Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People

About the series:

Narrated by Academy Award Winner Sissy Spacek
A Film Series by Jamie Ross and Ross Spears

The first environmental history series ever made. An all-star cast, including Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist E.O. Wilson and best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver, explores the intersection of natural history and human history in one of America’s grandest treasures.

The task:

Spring 2009 - Kristin was brought on board to premiere “Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People” on PBS stations nationally in the midst of extended pledge drives and the turbulent period of digital conversion.

The results:

Despite these challenges, more than five hundred series broadcasts (over two thousand hours of airtime) in just the first two months brought "Appalachia" into almost one hundred million television households, creating the opportunity for a successful national press run.

But wait there’s more:
In the six months since the series’ launch, “Appalachia” has achieved a very healthy 93.32% national carriage with a total of 8,703 broadcast hours.

The reaction:

“A PBS launch can be like putting a small child on a cross-country bus and just praying they make it to their destination. Instead, you got her a first class plane ticket, drove her to the airport, sat down next to her on the plane, held her hand during takeoff and landing, and bought her a nice dinner when you arrived.

Because of the digital conversion, inflated pledge schedules, and panic over the economy public television was a more chaotic place than usual this spring, so I know it was tough going. You brought a grace, sophistication, and determination to the project that was the perfect complement to the film. Job well done! It was a pleasure to work with you on this.”

Karen G. Read
National TV Marketing | Oregon Public Broadcasting

“Thank you all for your great work on the films' behalf! Because of your experience, smarts, enthusiasm, and good work I feel that the series is going to be the kind of national success that Jamie and I envisioned.

I just watched Part One on Maryland Public Television and it looked grand! It is heartening to know that thousands or millions more have been watching it too. And many more to come.
With much gratitude and respect,”

Ross Spears, Director & Writer

The press reviews:

Appalachia could be the beginning of a cure for society’s malignant attitude about the region. An engrossing and beautifully filmed and illustrated series. Appalachia is both a paean to and an investigation of the world’s oldest mountains. It gives first billing to the mountains themselves - the “soul and spine” of a people as diverse as any, but bound by a heart tug for “home” that’s all about being an underdog who knows a superior beauty.

Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People” is a magnificent account of one of the nation’s most wonderful regions - hard-used but beautiful, and a wellspring of the national culture!

Bill McKibben, Author of “The End of Nature and Deep Economics”

Years in the making by filmmakers, Jamie Ross and Ross Spears, “Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People” transcends the usual media portraits of poverty, pity, depravity and the picturesque in America’s most misunderstood and maligned region, and delivers a breathtaking view.

Jeff Biggers, The Huffington Post

The clients:

Producer and Writer - Jamie Ross

Jamie Ross has worked on documentary films for over twenty-five years as a writer, editor and producer. Her passion for the mountains of Appalachia began years before the first scene of the series was shot, and her roots in the region run thousands of years deep through her Catawba and Miami ancestors.

Before the filming began, she traveled through the mountains exploring archives and scouting locations for a series that would bring the rich and grand story of the Appalachian region to the public. She thought long and hard about the deep hold the landscape had on its inhabitants and determined that to tell the true story of the region the Appalachian mountains themselves would have to be the main character. As a result, she and Ross Spears began what was to become the first environmental history series of any region ever on film, Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People.

Director and Writer - Ross Spears

A lifelong native of Appalachia, as well as a filmmaker who has devoted much of his creative energy to telling stories related to Appalachia, Project Director Ross Spears brings a wealth of personal knowledge and experience to the project. As a member of the Advisory Board to the upcoming Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Spears has been surrounded by scholars of all persuasions - from geologists and botanists to historians and musicologists - all of whom are centering their attention on the region called Appalachia.

Spears has been the Producer/Director/Writer for seven award-winning feature documentaries on subjects relevant to American culture and American history. Ross Spears is one of only two filmmakers in America to have had both a series (Tell About the South: Voices in Black and White) and an individual feature (To Render a Life) to be nominated Best Documentary of the Year by the International Documentary Association (IDA). All of Ross Spears’ films have been shown on PBS and have been judged among the best ever made in their subject areas.

and Oregon Public Broadcasting

The website: