Rocky Mountain PBS viewers across Colorado will get an intimate view of Durango’s historic Strater Hotel thanks to the creative work of three Fort Lewis College students and their professors.
“The Strater: The Hotel That Built Durango” is the first documentary special in the eighth season of Colorado Experience, a PBS series that explores the people, events, and places that have shaped Colorado. Students from FLC’s Advanced Media Production course helped with nearly every aspect of the segment, which will premiere in a virtual screening on September 30, 2020.
The virtual screening of “The Strater” will bring viewers a special inside look at the making of the documentary, as well as stories and insight into the historic hotel’s rich history. Will Langston (Journalism & Multimedia Studies, ’20) was involved with preliminary editing. Peyton Rutkowski and Taylor Hutchison, seniors majoring in Journalism & Multimedia Studies, both helped with research, writing, production, and interviews.
“I really love making documentaries and video production adds a whole other art element to journalism,” says Hutchison. “This one was special because as college students, we see all of these amazing things in Durango but we’re here for only so long. It was really great to dive in and learn so much about something so iconic as the Strater.”
Hutchison will join the virtual premiere for a question and answer period at the end of the program. Carol Fleisher, senior producer of Colorado Experience and producer-in-residence at FLC, will also be presenting. She teaches Advanced Media Production alongside Assistant Professor of English Stacey Sotosky. Each spring, their students learn production, filming, and post-production skills to create original digital projects for Colorado Experience.
“This class allowed me to be in the field actually doing things, it wasn’t just sitting in a class learning about them,” says Hutchison. “Now I have this documentary under my belt and have more experience than I would have otherwise.”
Fleisher manages the Bliss Bruen Regional Innovation Center, which is housed in the Ballantine Media Center on campus. The collaborative space and partnership between FLC and Rocky Mountain PBS fosters storytelling for the region and student engagement.
"Our students are very eager to tell a good story, they understand the power of good storytelling. Rocky Mountain PBS is just so thrilled to be a part of both of the Fort Lewis College and Durango communities and to be a vehicle to inspire students who want to have their stories reach a bigger audience, influence people, share revelations, and in some cases change people’s lives."
“Our students are very eager to tell a good story, they understand the power of good storytelling,” says Fleisher. “Rocky Mountain PBS is just so thrilled to be a part of both of the Fort Lewis College and Durango communities and to be a vehicle to inspire students who want to have their stories reach a bigger audience, influence people, share revelations, and in some cases change people’s lives.”
Despite disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, Fleisher said students this spring learned valuable lessons and were able to produce a great story and documentary about the Strater Hotel.
“They were so enthusiastic about telling a story about their own community and spent so much time at the Strater researching and then organizing all of the video we shot,” she says. “I was really proud of the way they worked as a team and had each other’s backs. Team comradery and spirit are the best real-world lessons I can give them.”
In addition to the students’ contributions, Nik Kendziorski, archives manager at the Center of Southwest Studies, provided historic imagery of the Strater Hotel. Jason Schafer, visiting instructor of English, did the final editing. Shafer, Professor of History Andrew Gulliford, and Strater Hotel owner Rod Barker will also be at the virtual premiere to answer questions.
The virtual premiere will run from 7 to 8 p.m. on September 30. The event is free but pre-registration is required online. Colorado Experience airs Thursdays at 7 p.m. on Rocky Mountain PBS.
*Photos of the Strater Hotel provided by The Durango Herald and Strater Hotel.