Posts By: J.J. Kelley

Indie filmmaking on TV? No way!

Dudes on Media producers JJ Kelley and Ben Gottfried join the set of PBS' Director's Cut.

The interview started with a casual statement. “The concentration of the river reaches a certain point where it becomes so inundated with fecal matter that it literally transforms into a river of poo; still I loved paddling on it.” It’s a statement so true and one that defines the mixed feelings I left with after traveling the full length of India’s River Ganges.

This week, myself and Go Ganges producer and editor, Ben Gottfried traveled to Madison, Wisconsin for an interview with PBS’ Director’s Cut. We had a chance to talk about the films being produced at Dudes on Media, and how our adventure films have grown side-by-side with professional careers in television production.

I’ve always thought it funny that a new music group can easily find an open mic night to present their work, but it’s not that easy for an indie filmmaker. The cost of booking a theater often falls on the filmmaker, and it’s rare that a network will have the huevos to try something outside of their market-reacher-tested comfort zone. If a network does take a chance on indie film, you can bet it will be airing at 2am on a Sunday night. So I’m extremely honored that some networks and programs value an independent voice. Thank you PBS for being weird (in a good way).

I thank Shiva that we have the internet for video distribution. Web based indie groups are now getting their content seen in a big way. Like the folks over at VICE who just surpassed 2-million subscribers on YouTube. While mainstream networks like CBS and Fox have less than a quarter of the number of online subscribers. As traditional TV broadcasting migrates fully to the web (and it will); the old network giants will have to get weird and flexible or they will go the way of the dinosaur.

The full 30-minute interview will air on Wisconsin PBS two times this summer: June 29, & July 26, at 10pm. Mark your calendars Wisconsin! These TV broadcasts will be the first for our latest adventure film; later this year it will also air nationwide on Outside Television.


Watch Adventure Documentary Exploring How To Hitchhike in America

Hitchhiking is a dying art. Preserved as a relic, the thought today inspires images of hobos walking dirt roads gleefully strumming their worn-out banjos. At Dudes on Media we live for this type of long distance adventure, one where you find yourself lost along the way and wondering why you departed in the fist place. For us, it’s always more about the journey than the destination. For that sole reason, we are proud to offer a free, limited-time, online-screening of the travel documentary Highway Walkers.

The film follows our two friends Josiah Laubenstein and Darrell Johnston as they take to the road, attempting to hitchhike their way from Iowa to Oregon. The two young men use the adventure to explore the roots of hitchiking in America. Through their travels, they hear firsthand why so many fear ride-bumming today.

These guys are fun and funny, and we think you’ll enjoy their film (embedded here on our website or on YouTube). Below are 5 tips to hitchhiking from the boys themselves. For even more advice on hitchhiking visit blog.

First things first. Every state has different regulations on hitchhiking. Make sure you do your homework before heading out. If you are approached by an officer of the law, be polite, positive and informed. Make sure you know your rights and the laws regarding hitchhiking. The best case scenario is you get a free ride across a border by a kind policeman.

Look clean and approachable
No one wants to pick up a shady looking character covered in hair and mud. Get a haircut, shave and shower before hitting the road. You have about 3 seconds to make a good impression on a passing car. Don’t blow it by wearing tattered clothes and a goatee. We found that playing an instrument made us look non-threatening. We used a ukulele and dulcimer but we’ve also heard that people with dogs have great success hitchhiking.

Wear bright colors
Your appearance is the only thing that will make someone pull over. Bright colors are regarded as less threatening and cheerful. Avoid camouflage and dark colors as these play into negative hitchhiking stereotypes.

Many people are going to pass you and glare. Many will be rude and insulting. Don’t let this get you down. Always be hopeful that a ride is coming soon and that maybe just maybe, that last car that passed noticed your cheerful demeanor and will turn around as soon as they can. A friendly wave never hurts.

Keep your bag in plain sight
Keeping your bag in plain sight shows that you a person with a plan and a destination. Without seeing your backpack people may think you are running away or reckless. I have hitchhiked many times without a pack but having one is certainly helpful.

Check out more work from Josiah and Darrell including their new film exploring manhood in America at

Highway Walkers Poster

Best Environmental Film!

"Go Ganges!" wins the Audience Award for Best Environmental Film at the Sedona Int'l Film Festival.

“Go Ganges!” wins the Audience Award for Best Environmental Film at the Sedona Int’l Film Festival.


It’s with great excitement that we at Dudes on Media announce the Audience Award for Best Environmental Film at the Sedona International Film Festival. This is the film’s 4th festival award for Go Ganges!, and we’re just starting to see it air on television as a result.

We’ve been delighted to see the film create buzz at environmental venues. In truth we never set out to create a green film and Go Ganges! really isn’t an issues documentary. At its base it’s an adventure travel film that takes viewers to an exotic place and does it rather unconventionally. The journey just happens to take place on perhaps the most polluted river in the world. This opens up the dialogue for water quality talks and over population discussions. And we couldn’t be happier with how this film is shaping our brand.

New Work from the Dudes

As some of our most fervent Dudes on Media fans know, Josh and JJ not only make adventure documentaries together like Go Ganges! & Paddle to Seattle, but they also work on television documentaries for Discovery and National Geographic. Josh just finished 3-months of production for season 10 of the Deadliest Catch. As a producer/shooter, Josh held the camera steady while he puked over the deck of many a crabbing vessel, and then, he puked again.

JJ has just finished a one-hour National Geographic documentary on the illicit ivory trade. Battle for the Elephants, a groundbreaking new special, explores the brutal slaughter of African elephants for their tusks, fueled largely by China’s demand for ivory. JJ was one of the film’s producers, and in addition to the national broadcast on PBS, JJ wrote, edited and even narrated a 4 part Web series exploring the supply and demand for elephant ivory. Elephant numbers are at the lowest level ever recorded, and exposing this tragedy is at the core mission of Dudes on Media. It has always been our goal to create programing that honors and explores the natural world.

Here is one of the episodes in the series. In this video, JJ follows investigative journalist and war corespondent, Aidan Hartley. Together they were the first to ever film Tanzania’s ivory stockpile, which is the largest cache of raw  ivory in the world. JJ held the camera and produced this piece in the field for National Geographic. So if this injustice calls to you or if you just miss JJ’s sultry voice, check out this video.

Go Ganges! wins Best Adventure Travel Film

Go Ganges! Wins Best Adventure Travel Film at the 2013 Reel Paddling Film Festival

PALMER RAPIDS, ON, FEBRUARY 15, 2013 – The 8th annual Reel Paddling Film Festival premiered Tuesday night at the Royal Cinema in Toronto, hosted by The Complete Paddler. The largest premiere audience in festival history was treated to the first screenings of this year’s award-winning films.

Go Ganges! wins the 2013 Best Adventure Travel Film

Go Ganges! Wins Best Adventure Travel Film at the 2013 Reel Paddling Film Festival

With Public Radio on traveling the Ganges River

Listen to J.J. Kelley on Capital Public Radio

Go Ganges! Television producers and adventure travelers JJ Kelley and Josh Thomas test their limits on an adventure down India’s sacred river, the Ganges.  Together, they journey from the source glacier of the river in the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, where it empties into the Indian Ocean.  They do it rather unconventionally–traveling on foot, cycle-rickshaw, rowboat, and just about anything else that moves.  They turn their adventure into a documentary called Go Ganges!, which is showing on Saturday morning at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City.  JJ joins us by phone to give us a preview of his adventure.