Award winning cinematographer creating coastal dune lake documentary

February 26, 2014

Elam Stoltzfus preparing to film Western Lake in South Walton. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Elam Stoltzfus preparing to film Western Lake in South Walton. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

With beautiful beaches, wetlands, rivers and rare coastal dune lakes, Walton County Florida abounds with spectacular natural landscapes. The unique coastal dune lakes in South Walton are particularly special, providing stunning vistas, recreational opportunities, and valuable habitat for wildlife.

Bringing awareness of our lakes is key to helping preserve our environment; not only for the present, but for future generations. We are fortunate to now have an educational documentary in the works which will encapsulate the value of our treasured lakes.

After years of admiring and documenting the coastal dune lakes, Florida environmental cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus of Live Oak Production Group will bring our beautiful coastal dune lakes to life with a one hour educational documentary. The film will be aired on Public Television Earth Day weekend in 2015.

Stoltzfus has been coming to South Walton for work and recreation with his family since 1988. Since he first set eyes on Western Lake, he knew the coastal dune lakes were something special.

“Something about the lakes stuck with me, they were unusual. What is it about this place for me to come back and come back,” Stoltzfus asked himself.

Deer Lake. Photo courtesy Nic Stoltzfus
Deer Lake. Photo courtesy Nic Stoltzfus

Stoltzfus knew someday he wanted to document the lakes. Finally, in 2007 Stoltzfus connected with the Walton Chamber of Commerce and the Tourist Development Council through his hometown Chamber in Calhoun County. The ball started rolling, and Stolzfus soon received funding to do a short film on the lakes. Then the economy dipped and the BP oil spill slowed his efforts to a halt.

Stoltzfus went on to produce documentaries on the Kissimmee Basin and the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. After those projects were completed, he felt there was something he started that wasn’t finished.

In October of 2013, Stoltzfus went to a Coastal Dune Lake Advisory Board meeting to inquire about the viability of doing a full-length documentary. With enthusiastic support, and acceptance into the Escape To Create at Seaside program, everything fell perfectly in place when he received funding for the film from St. Joe Community Foundation.

Stoltzfus is excited to see the great community support from coastal dune lake enthusiasts, historians, and environmental experts in the community.

“It’s been incredible to come back here and I am thrilled with the community support,” Stoltzfus said with a smile. “The community is the storytellers, and the conduit to put it all together,” he continued.

Elam Stoltzfus and his son Nic, a recent graduate of Florida State University, are working together on the documentary.

Elam started from humble beginnings, growing up on a farm in Eastern Pennsylvania, where being a part of the outdoors was typical day-to-day activity.

“Being outdoors was just an everyday experience on the farm, the creeks and woods and connecting with the soil was a part of life,” Elam explained.

Elam’s father instilled an appreciation for the environment early on. By experimenting with minimal use of chemicals in farming methods, Elam’s father hoped to lessen the negative impact on the environment. Learning how to use less and still manage a farm successfully was risky business back in the 1970s, as there was not much documented success.

After graduating from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in communications/media, Elam utilized his talents to create Live Oak Production Group. It turned out to be a good choice, as his success is evident in the quality work he has created to date.

1- Emmy for the FWCE- best nature documentary
11- Telly Awards – cinematography, music and best in content for nature
5- Louis Wolfson Awards – awards for best in artistic expression
3- Ava Awards – cinematography and nature based content
4- Aurora Awards – cinematography and documentary
5- FMPTA Crystal Reel Awards – best in cinematography, documentary and composition
2- Emmy nominations – cinematography and music
2- EmPixx Awards – cinematography and content for education.
2- Video Producers Awards – documentary and content
3- Davey Award – award for excellence
3- Communicator’s Award – best in style
1- Special Recognition from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission documenting wildlife in Florida.
1- Special recognition from Florida Governor Scott and the Cabinet with a Resolution presentation for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition campaign.

Below is the original film short Stoltzfus produced which delicately describes our extraordinary coastal dune lake systems.


Coastal Dune Lake video by Elam Stolzfus from Walton Outdoors on Vimeo.