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WOUB and Shelburne Films documentary wins awards

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 28, 2005) -- A two-hour television documentary about the pioneer settlers of southeast Ohio has been honored with four different international broadcast awards. "Opening the Door West: The Ohio Company of Associates," the story of the first organized settlements in the Old Northwest Territory, is centered in Marietta and covers over one million acres of southeast Ohio land purchased by the Ohio Company in 1787.

WOUB and Shelburne Films, co-producers, announced today that the production has garnered a CINE Golden Eagle Award (previously received by award-winning producers and directors such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ken Burns, among others), a Silver Telly Award, The Communicator Awards Crystal Award for Excellence in Video Production and a New York Festivals International Film & Video Finalist Award for Feature Length.

"These awards are important in that they verify that locally produced programs can be of high quality," Director David Shelburne says. "This story is much more than a bit of local history. It is a national story about the first steps of our new nation's expansion westward. It is an important part of our nation's history that has been greatly overlooked in the past. We hope these awards will help us bring this story to a national audience." The program first premiered on all Ohio PBS stations in the fall of 2003.

Photos courtesy of Shelburne Films"Opening the Door West" not only tells the story of how Rufus Putnam led a company of Revolutionary War officers to found the city of Marietta, but how they began the settlements of Belle Prairie (Belpre), Waterford (Beverly), Gallipolis and many others. These pioneer towns and forts are extensively illustrated in the film through the use of 3D computer animation. Campus Martius, the Ohio Company's civilian fortification, was recreated in the film along with Fort Harmar, The Point Village, Farmer's Castle fortification in Belpre and Fort Frye near Beverly.

"Careful attention to historical details while re-creating these frontier structures has given us exciting new views of these long vanished settlements," says Producer Ellen Shelburne. The story of these New Englanders moving onto the Ohio frontier and the clash of cultures that ensued from contact with thousands of Native American Indians is lavishly told through the use of hundreds of accurately dressed re-enactors.

Historians, authors and descendents of settlers help tell the story through interviews. Famous Ohio frontier author Alan Eckert relates some exciting frontier tales as does Marietta storyteller, Louise Zimmer. Historians like Dr. Andrew Cayton of Miami University, Dr. James O'Donnell of Marietta College and Dr. Ray Swick, W.Va. Parks Historian, add depth and interpretation.

"We hope those who missed the first airing of this important documentary will tune in. They will find a wonderful story told by incredibly talented producers at WOUB and at Shelburne Films, and brought to life by many actors from throughout the region," says Carolyn Lewis, WOUB's director and general manager. "We are pleased to have been a part of this amazing production and in bringing the story of the founding of Marietta to all of Ohio."

Viewers in southeast Ohio have another opportunity to see "Opening the Door West" as it will be aired at least five times as part of the March membership campaign for WOUB-TV, Athens, and WOUC-TV, Cambridge, on Friday, March 4, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 5, at 1 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.; Tuesday, March 7, at 3 a.m.; and Saturday, March 12, at 2 p.m.

Further explanation of the individual awards is available online at www.openingthedoorwest.com/awards.htm

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Media Contacts: Public Information Coordinator Kelly Martin, (740) 593-4944 or kelly_martin@woub.pbs.org

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