The Strong People

The Return of a River, The Rebirth of a People

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The Strong People is an award-winning documentary chronicling the largest dam removal project in US history on the Elwha River in Olympic Peninsula, Washington. It is told through the eyes of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe that has long resided in the area, looking specifically at how these dams have affected the life ways of their people.

The indigenous Klallam have long had their way of life impeded by the dams’ existence. The disruption the dams caused to the river’s salmon runs were not only an economic disaster for the tribe, who relied on the fish for commerce, but also wreaked havoc on the Klallam’s cultural beliefs, of which the salmon are an integral part.

What really drew Hoglund and Lowe to this story was the controversy and ambiguity about just what should be done to restore a once prolific salmon run: whether they should be allowed to return naturally, thereby delaying the Klallam’s hopeful return to prosperity for even longer, or whether salmon should be artificially injected into the environment, which would expedite the salmon’s return, but irrevocably alter the river’s ecosystem in the long run. Both sides are equally compelling without any single clear, even-handed resolution. There is a dense and intriguing layer of environmental and cultural issues at play here, which is why the story is worth telling and why it needed to be captured on camera.

Heather Hoglund: Producer/Editor

Heather Hoglund


Heather graduated Summa Cum Laude from Emerson College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Documentary Production. The New England native fell in love with producing non-fiction work in High School and has since created a multitude of micro-documentary projects, including one on blind marathon runners for Team With A Vision and another on the Boston branch of the national homeless running program, Back on My Feet. She was also an Assistant Producer for an independent, Boston-based documentary project called Big Top Without Borders. Additionally, Heather was a producer and editor for Northern Light Productions, a independent documentary production house.

Heather, having never been to Washington State, gleefully accepted Matt’s proposal to jet across the country to begin developing what would eventually became The Strong People. Matt was passionate about the scientific angle to the story, while Heather was intrigued by the cultural affects the dams had on the regional indigenous tribes. Together, they explored both angles and executed an award-winning documentary film that screened at a dozen film festivals worldwide.

Currently, Heather works in Integrated Production at Hill Holliday in Boston, MA. For a peek at some of her freelance work, visit

Matt Lowe: Director of Photography

Matt Lowe

Director of Photography

Matt is a Seattle based cinematographer, photographer, graphic designer, and digital marketer. He served as director of photography and co-director on The Strong People.

Matt, who grew up in the Northwest, came up with the idea for The Strong People when he was flying back to Boston for his junior year at Emerson College while reading an article about the Elwha River Dam Removals in an inflight magazine. Matt had studied the environmental impacts of the proposed dam removals as a high schooler, an experience that had always stuck with him, and knew a documentary about the historic implications of the dam removals would be a perfect project for his senior thesis. He then approached Heather about coming on as a partner, producer and co-director on the project. Together, they further fleshed out the concept for the documentary, deciding to focus on not just the environmental impacts of the dam removals, but also on the historical, cultural, economical, and political impacts the dams had on the native peoples in the region. The Strong People has gone on to be accepted in over a dozen film festivals around the world, winning three.

Since graduating as with a Suma Cum Laude BFA degree from Emerson College, Matt has worked in the Boston startup scene as a digital marketer and graphic designer, and as a freelance videographer and photographer for companies like Vice, New Balance, Maker Studios, and Harpoon Brewery. He just recently moved back to Seattle where he is currently full time freelancing and figuring out how he can get paid to travel, take pretty pictures, and go cliff jumping.

You can view (some) of his work on his shoddily done and hastily constructed website –

Joe Holcomb: Camera Operator/1st Assistant Camera

Joe Holcomb

Camera Operator/1st Assistant Camera

“That boy can shoot. And he loves his PNW homeland.” – Matt Lowe

Isabel Thottam: Field Audio Recordist

Isabel Thottam

Field Audio Recordist

Isabel Thottam is a recent graduate of Emerson College where she earned a B.A. in Writing For Film and Television and minored in Entrepreneurial Studies. In November of 2011, Isabel started an organization called Hold On Another Day which works with non-profit causes to raise awareness of mental health issues through music. Isabel grew up in Canton, OH but currently resides in Boston, MA where she runs her business, enjoys biking through the city and working part-time at the Friend Street Hostel and Cafe. As an Americorps Alumni and current “Student Leader In Service” Isabel is an active volunteer in the Boston community, volunteering regularly with YES Kids, Community Works and the West End House. In her spare time, Isabel enjoys crafting, putting things in mason jars and exploring a newfound talent of creating string art. On set some referred to her as Team Mom. To others, she was Trinket.

Frank Kelleher: Camera Operator/2nd Assistant Camera

Frank Kelleher

Camera Operator/2nd Assistant Camera

Frank enjoys long walks on the beach, fine dining, and an occasional game of Bop-It. Frank started his passion for filmmaking at the age of ten years old, the same year he asked for computer parts for Christmas and built his first computer on the kitchen table of his parent’s house. He has worked on various promotional videos, commercials, music videos, and student films while in school. In 2011 Frank joined Cam Woodsum and contributed to the success of Boston Music Award’s Best New Hip-Hop Artist winner Moufy joining the team at 5,000 likes on Facebook. Now the page has attained over 30,000 likes and continued to grow largely in part to viral video campaigns by the end of 2012. Most notably, Frank’s work has been showcased on the main stage at TED Talks in Long Beach to conclude the 2013 conference.

Nick Reynolds: Motion Graphics/Camera Operator

Nick Reynolds

Motion Graphics/Camera Operator

Nicholas Reynolds was born and raised in Gorham, ME, and he would love for you to ask about it some time. He graduated with a cinematography degree from Emerson College in Boston, MA. He focuses on the camera and electrics departments, but he has been known to branch out into other areas of production (because he thinks making movies is really neat). His directed work has been honored with screenings at cinemas, film festivals, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum. He has recently received recognition for his animated short film “Of Hope And A Memoried Day”. He is looking constantly to expand his work in visual media into the professional world.

David Nieman: Graphics/Assistant Editor

David Nieman

Graphics/Assistant Editor

David is a technically minded artist – two traits that have led him down the winding, scenic, and ever-growing road of post production. He graduated from Emerson College in 2015, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Film Production, and minor in Business Studies. He os drawn to the areas of post in which technically precise and creatively beautiful imagery combine to help communicate interesting stories.

His experiences range from compositing shots for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, to color grading a fantasy short about the creation of nightmares, to producing a high-altitude documentary highlighting the backcountry skiing community in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Professionally, he focuses on visual effects, motion graphics, and color grading. Some find the prospect of sitting in a dark room for hours on end unappealing, but he sees post production as the place where stories are assembled, perfected, and polished… There’s also a lot of single-origin black coffee there.

Richard Gould: Composer

Richard Gould


Richard Gould is a Composer and Sound Designer from the United Kingdom. He came to the US to study at Berklee College of Music where he specialized in Music Composition and Sound Design for film and video games. A sucker for a good story, Richard loves to see how music and sound can help enhance the work of others and help tell compelling stories. In addition to working on a multitude of projects, Richard presents and writes regularly on the topics of music and sound. You can find out more at

Andrew Grzywacz: Writing Producer

Andrew Grzywacz

Writing Producer

Andrew Grzywacz is an Emerson College graduate with a B.A. in Writing for Film & Television. He has been a lifelong writer, with a range of experience in fiction, political journalism, screenplays, grant writing, content marketing writing, and blogging. He currently writes freelance for Boston-based documentaries and content marketing blogs. He is also an avid runner, having completed five years of cross country and track throughout high school and college, including captaining the Emerson College Men’s Cross Country Team. He completed the 2012 Boston Marathon and currently serves as an assistant coach for Suffolk University Cross Country and Fitcorp Marathon Training.

Patrick: McAllister



Pat was brought onto the project as soon as we found him painting a mural in the ToadLily Hostel out in PA Washington. He’s been friends with us ever since.

Check out his work here:

Click to read bios



Concept Art

Best viewed in full screen.



Heather Hoglund – Producer

Matt Lowe – Cinematographer

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Purchase & Donate

Thank you to everyone who has made this project a huge success.

Lon and Heidi Lowe
Gary and Cindy Hoglund
Bruce and Rhonda Hoglund

George R. Oliver
Demi Allen
Mary Ellen Hallowell
Susan Edwards
Charisse Baker
Andy Batson
Dan Hefner
Casper & Wendy Sutton

Brian LeBlanc
Daniel Bérubé

Andrea Barron, Riley Fund Award
Linda Reisman
Marc Fields
Jim Sheldon
Jon Honea

Devon Yesberger
Matt Figler
Micaela Lacombe
Skylar Wilson
Laura Brincat
Whitney Lowdermilk
Maureen McDermott
Elaine McMillion
Ron Gamache
John Wood Quartana
Cheyenne Webster
Alex Hoder & Juliane Radermacher
Sarah Ginsburg & Sarah Berkovich
John Ellenberger
Pam Smethurst
Lori Healy
Betsy Dolan
Alex Martinelli
Jake Hines
Norma Shaw
Senade Papalia
Dennis & Lynne Kavanagh
Pat & Paul Peavey
Kathleen O’Connor
Diana Keaney
Bjorn Berkedal
David Bruno
Evan Juda
Connor Smith
Emily Dyess
Jeff Ackerstein
James Vakos
Vincent Pinque
Philip Grindle
Dan Matson
Jordan Baker
Joyce Lloyd
Peg Scollins
Blake Bisson
Bob & Deborah O’Brien
Jean McDermott
Robert Hallowell
Peter Donahue
Laura LaMalva
Charlie Tomberg
Susan Freeman
Kevin Brosnan
Janet Sheffield
Pauline Hevia
Jim Selders
Chris Lonergan
Hans Gerwitz
Tim Hallowell
Ryan Catalani
Tony Contento
David Chrobuck
Greg Townsend
Jim & Deb McLean
Cornelia Kromm
Laurie Duyker
Vincent B. Fernandes
Bruce & Donna Hallowell
Jim Moore
Nicole Grzywacz
Chris Gray
Lower Elwha Health Clinic
Tracey Hosselkus
Brenda Francis
Leslie Johnson, Paddle to Squaxin 2012
Lee & Gwen Porterfield, Museum at Carnegie
Cody Coughenour
Alethia Lane
ToadLily International Hostel
Rainey McKenna
Dave Reynolds
Olympic National Park Service
Marie Goin
Lovel Pratt
Lauren Corder, Port Angeles Library
Seattle Grip and Light