Detroit Lakes

Producer Erika Gilsdorf makes environmental videos fun

July 2020

Meet Erika Gilsdorf

"What Fuels You: An Electric Road Trip" is a video series about three friends travelling around the state in an electric vehicle featuring the “cool people doing awesome things for the planet" that they meet along the way.

Erika Gilsdorf, a video producer based in Detroit Lakes with Leighton Broadcasting, also happens to be a cool person doing awesome things for the planet! We interviewed her to learn more about her and her work, and her "What Fuels You?" series in particular.

It’s easy in the environmental world to get too serious, bogged down, even depressed. Keep your work and passion in balance and don’t forget to enjoy the ride while you’re changing the world with your videos.

Erika Gilsdorf, Video Producer

How did you get started in this career?

About 15 years ago (yikes!) I was talking with a friend about environmental change who said video was the best way to reach people. At the time I had absolutely no experience in video production. I don’t think I’d ever even held a video camera. But as a passionate environmentalist, eager to change the world, I decided if video was the best way to reach people, then that’s what I’d do. I think it was passion, and a blend of personal naivety and the Minnesota can-do attitude that made me into a video producer.

What are some of the projects you have worked on over the years?

My first ever video project was with CERTs on renewable energy in Central Minnesota. Yay CERTs! I was thrilled and they were a great first project for getting my new ‘producer’ legs under me. From there I went on to produce a piece on renewable energy in the Midwest for public television. And, then I stretched my legs and found a niche producing videos in Central America on sustainable tourism and rainforest and coral reef protection. One of my first pieces was for National Geographic Wild Chronicles. I think my contact there at the time gave me the gig because I wasn’t going to leave him alone. I’m also proud of a series I did on aquatic invasive species in Minnesota and another series on mental illness. More recently I produced a series on sustainable tourism in the Western Balkans and another series on conservation in Ireland.

Can you tell us about your recent "What Fuels You?" film series and some of the Minnesota subjects you worked with?

Last spring I attended an EV exhibit in my town of Detroit Lakes, MN put on by West Central Climate Action. I met Polly and Mark Andersen there who were leading the event.  We started chatting and I was intrigued with the future of electrification in transportation and the role transportation plays in climate change. 

The "What Fuels You: An Electric Road Trip" concept with Polly and Mark was born within about a week. The pilot series kicked off last fall, 2019 traveling around Minnesota meeting and interviewing cool people tackling the climate crisis. We wanted the tone to be like a road trip… fun, engaging and a little quirky.

We filmed a blend of stories about beer, coffee and chickens to farms, renewable energy, EVs and charging stations. We had a lot of fun and got so inspired we’re hoping to launch our next road trip this fall. You can watch all of the videos on YouTube and visit us on Facebook.

Watch What Fuels You? videos

See more videos

Stops on the "What Fuels You?" road trip

What advice would you give to a young person interested in a career in filmmaking, and with a focus on environmental and clean energy topics specifically?

My advice would be to follow your instincts and creative style, be persistent, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, get to know people, and have fun. It’s easy in the environmental world to get too serious, bogged down, even depressed. Keep your work and passion in balance and don’t forget to enjoy the ride while you’re changing the world with your videos.

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