hilborn with  journalism instructor Grace Lim  at the Poygan Waste Water Treatment Plan

A longtime newspaper and magazine journalist, Lim is now an adjunct instructor in the Department of Journalism and the producer/editor of COLS Special Reports at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Her greatest skill, she likes to say, is finding other people with skills. In the telling of the Lee family story, Lim teamed up with students Trent Hilborn and Mark Mazur, both radio-TV-film majors, who shot, lit and edited more than 16 hours of video and 8 hours of audio. They then trimmed 24 hours of material into a compelling 16-minute documentary. Lim wrote, directed and produced the documentary. Shawn McAfee, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Art and a coordinator in the University Learning Technologies, was the still photographer and designer of a 28-page full-color companion magazine. Andre Gaskins, Director of Orchestral Activities & Cello, scored original music that he and his students Amanda Martin (flute) and Callie Soddy (piano) played on the CD soundtrack.
In this Q & A, which has been compiled, condensed and edited from multiple interviews (in person and via e-mail), COLS Special Reports Intern Katie Holliday talks to Grace Lim, Shawn McAfee and the two young filmmakers about this multimedia cross-discipline collaborative project.

What is Airboat Rescue 1: 
When the Ice Breaks about?

Grace Lim: It is a story about a family of heroes, particularly about a man named Norm Lee, who lost a son, Brian, to a tragic snowmobile accident in 1977. Brian Lee was 20 years old when he and three of his friends decided to cross Lake Poygan after the first lake freeze. Lake Poygan is about 20 miles west of Oshkosh.

Airboat Rescue 1 Mark Mazur Trent Hilborn
Freeze Frame: Students Trent Hilborn and Mark Mazur shot and edited more than 16 hours of footage for a 16-minute documentary.

People who know lakes and Wisconsin winters know that the ice can been unpredictable. All four fell through the thin ice. Only one was saved. At that time there were no ice rescue vehicles readily available that could cut through both water and ice. That meant that family, friends, neighbors, public safety folks all stood on shore that day, knowing that the guys were only about a mile away, and they couldn’t get to them. Can you imagine how awful that must have been? Rather than let his grief overwhelm him, Norm, along with another victim’s wife, purchased the area’s first ice rescue airboat. Now that act would have been enough, but Norm decided he had to do more. He didn’t want any other family to go through what his did. He decided to become a ice rescuer. In fact, he and his sons, Colin and Perry, Brian’s brothers, have been rescuing people off Lake Poygan and surrounding lakes for more than three decades. They do this as volunteers. Norm is now 87 and his wife, Joyce, is 85. Even Joyce is involved. Every time Rescue 1 is called on a mission, she’s logging everything she hears on the scanner. Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks is about this amazing family of heroes.


In this video Grace Lim, director of Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks, and Shawn McAfee, principal designer and still photographer, and student filmmakers Mark Mazur and Trent Hilborn, share the story behind the story of this multimedia project. The video is directed by Wayne Abler of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.
The Making of Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks Video


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by Lim, Grace Y last modified Jan 31, 2011 01:50 PM