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Filmmaker honored by alumni

Ginger Kathrens, a television producer and writer of natural history documentaries, returned to campus after 38 years as the top alumna.

Kathrens was honored Friday by the University Alumni Association with the Distinguished Alumnus Award, which recognizes a graduate who has gained national or international distinction and whose accomplishments reflect positively upon BGSU. She spoke about her experiences at yesterday’s College of Arts ‘amp; Sciences Forum.

Kathrens was nominated by Sally Blair, her neighbor, baby-sitter and longtime friend.

Blair knew years ago that Kathrens would be successful. ‘She didn’t really need a baby-sitter,’ she said when she introduced Kathrens.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is traditionally presented at commencement in May, said Mariann Reinke, director of alumni affairs.

Presentation in the fall was proposed and accepted so there could be student interaction with Kathrens.

The presentation explained Kathrens’ national distinction and accomplishments.

Before her first day of college, Kathrens’ father told her to take business classes. His reasoning, Kathrens said, was ‘If something happens to your husband, then you can get a job.’

‘Oh, boy,’ was her response yesterday in the Union’s Multi Purpose Room, which garnered a roomful of laughter, since she has shot film in locations ranging from the Peruvian rain forest to Mongolia and many of the countries in between.

After graduating from BGSU, Kathrens moved to Florida to write, produce and shoot film. She worked with retired Air Force camera men who, she said, embarrassed her into learning camera techniques.

Then she moved to Colorado where she started her own film company.

Kathrens, who was 25 at the time, said she specialized in producing anything anyone would pay her for, which ranged from commercials for banks to political campaigns.

In 1983 Kathrens had her first big break.

She was asked to write a script for Marty Stouffer, the host of PBS’s ‘Wild America.’ Her topic was peculiar plants.

Kathrens said Stouffer told her girls don’t shoot, so that’s why she was writing.

After PBS, she moved on to the Discovery Channel, but only because someone else died.

Kathrens was then asked to replace a producer who died suddenly in a skiing accident.

The result was an Emmy-award winning documentary, ‘Spirits of the Rainforest,’ which won for Best Cultural Informational Documentary and Best Music.

The filming was completed in Manu National Park in Peru, which is home to 400 Amazonian Indians who are not allowed to have weapons of any kind, unless they are hand made.

People didn’t think anyone could get to Manu National Park, Kathrens said, but she and her team were successful. In the Amazon, she spent a lot of time filming the spider monkey, which is the largest, fastest and most acrobatic monkey, she said.

After ‘Spirits of the Rainforest’ aired, Stouffer asked Kathrens to produce, shoot and write a program on wild horses. She jokingly said that it took her winning an Emmy to allow her to shoot.

Kathrens said she thought she would not have any problems filming horses, because all she believed they did was stand around.

‘I thought I was pretty hot stuff,’ she said, because she had filmed jaguars and giant otters.

But she learned that horses did not just stand around; they ran, snorted and always could tell when Kathrens was around.

While filming for the documentary on wild horses, Kathrens began filming a newborn foal, which she named Cloud.

Kathrens returned monthly to follow the horses through the seasons. Those months turned into years. She has now been filming and following Cloud for 11 years.

All of her film on Cloud turned into a documentary called ‘Cloud, Wild Stallion of the Rockies’ and has aired on PBS.

Reinke said she enjoyed hearing how Kathrens used her degree as background for many other subjects.

‘You are not limited with one career when you leave here. It’s your springboard. Students can go out and make a difference,’ Reinke said.

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