by KIM HILSENBECK
A few years ago, Paul Collins had a pipe dream to create a film project about the San Marcos River.
“I was working on a short piece on the river at the time, doing some underwater filming. I started showing my work to friends and colleagues, who work with me at Texas State University,” he said.
He asked if they wanted to work on something bigger. From there, the project evolved into the documentary it is today: Yakona – a film told through the eyes of the San Marcos River.
This film takes viewers on a visual journey through the crystal clear waters of the San Marcos River, starting with its headwaters at Spring Lake. The trip ends at the shrimping village of Seadrift on the Texas coast.
Along the way, Collins said filmgoers will experience footage unlike any they have seen before, from the bubbling headwaters to the aquatic wildlife to the humans who come to the river in droves.
This full-length documentary captured changes to the surrounding springs and river during the two years of filming. Collins and his crew caught the removal of the Aquarena Springs theme park, the restoration of Spring Lake and the uncovering of ancient human remains.
Collins said his group used some actors to portray certain historical parts to reenact the past.
“We’ve centered these around changes in civilization,” he said.
Yakona, which means rising water in the tongue of a local Native American tribe, might not as aptly describe other rivers and creeks in Central Texas, unless there is a flash flood. But the San Marcos River springs, Collins said, have never dried up since recorded human history in this region.
Collins said the river is a beautiful place that inspired him.
“I was able to intimately explore it and see things that were amazing. There’s this whole kind of world going through our community,” he said.
But he didn’t know all the history and complexity of the river’s past.
“I realized the beauty and history of the river as we worked on the film,” he said. “People dammed the river in about the mid 1800s and put a mill there. Doing that preserved that area like a time capsule. That area is now considered very precious for archeology.”
According to Collins, with core samples and research, that part of the river is now known to be one of the oldest places of continuous civilization in North America.
It also happens to be home to endangered species, including blind spiders and a type of worm.
“Because of the diversity allowed by the special area near the head waters, there hasn’t been a lot of kill off of species.”
But one of the more unusual species in the river isn’t an animal or fish. It’s rice.
“We have one of four rare species of rice in the world here,” Collins said.
In fact, he said that rice is one reason why the city of San Antonio isn’t able to pump more water from the Edwards Aquifer.
Today, Collins and his partners on the film are ready to put the finishing touches on Yakona.
“We need color correction, sound design and scoring still done on the film,” he said.
And while the project has been a labor of love for many months, there is a renewed sense of urgency for Collins and his partners, Anlo Sepulva, Dean Brennen, Jillian Hall, Clint McCrocklin, Joe Hall and Kevin Huffaker.
The group wants to take Yakona to the Sundance Film Festival held every January in Utah. The deadline? August 30, or August 9 to save $30 on the registration fee.
The crew opted to allow the natural sounds of the river and the world around it create part of the soundtrack to the documentary. But it will be scored and have music and other sound effects added.
But even with two generous grants from the Austin Film Society totaling $15,000, along with other donations of time, funds and equipment, such as free gear rentals from The Scuba Shop – San Marcos along the way, Collins said the group still needs about $40,000 to make the film what he called “festival ready.”
McCrocklin, who joined the team more recently as a producer, helped organize an international crowdfunding project for Yakona on Indiegogo; it’s the second the project established for Yakona. Earlier this year, the group received $3,525.
As of Monday, Yakona was at $19,626 with 14 days left in the campaign. Collins and McCrocklin hope people will see the value in bringing the beauty, mystery and importance of the San Marcos River to the rest of the world.
“Water represents life. The concept is to allow the river to have a voice,” he said.
The film has no agenda, according to Collins; it doesn’t aim to make people think or feel a certain way.
“It’s just to experience the river. We offer no bias. We’re just trying to show it for what it is. And because it’s not narrated, it transcends language,” Collins said.
To learn more or to donate to Yakona, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/yako-na.