In January 2020, we announced on our blog that we support Steffen Krones, a German film producer, and his project team who reached out to FleetMon seeking a sponsoring partner. They planned to produce a documentary called “Flaschenpost aus Dresden”, covering the question:
Is it possible that trash produces in Germany moves all the way along German rivers ending up in the North Sea or even in the Arctic Ocean to pollute the coast of the Lofoten?
To get answers they built buoys equipped with GPS devices and tracked the buoys’ journey to understand and visualize the influence of human behavior on our world.
2020 has passed quickly and we asked the project team for an update on their documentary project.
“As we all have our personal rollercoaster story of the year 2020 – so have we. Our documentary project couldn’t have started in a more turbulent year, I guess. Since we started producing the documentary about tracking German river litter with GPS Drifters, we had some ups and downs. The first 3 months were very busy.
In March 2020, we successfully reached our crowdfunding goal to purchase more FleetMon Satellite Trackers needed for the production of the buoys. Back then, we still had to finish the application form for the film funding, which we had to submit before starting the film production.
Additionally, we had to build 10 new GPS river drifters. We decided to make them as sustainable as possible — using recycled plastic parts of trash and plenty of cork floaters we collected at the Elbe — this took quite a few days to finish. We thankfully received the GPS modules by FleetMon just in time and had almost everything put in place to start the crucial phase of the project.
We planned to release the drifters into the river Elbe and then start filming in the arctic part of Norway. So while working on the finishing touch of the drifters, one of our most important tools — the blade of the band saw — broke. Shortly after, my producer called and told me that Norway already closed its borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At first, we were shocked but then we decided to still finish building the drifters somehow and try to release them before any major restriction might be announced in Germany as well. Remember, this was a time of hourly changes and news. And nobody knew where this was going.
We managed to release the drifters along the river Elbe. All the way from Dresden to Hamburg. We came back to Dresden just in time. The day after our arrival, the city officially announced that people are advised to stay at home and are only allowed to leave the house to get groceries.
While the world seemed to pause for a few weeks, the drifters floated down the river as planned. At this point, we couldn’t do anything but pause our production as well. We were able to reschedule the release of the film and started producing again.
After one had been able to start traveling again, it was summer already. Within the last 3 months, the grass and reeds had grown very high in some places. It was difficult sometimes to collect the drifters that got stuck. On our way down the river towards the North Sea, we were able to learn a lot and cooperate with fantastic people, scientists, and organizations that became part of this journey, too. In the fall, we have been releasing 15 GPS Drifters into the North Sea. We collected a lot of data and are in close contact with experts, scientists, and organizations to learn even more.
The way we produce now changed due to the pandemic: Now, we send the drifters via mail to locals and they release them for us. We ask them to film the release and send us the material. This way we were able to keep the production running and make the project even more interactive and authentic.
Well and now we are on hold again. There is another lockdown and Norway closed its borders again due to the new virus variants. So the last couple of weeks and months we started editing the film as far as we can. And while we are still stuck at home, the drifters are traveling international waters. Some stranded in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. There are two left that are drifting around the Norwegian Coastline heading north.
We can’t wait to travel after those GPS drifters and finish the film production.”
Visit the project website to view where all the GPS drifters are located.
Follow the activities of the project team on Instagram @flaschenpost_aus_dresden.