“The Great Divide” is both a documentary and a companion coffee table-style book explaining the complexities of Colorado water issues in relatable narrative, while underscoring the urgency that all Coloradans become informed and involved in how their water is used and conserved.
Stephen Grace, of Boulder, wrote the book and served as screenwriter for the film, which was produced by Havey Productions, of Denver, which since 1979 has specialized in telling the stories of the American West. Jim Havey produced the film and provided images for the companion book.
Grand Junction on Saturday will host a free screening of “The Great Divide” as part of a 10-city film tour.
Laurena Mayne Davis: Who, or what, was the main driver behind the film and the companion book?
Jim Havey: Havey Productions specializes in historical documentaries on Colorado and the American West. We initially saw this as a compelling thread weaving through Colorado history and a new way to look at the state’s heritage.
Davis: Why did you feel it was important to be involved?
Havey: The urgency behind this film and book is the need for a more informed and inclusive public conversation concerning looming critical decisions on the management and allocation of water in Colorado. The Department of Natural Resources anticipates a gap in the demand for water, in the not too distant future, and the ability of our water providers to supply that water. Most Coloradans have very little knowledge of where their water comes from and what it takes to deliver it to their taps.
Davis: You had a KickStarter campaign, multiple sponsors and grants. What was your budget for this project, and how did the funding piece come together?
Havey: Our fundraising goal was $350,000. My associate producer, Blair Miller, led the effort, and we attended conferences and met water leaders throughout the state, learning about issues and attitudes while asking for sponsors to bring this film to the screen. After three years we successfully completed the funding with 55 sponsors and a $20,000 KickStarter campaign.
Davis: Talk about the photos in the book. They are a combination of your photos, contributed photos and historical photos. Did you oversee their collection?
Havey: The book includes a compilation of visual material from contemporary and archival photos to maps, paintings and illustrations. My film editor, Nathan Church, and I took most of the contemporary photos, which include some shot as stills and some pulled from video frames filmed for the movie. Nathan led the search for archival material, which came from the water archive at the Colorado State University library, the Western History collection at Denver Public Library, History Colorado, Denver Water, Library of Congress and many other sources.
Davis: How did the collaborative creative process work with book author and screenwriter Stephen Grace?
Havey: Steve Grace is an immensely talented and lyrical writer, and I was thrilled to have him on board for this project. We worked on the structure and drafts of the script for over a year before the book deal emerged from Steve’s contacts and reputation in the publishing world. But the publisher needed the book to be ready in about a six-week timeframe, and Steve worked round the clock researching, writing narrative, editing interviews, writing photo captions, and cataloging references to get it done. My team worked on the visuals. Then I edited the book narrative into the narrative script for the film and included lots of more recent interview material with some of the interviews in the book and worked with Steve to fine-tune everything.
Davis: I imagine the audience conversations at film presentations on the Western Slope (where most of the water naturally flows) are significantly different from those on the Front Range (where most of the state’s population grows). You’ve been on both sides of the divide now on your film tour. What are you expecting to hear in Grand Junction?
Havey: There are many points of view regarding water on both sides of the divide, and West Slope audiences are justifiably concerned about the growth projections for the Front Range and further depletions to their water supplies. The days of anyone getting something for nothing in water are long gone and we have entered a new era where negotiated agreements are far more desirable than court battles.
Davis: Agriculture, an important economic driver in the Grand Valley, accounts for some 85 percent of the water use in the state. What are the most realistic ways to make agriculture more water-efficient, and do you expect farmers and ranchers will be open to those changes?
Havey: Most farmers and ranchers are as concerned about conserving water as anyone and they are very aware that their water use is being carefully scrutinized as part of the solution for supplying the growing needs of Front Range and West Slope cities.
Agriculture has changed considerably in the last 50 years, and irrigation techniques are much more efficient today. As a state we all need to be concerned about threats to our rural communities in the face of buy-and-dry deals that turn hay meadows to shopping malls. Ag-urban transfers, rotational fallowing and more efficient irrigation technologies offer some solutions.
Davis: What do you want viewers and readers to do with their greater understanding of Colorado water issues? In other words, what’s your best hope for a more water-aware state populace?
Havey: My hope is that the film and book impress audiences with the urgency and complexity of western water issues, and the growing need to find collaborative solutions.