Funding sought for Carnival documentary

Documentary filmmaker Mark Burns, left, interviews Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Ice Palace builder Dean Baker inside the palace in February of last year. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)


Watch the trailer for “ICE, A Love Story”

SARANAC LAKE — New York City-based filmmaker Mark Burns has launched a fundraising campaign to complete his documentary on the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival.

“ICE, A Love Story” is the running title of the full-length documentary Burns gathered footage for during last year’s “Superheroes and Villains”-themed carnival. He spent the past year editing and working behind the scenes, and now he’s set a $45,000 fundraising goal on a crowdsourcing website site to finish it.

The website,, also features a trailer Burns has produced for the documentary.

“Progress has been good, but it’s been slow,” he said Thursday. “Now, we want to kick into high gear on it. That’s why we’ve initiated the fundraising campaign. I’m looking to have a rough cut of the film by late May, early June, so we can start showing it around and really refine and focus our story.”

Burns is seeking financial support from the local community and beyond. While the Saranac Lake area obviously has the biggest connection to the film’s subject, Burns said he thinks the story has a wider appeal.

“It’s really a classic story of Americana, of a town and a community coming together,” he said. “It’s about a way of life and a spirit that’s sort of disappearing in this country. The small town that rallies together around these special traditions, which seem to slip away a bit in larger communities where people don’t know their neighbors. That’s not the case in Saranac Lake, where people rally together to make (carnival) happen.”

Burns started gathering footage in early January of last year of Winter Carnival Committee meetings, construction of the Ice Palace and groups working on their floats and preparations for the parade. Once carnival started, Burns was present with his camera at countless Winter Carnival events.

“He spent a lot of time with us, and I think hopefully that shines through and lets people understand what the meaning of carnival is,” said Colleen O’Neill, carnival’s publicity chief. “We haven’t seen it beyond the trailer but it looks great. I think it’s not just going to be good for carnival, but good for Saranac Lake, too. So many more people will be made aware of what we’re doing here and want to visit.”

While carnival is full of unique, strange and fun events — Burns calls it “part Mardi Gras, part Rio Carnival, and part Twin Peaks” — the construction of the Ice Palace is at the center of the film. It’s a story that last year was filled with plenty of drama, as warm weather and rain forced delays in the construction of the symbol of carnival.

“The thread of the story is the building of the Ice Palace, and the drama that ensued last year and everything,” Burns said. “The tangents of the story are the history of carnival, the history of building of the palace and the history of the area, but always back to the Ice Palace. I think the history of Saranac Lake is very intertwined with the history of the Ice Palace, and that’s how I’m approaching the story.”

Burns, who repeatedly called the project a labor of love, has worked on the film primarily on evenings and weekends. He continues his day job working on various television shows and productions, most recently with the History Channel.

As of Thursday, more than $5,600 had been raised toward the $45,000 goal on the film’s crowdsourcing site. Asked if there’s any way the project could get shelved or, worse, not happen if he doesn’t raise the necessary funding, Burns said no.

“I’m 100 percent confident this film will get done,” he said. “The community financial support is necessary, but there are other sources of funding that we’re pursuing. We’re also very early in the fundraising stage.”

Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Jeff Branch said he’s not worried either.

“Just like everything else associated with carnival, it will happen,” Branch said.

Local residents have been sharing the film’s trailer frequently on Facebook and other social media in recent weeks. Branch said he’s heard a lot of positive feedback about it.

“I can’t wait to see the whole thing,” he said.

Burns has traveled to the area the last couple of weekends to launch his fundraising drive and talk with local officials, business leaders and groups about different fundraising ideas.

Burns also said he’s seeking any old 8-millimeter film, and photos, local residents may have of past Winter Carnivals and Ice Palaces. He said people can reach him through the film’s website,