“Philosopher of the Forest”
The Sam Campbell Story
A Documentary Film Treatment
©2011 by Terry Dodge Jr.
If you’ve ever read any of author Sam Campbell’s books like, “Where’s Inky” or“A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too” you can’t help but become a part of the story the author weaves for you his readers.
Nature becomes a little less scary with the humorous stunts and eating out of your hand antics vividly etched in your mind by some of Sam’s wild island friends. To be sure, there is much more to this quiet nature loving man then his entertaining and sometimes humorous stories about his Wisconsin island home on Four Mile Lake.
Was a man ahead of his time. He was concerned that the youth of his day were not spending enough time out in nature learning the important lessons of life. Sam’s message is even more important today as most the youth are so focused on electronic devices; they seldom think deeply and are rarely if ever satisfied. This inability to think and reason has become a concern for educators of all levels.
The Philosopher of the Forest
Explores the life of Sam Campbell author, lecture, film maker and his belief that those who look at nature as a friend will be at peace with themselves, with others, and with God. The film will examine the complexity of Campbell’s life and his philosophy through the books he wrote, the lectures he gave, the films he produced and the trips that he took along with the memories of those who knew him.
This documentary will explore what made Sam Campbell who and what he was and his contributions to what has become the environmental movement of today. It will also examine his influence on the youth of his day as one of America’s well-known naturalists and early conservationists.
- Campbell’s philosophy of nature
- Campbell’s biography
- Campbell’s efforts to share with and educate others to respect the natural world.
- Campbell’s love of God in nature.
Sam Campbell matured during the last years of the great logging boom of the northern woods. The clear cutting of vast stands of timber, a process referred to as “cut & run,” turned forests to open fields, eliminating much of the habitat for wildlife.
Campbell was part of a movement which labored to restore cut-over land and preserve virgin forests for future generations. Sigurd Olson, a friend of Sam Campbell, worked with other environmentalists to lobby the United States government to establish national forests, wilderness areas, and parks to halt the unbridled logging and development of the north woods.
Campbell’s books and lectures raised the public’s awareness and encouraged support for conservation in the north woods.
Practically from his birth in Watseka, Illinois, on August 1, 1895, Samuel Arthur Campbell was destined to be a naturalist. Ducks, dogs, cats, worms, snakes, turtles, chickens, pigs, sheep, and turkeys were his childhood playmates.
Campbell was at home in the woods. He began disappearing into the forests on camping trips as soon as he was old enough for his mother to allow him to go. Campbell and his family visited the Three Lakes area for the first time around 1909.
Campbell was 14 when he first saw wild deer, bear, raccoons, and numerous other creatures in their element when he and his family camped on the east side of Four Mile Lake.
After graduation from high school he attended different colleges, taught music and tried different jobs, but in the end, he returned to nature. He turned to writing as a way to support himself without having to leave his cabin in the woods.
Campbell’s first book, The Conquest of Grief, a series of very deep and philosophical essays centered on the topic of death, was published in 1933. In this book he struggles to come to terms with the death of his beloved mother, whom he referred to by the Indian name he gave her, Wegimind.
In a number of radio lectures, Campbell explored the beauty and majesty of nature, earning for himself the title, “Philosopher of the Forest.” Campbell turned a number of his radio lectures into books of essays about nature entitled “Nature’s Messages”, but Campbell was best known for a series of twelve books of animal stories that captured his love of nature. Where Campbell’s earlier books were introspective and philosophical, the later books are humorous accounts of his life in the north woods.
Recently republished by AB Publishing, Ithaca, Michigan, the books are titled:
- How’s Inky? (1943)
- Too Much Salt and Pepper (1944)
- Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo – And Still-Mo (1945)
- A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too (1946)
- On the Wings of Cheer (1948)
- Moose Country (1950)
- The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake (1952)
- Loony Coon (1954)
- Fiddlesticks and Freckles (1955)
- Beloved Rascals (1957)
- Sweet Sue’s Adventures (1959)
- Calamity Jane (1962)
These later books describe the antics of animals he knew and loved on his island in Four Mile Lake.
One night in 1934, an official of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway who happened to attend one of Campbell’s lectures, recognized Campbell’s potential and invited him to become the official lecturer for the C&NW. For the next twenty-two years, it is estimated Campbell’s C&NW-sponsored lectures reached about 70,000 people per year.
Campbell grew increasingly more popular on the lecture circuit, leading the railroad to offer him a new outlet for his nature lectures. The C&NW created a rolling lecture series, a railway tour to such scenic spots as the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Canadian Rockies, augmented by Campbell’s popular lectures and films. For several years, during the heyday of the railroad, a special, private train was used with a lecture car at the head of the train.
Campbell delivered nightly lectures, with two lectures on Sunday during these trips. His message of love and respect for God’s nature never faltered.
Campbell suffered a heart attack at his winter home in Barrington, Illinois, shortly before he was to return for the summer to his cabin with his wife, Giny, on April 13, 1962. His good friend, the conservationist and writer, Sigurd Olson, eulogized him. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over his island by pilot and friend Norman Brewster.
Giny continued to host the “Sam Campbell Nature Lovers Tours,” going to “Scenic Splendors of the Orient” in 1965 and Europe in 1966.
Without Sam, however, the demand for these tours declined.
Campbell was considered a man ahead of his time. During his lifetime he produced 150,000 feet of nature films which became part of more than 9000 lectures he delivered over 30 years.
He taught others to love and respect nature and to experience concern for the future of the environment. He preached the message that nature was “God’s ancient sanctuary.”
Campbell believed that nature had the power to refresh the soul of man and that intelligent men could not help but be filled with wonder by observing nature. Campbell believed it was his responsibility to share his love of nature with God’s people through his lectures and books.
Scope of the Film
- The documentary will incorporate 16mm footage shot by Campbell or his wife along with other film taken of Campbell. Current HD footage taken at the locations he visited or where he lived will show the beauty of nature and the animals that live there.
- The film will feature Interviews with many who knew Campbell and can reflect not only on their memories of him, but also what he stood for and his impact on them.
- While the film will not address the current conservation movements directly, it will indirectly use Campbell’s message to awaken the current and future generations to take better care of our planet.
Length, Distribution and Media
- Target Length: 58:30 or 56:40 for broadcast. DVD length maybe longer.
- Distribution: If not broadcast then film festivals and DVD’s.
- Video: HD 1080p video, 8 mm and 16mm telecine to HD, digital shots or scans of stills. Edited with Sony Vegas.
- Music: Mostly royalty free, use some of Campbell’s own music and some original scores.
- Treatment: Available as a PDF upon request.
- Elements will come from footage Campbell took at various locations. Additional footage is yet be shot at various locations Campbell considered important. Still photos of Campbell from various private collections will be included.
- No stock footage will be used.
- Interviews: Unknown length of time as all interviews have yet to be filmed.
- 8mm or 16mm clips from Campbell’s vast collection or from private collections, HD footage
- Audio: THX mastered for nature scenes to audibly place viewer in the vast expanse or closeness of the scene.
- Still: unknown number at this time.
Sam was her god-father, she visited Sam as a child with her family. As a teenager she would visited Sam and Giny’s island home and listen as Sam read yet unpublished chapters from a new book he was working on.
Shandelle has written a book about Sam mostly of his early life.
Youngest son of Sig Olson who made up part of Sandy the Squoip’s character. Sam Campbell dedicated Moose Country to Sig. Sig had Sam’s eulogy at his memorial service.
Kim knew Sam, is a supporter and an interviewing contributor in the project.
Other interviewes to follow.
END OF TREATMENT