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Sag Harbor director raises funds for rain forest documentary

Kelsey Deaton, 23, of Los Angeles; Travis Kidd,

Kelsey Deaton, 23, of Los Angeles; Travis Kidd, 25, of Bozeman, Mont., Ecuadorian activist Maria, and Sag Harbor filmmaker Paul Stoutenburgh, 24, filming the documentary, "Preserving Paradise," in Ecuador. (Credit: Handout)

In the scenic surroundings of Roanoke Vineyards in Riverhead on Saturday, Sag Harbor environmental filmmaker Paul Stoutenburgh will be screening his film about places that are quickly losing their lush and fragile habitats.

The documentary, “Preserving Paradise,” is based on a trip Stoutenburgh took late last year with two partners to the Amazon and Chocó rain forests in Ecuador, where deforestation is not only hurting the environment, but displacing people who live there.

At the same time, the documentary is an inspiring tale, he said, that chronicles methods of rain forest conservation and sustainability.


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While Stoutenburgh and his partners continue to edit the documentary, he said the screening will feature some of their favorite footage and he hopes it will inspire attendees to invest in the second part of the project — a trip to Costa Rica that will build on the story he began in Ecuador.

Stoutenburgh’s partners are Travis Kidd, 25, of Bozeman, Mont., and Kelsey Deaton, 23, of Los Angeles.

“We want to show what’s being done in the rain forest by people who are fighting to protect it,” said Stoutenburgh, 24, a 2011 graduate of the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse who also studied film at nearby Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Stoutenburgh has produced environmental films and promotional video for nonprofits since 2009, including for the Nature Conservancy in Cold Spring Harbor.

To cover the cost of equipment and airfare to Costa Rica, the trio has launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal to raise $15,000 by March 11. If they don’t hit the mark, Kickstarter investors will not be charged and the trio will have to foot the bill on their own. As of Friday, they raised just more than $3,000 to make the trip on March 13.

In Ecuador, Stoutenburgh shadowed rangers who are charged with protecting the 10 percent of Chocó rain forest that still remains.

“It was a little scary. They said we might come across loggers or hunters, which are men with guns and chain saws,” Stoutenburgh said. “If they didn’t patrol the boundaries, loggers and hunters would come in and hunt and trees would be cut down and sold.”

Kidd, who met Stoutenburgh in an environmental film class they both attended at Montana State University in 2011, will be filming with a Canon Rebel T4i.

Kidd said the documentary will explore sustainable practices that won’t be destructive to the rain forest, but still support the economy.

“It’s easy for me to say, ‘Stop cutting down trees in the rain forest,’ but until you go there and meet the people whose lives depend on that environment you can’t even fathom what it’s all about,” said Kidd, who took a year off from his studies to finish the film.

If the campaign is successful, the group will travel to Madagascar in April.

Stoutenburgh and Deaton, who both taught sustainability and culture at a school in Costa Rica in 2011, but at different times, were connected by colleagues of the program. They soon decided to work together on the film and met face-to-face for the first time just before the Ecuador trip in November.

“A documentary has the power to reach so many people and I’m excited to meet the people who are doing powerful things within their community,” said Deaton, who studied biological science and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “I hope it inspires others to think they can make a difference.”

The screening of “Preserving Paradise” will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50 at the door, $45 online at earthsoulproductions.com. Twenty percent of the proceeds will go to the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation to preserve wildlife habitat in the Chocó Rainforest.

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