Travel Adventure Documentary Magazine
Travel Adventure Documentary magazine
where filmmakers and exhibitors meet

Ken Wolfgang, A Life in Film

Carolyn Lutz Posted by Carolyn Lutz in The Travel Adventurers July 22nd, 2013
For many years, Filmmaker and Lecturer Ken Wolfgang was known in the travel film industry as one of the most creative and prolific independent film producers in the U.S. and Canada.
 
As a child, his aunt and uncle took him with them on vacations to the Western U.S. from their home in Ohio. Beginning with a simple Brownie box camera, he taught himself photography, which led to an interest in motion pictures and making his own documentaries.
 
The goal of Wolfgang's films was to document unfamiliar details of a culture and to avoid traditional tourist highlights. He offered insightful perspectives into the lives of the film's subjects, immersing himself in their lives and engaging in their daily activities before filming the real life events as they actually occurred. His documentaries succeeded in capturing the point of view of the subjects rather than that of his own.
 
Ken Wolfgang focused on Rattle snake
Over a period of more than 20 years, Wolfgang produced 12 films on as many countries, lecturing at the most prominent series in the country. He also enjoyed presenting at small venues in virtually every state and across Canada.
 
The full-length travelogue films he produced featured a wide array of diverse cultures from nations such as Japan, India, Austria, Mexico, Thailand and more. In all, it is estimated that he gave some 2,500 appearances over his long career.
 
Some of his films were picked up by major distributors like Walt Disney and National Geographic. This increased his exposure to wider audiences. In 1970, he was awarded the Cine Film Festival Golden Eagle Award, considered to be the highest award given for a non-theatrical film produced in the United States, for his film Soul of the Samurai.
 
Many sponsors, myself included, recall his engaging stage presence and films as a highlight of the season. In particular, I remember his Ageless India as one of the outstanding films of any I'd seen.
 
After his death in September, 2011, his wife, Kendra Gaines, along with a longtime friend, established an endowment in his honor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he had lived for some 25 years.
 
His films, including many source materials, were donated to the School of Media Arts so that students can study techniques of research and filmmaking. In addition, departments as diverse as History, Agriculture, Anthropology, and English have benefited from the collection.
 
University of Tucson, Arisona
At a dedication ceremony on May 3, 2012, at the U of A Special Collections Library, several graduate students presented excerpts from Wolfgang's films and discussed his filmmaking techniques.
 
The University of Arizona welcomes donations to the Ken Wolfgang and Kendra Gaines Collection in memory of Ken Wolfgang. To make a donation, contact The University of Arizona Libraries, 1510 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ, 85721-0055, or call 520-621-3485.
 
The link to the online website, The Ken Wolfgang Collection: Films in Time, is http://speccoll.library.arizona.edu/online-exhibits-dynamic/front/wolfgang/index.php

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