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Monumental Film

CMU students and faculty collaborate with National Park Service on Colorado National Monument 20-minute historical video

According to the National Park Service, the Colorado National Monument welcomes more than 730,000 guests each year. Now, those who stop at the Visitor Center theater will have the opportunity to learn about the park’s rich history from a 20-minute film produced in collaboration with CMU Mass Communication students and Emmy Award-winning video editor/photographer and Instructor of Video Production Greg Mikolai.

The film, The Heart of Time, illustrates the geologic events that shaped the beautiful rock monoliths and canyons, and commemorates the people, plants and wildlife that have inhabited it.

“The new Visitor Center video for the Colorado National Monument provided CMU students with real-world opportunities for work on a professional project. This experience benefits students through hands-on application of classroom instruction,” said Mikolai. “They also benefited by experiencing the unique challenges of a video of this scope, such as dealing with weather and atmospheric conditions; traversing and setup in difficult terrain; and of course, delays created by a pandemic.”

Beginning in 2017 and wrapping up this past fall, the project took longer than anyone could have expected with the pandemic and regional wildfires being only two of the things that slowed the timeline.   

“It took us a while to get our script finalized. We wanted to be sure we included the Ute history and perspectives in this film. There were a number of conversations going back and forth to make sure we got that right,” said Arlene Jackson, National Park Service Chief of Interpretation, Education and Community Outreach for Colorado National Monument, who retired this past fall. “Then there were challenges with the atmosphere. We filmed in 4KHD which meant even a little bit of dust or smoke in the air would affect the image quality. In order to capture the three-dimensional sense of the canyons, we wanted to use drone footage. It took us months to get the Washington, D.C. approval and it was a good thing we got that as the rules have now changed. We would not be able to do those shots now.”  

The film was specifically designed for viewing in the Visitor Center theater space and Jackson said it really “pops” in there. It is also available for viewing on the Colorado National Monument website.

“I loved working with the CMU students. We started out by involving them in the design phase and they helped throughout the process. I especially enjoyed hiking with them into some of the areas of the monument where we were filming. They were so professional and at the same time seemed to really enjoy themselves,” Jackson said. “The youth of our country are the next stewards of the National Park Service and all the areas we protect. To involve them in a project like this is so critical to their understanding of what that stewardship can look like and mean.”

The project was completed in October, Jackson’s last month of duty. “With the film finished, I feel like it is a celebration each time we hit the start button for a new group of visitors to watch it,” Jackson said.

That celebration will continue as part of her legacy, while she enjoys her retirement. 

“I would like to send a huge thank you to Greg Mikolai for all the work and passion he put into this film. Without him, this film would not have happened. He involved his students each step of the way and ensured that we got what we wanted from the film,” said Jackson. “Also, a big thank you to Colorado National Monument Association for funding this film. Due to the generosity of the members of the association, the Grand Junction Rotary and the community we were able to make this long dreamed of project a reality.”


Written by Hannah Odneal