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weekdays at 12:20 p.m.

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Dec 29 2015
Three Kodiak Brothers Conjure Trees and Paint Skies
Tuesday, 29 December 2015
chris_ledoux.pngChris LeDoux. Via craftyapes.com

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Three Kodiak brothers are summoning demons, casting spells, and patching up facial blemishes in Los Angeles and Atlanta. You may wonder how these Alaskan guys ended up fixing actors’ complexions in the Lower 48. Well, it wasn’t through their powers with a brush and foundation. It’s all computerized.

The LeDoux brothers are part of a visual effects company called Crafty Apes, which has worked on big-budget flicks like “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave” and TV series like NBC’s “Constantine” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

Chris LeDoux is one of the team’s founders and works with two of his three brothers. One is also a founder and the other will soon become a supervisor. LeDoux says, when it comes to working with his brothers, the employer-employee dynamic doesn’t always apply.

“With a family, they’ve seen your most embarrassing moments. They’ve seen you at your most vulnerable. So, they don’t have to take you that seriously if they don’t want to. There’s no fire to breathe at them. There’s no way to intimidate them or be like, no, I need this done. It’s more of a battle with family. But at the end of the day, they’re also the best reinforcements. They’ll have your back. You can call them at 3 a.m. and say the sky is falling, I need your help, or something like that.”

And with an industry that’s both deadline and detail-oriented, you need a good team. LeDoux explains a lot of the visual effects Crafty Apes does are ones you would never notice, like changing an actor’s chin or removing a blemish. You may think that you’re watching an actor deliver his lines while driving down the street, but he never really left the studio. Or you’re watching a night-time scene underneath a starry sky, but the actors are actually standing against a green screen.

LeDoux says, traditionally, film designers would hand-paint backgrounds and the directors would shoot in front of them.

“Nowadays it looks cheesy and you can tell, but for its time it worked. And we’re doing a similar process just all on the computer, so we might take elements from anywhere. We might go into CG software and create digital trees. We might go photograph trees. We might create a CG sky, but the idea is, and our specialty, is to combine all these things together so it looks real.”

Which takes practice. LeDoux says he started out making TV commercials and corporate video in Fairbanks and he broke into the industry when his friend offered him a job on the 2005 movie “Sin City” as a compositor, although he didn’t know what that job was at the time. He got the hang of it apparently, because he found more work as a compositor on “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which was released in 2006.

“My specialty was putting together the final shots. I’d do the green screen work, and I’d work on the environments, and I’d put it all together. I did one of the bigger shots where the little girl runs into this tunnel maze that opens up and all these trees open up and close behind her to save her from the antagonist, so that was a special one to work on. It was an unexpected hit. Because it was subtitled, we didn’t think American audiences would be that it into it. But it ended up winning a few Oscars, which is nice.”

LeDoux says it can be a hard industry to work in. He says one issue is the instability of film schedules.

“The average employees all make over $100,000 a year, so if a client is late, which they don’t care about you, they’ll be like, oh, we’ve delayed for two months. One day you’ve got all these people on salary for two months doing nothing, unless you have other work to fill the gaps. So, it’s become a very difficult business, but we kind of took a very different approach to the model, where instead of piling a lot of bodies in, we’re more like a Navy Seal type team. We went with very few people and very long hours.”

LeDoux say that was truer when Crafty Apes was just starting out in 2011 than now.
He says some of the projects the company is working on right now are “Dirty Grandpa,” a movie starring Robert De Niro, and the third film in the Divergent series.

Dec 28 2015
KIB Assembly Discuss Change of Meeting Times
Monday, 28 December 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

At its last regular meeting, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly discussed moving the beginning and ending times of its regular meetings and work sessions to an hour earlier than before. Instead of 7:30 p.m. the meetings would begin at 6:30 p.m., and instead of ending at 11:30 p.m., the meetings would end at 10:30 p.m. to be extended no later than 11.

Assembly members generally spoke in support of the change, but Assemblyman Dan Rohrer pointed out that he doesn’t want the time shift to lead to constant extensions.

“In the last little better than a year, we’ve only voted to extend the meeting one time. If a year from now I’m sitting here and we’ve extended the meeting time every single week or every other week, I’m gonna vote and push really heavily to change it back to 7:30pm, because my intent by voting it to be starting 6:30 p.m. is not to be here for 5 and a half hours instead of a 4 and half hours.”

The ordinance suggests changing the meeting agenda by moving public comments from after awards and presentations to before. Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner saw the sense of keeping the agenda as is.

“I think when we get substantive presentations like the one we had tonight on the high school project and the landfill, I could see potential benefit in citizens being able to hear those presentations and then make comment immediately after. Their other alternative to comment on the presentations would be to wait until the end of the meeting or to make comment at a subsequent meeting.”

Assemblyman Larry LeDoux spoke in favor of moving the public comments to after the presentations.

“I was thinking of the old adage, eat your oatmeal, it’s good for you. That you say to a child that they need to stay and eat it because it’s good for them. If we have great presentations, and I hope we do, it’s really up to people whether they want to listen to them or not. And they can listen to them on TV. I don’t want to force people to do that.”

The ordinance will be up for public comment at the assembly’s next regular meeting on January 7. Assembly members request feedback from members of the public and ask them to step forward should they have an opinion in either direction.  
Dec 28 2015
Update on Metal Removal in Kodiak Villages
Monday, 28 December 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak Island Borough is in the process of removing metal and hazardous waste from villages on the island.

Solid Waste Manager Joe Lipka says in 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted the borough a $2.1 million grant under the Coastal Impact Assistance Program to do the removal. He explains the project follows similar efforts between 1994 and 2007 that the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council funded.   

He says they started working on the project about two years ago.

“The first part of the program is we’re addressing the metal accumulation. We’re removing the accumulated metals from the villages, and then subsequent to that we’re going to start looking at the hazardous materials and hazardous waste that’s also present on-site either as a result of the metals such as automobile carcasses, boat carcasses, things like that, but also just waste generated by the folks out there.”

Lipka says, to date, the borough and its partners have removed 752 tons of metals from the villages, with the most coming from Larsen Bay at 520 tons.

He says that material will end up in Soldotna.

“The metals are basically sorted, moved, staged to move to a beach or an area where the landing craft can basically come in, dock, the metals are loaded onto the landing craft and then the landing craft takes those back to Homer where the Alaska Scrap and Recycling folks offload the vessel and then take it to their yard in Soldtona.”
He says workers in Soldotna will further process the metals there.  

The Kodiak Island Borough only has a certain length of time to remove all the metals and hazardous waste from the villages. Lipka says the grant sunsets in December 2016.

“The focus this next field season - which is when the weather starts to get a little more predictable, a little less sporty - in the spring will be Port Lions, Old Harbor, and then finish up in Ouzinkie. We have some metals to load out still. Akhiok’s about halfway done, and then we’ll go from there.”

He says they are trying to prepare the villages to continue the project after the grant’s end date.

“The metals are sorted and basically prepped by the folks in the villages and then they’ve received training or have had previous training to go ahead and prep, say, the automobile carcasses or any engines or motors, drain the fluids, properly handle the fluids.”

Lipka says ideally they’d like to have a continual removal option instead of completing a major project every decade or so.
Dec 24 2015
Library Director Looks Back at 2015 and Forward to 2016
Thursday, 24 December 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak Public Library observed its second anniversary at its new location earlier this month. Library director Katie Baxter says the current building on Egan Way was completed in October of 2013.

“There was a wonderful history of people committed to the library in Kodiak since the inception. There was an original location downtown on Mill Bay Road and, over time, the building just outlived its purpose, and various community members became aware of opportunities through state funding and grant programs to be able to design a new building.”

Baxter says the library offers a host of different opportunities, including a series of author meet and greets and storytelling workshops.

“I am proud of each and every program that the library has offered. We have offered a total of over 250 programs just in the last year alone. This year, we will exceed that amount. And, in addition, the library serves as a community forum for people who want to share their passions, knowledge, habits, activities.”
She says the library is also in the middle of creating its technology plan.

“We have been fortunate enough to receive through state grants various iPads, MacBooks, etcetera, and so we slowly roll out the use of that equipment, and so this year is a very important time for us to make that equipment available to patrons, give one-on-one instruction.”

Baxter says the library is planning to complete some work on the property next year.

“We’re delighted as a staff that the library is thriving and is used so much, and yet behind the scenes we know that we are still tweaking some of the building project needs and we’re waiting for the good weather of the spring to wrap up the landscape of the exterior grounds.”

The Kodiak Public Library is located at 612 Egan Way and its regular hours on weekdays are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dec 24 2015
Task Force Fights Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center Closure
Thursday, 24 December 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A Kodiak fisheries research building may be on the cusp of closure according to a task force now trying to keep it open. The Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center on Near Island – formerly known as Fisheries Industrial Technology Center - belongs to the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and its future is uncertain.

The task force hopes to convince the president of the University of Alaska to extend the deadline on its decision to give the group enough time to come up with a thorough presentation in defense of the facility.

KMXT sat down with members of the task force to talk about what they hope to

3 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Kodiak Island Borough Assemblyman Larry LeDoux says the Alaska State Legislature established the center in 1981 as an applied research facility to investigate efficient catching, processing of fish, seafood safety, and preservation.

“In fact, they’ve contributed significantly to the fisheries industry in Alaska, so it’s vital that this institution be functioning so that they can tackle some of the challenges our fishermen face, that we can develop more efficient ways to process our food and to utilize waste and value added processing.”

LeDoux says applied research is different from academic research in that it investigates the questions that the public needs answered. He says, traditionally, there has been opposition between the two research types because they don’t mix well.

And he says applied science now has a smaller presence at the center because of budget cuts.  

“Over time, the applied research component has slowly disappeared, until they have, I think, one and a half employees resident in the facility, and so we believe that if we lose the facility, then the program is lost completely. What we’re really interested in is the program that the facility hosts.”

He says the task force is concerned that the university made the decision to close the center quickly and without public input.

“So, what we’re looking for and what the borough assembly did and the city council - we wrote a letter to the president asking that they maintain it as least for another year, and they give our community, the industry education a chance to work together to develop a sustainability plan and to refine the mission so it continues to serve the citizens of Alaska with regard to applied fisheries research.”

Alan Austerman is a former Alaska State Representative and is also a member of the task force. He spoke about some of the challenges the center has faced with getting funding and recognition for its contributions.

“Whereas the big money comes into the university when you start talking about the fisheries and oceans – it’s ocean grants. That’s where the bulk of the money comes into the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. So, fisheries has kind been on the downplay a little bit, and also of course the School of Fishery being stationed in Fairbanks is kind of a difficult connection to be made between our ocean fisheries and the education system that we want.”

He says the University of Alaska has generally overlooked the center, and has offered the building to the University of Alaska Anchorage. He says the university president has given the chancellors of the University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks until March 1 to come up with a recommendation.

Austerman also says it’s a difficult process because the center has gone through several different directors and has not had a permanent position holder for almost two years.  

“Without a director, there’s been no fund raising going on, and no grant raising going on and those kind of things that would keep the facility active and going, so that’s something we’re going to have to reinstitute as part of our strategy plan, but you can’t pull that together in a month or three months. It takes time to do that, so our effort right now is to try to get the president to hold off a year before they make a final decision.”
You can hear more about the center’s future and what the task force is trying to achieve on the most recent Talk of the Rock.
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