Jeff Dobbs was named the 2018 Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce's Cadillac Award Winner at the Annual Dinner on Monday, October 22nd at the Atlantic Inn and Conference Center.

Photo Chad Kessel
Photo Chad Kessel

Jeff was introduced by Matt Horton and in the video announcing Dobbs as the winner, he received testimonials from Horton, David Payne, Tom Testa, Greg Vielleux, and wife Karen.

Dobbs has been an advocate for Bar Harbor and Maine for over 30 years. From Jeff's website

Dobbs Productions has been integrating a wealth of words and images, from that aerial footage to archival documents and photos, into documentary and commercial film projects since the 1980s.

Jeff Dobbs now has more than 20 full length films to his credit, but his career began in still photography. He majored in film at Boston’s Emerson College, but after graduating, just couldn’t shake his interest in maritime history and scenic and marine photography. He collected hundreds of old photographs of steamships and all types of sailing vessels, from coasting schooners and full-rigged ships to America’s Cup contenders. Later, he took his own shots, and used a sepia technique to give the photos a nostalgic look.

In 1970s, Jeff’s retail stores, Down to the Sea In Ships, in Bar Harbor and
in Northeast Harbor, sold his photography and nautical brass items. Hundreds of
these photos still hang in restaurants, hotels, and homes around the country. But
it wasn’t long before Jeff traded that still camera for video. “There’s a timelessness to still images that just sticks with a person, and I’ll always love still photography,” Dobbs says. “But, there were things I wanted to do and places I wanted to explore, and video and film gave me the means to do that.”

Back in the “stone age” of media, when cable television was a new thing, Jeff got ahead of the curve by leasing time on the Bar Harbor local access channel. That was the beginning of Dobbs Productions. With some old video equipment rented from a Bangor production company, and the help of an old college roommate, Doug Wornick, Dobbs Productions launched “Island Update.”

The first two seasons of Maine’s first tourist information channel were broadcast not from a fancy studio, but from Jeff’s dining room, and Jeff himself wore many hats, including that of host and cameraman. “It was an interesting start,” Dobbs says, “switching from one role to another, and never quite knowing how well it would all work in the long run. But it took off.”

“Island Update” thrived, offering short stories about local history and tourist activities, including golf, fishing, and hiking reports, as well as a place for local restaurants, shops,
and museums to advertise. All the reporters were local business people, including the editor from the town newspaper. Soon, “Island Update” expanded, morphing into “MDI Tv,” and came to include the work of Penny Purcell, a local actress and friend of Jeff ’s, who co-hosted the show for many years.

Eventually “MDI Tv” became the tourism and entertainment standard it is today, “The Acadia Channel.” True to its roots, “The Acadia Channel” still features a wealth of information about Mount Desert Island and surrounding areas, but now also includes shorter versions of the numerous documentaries. Dobbs Productions has produced over the years. But that’s now, but back then Jeff Dobbs was just making the move from shorter stories to longer ones.

The first major production Dobbs undertook was “Portrait of an Island: The Story of Mount Desert Island.” The film was written by a friend of Jeff’s, longtime Mainer Gunnar Hansen, who is probably most widely known as an actor in the “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” but whose creative work goes far beyond that one cult film. “Portrait of An Island” was hosted by Jeff himself, and though it never had the broad distribution that later Dobbs Productions have enjoyed through with Maine Public Television, the film became quite well known locally.

The next turning point in the history of Dobbs Productions occurred rather by accident, as many big, important things tend to do. In the early 1980s, noted national broadcast journalist Jack Perkins had just retired from NBC and moved to Bar Island, just off Bar Harbor proper. Retired, yes, but Jack was still active in work on camera and in producing, and he began using the Acadia landscape he had come to love as a backdrop for many of his commentaries for national network, cable, and PBS programs. Jeff Dobbs was more than once behind the camera for Jack, and a partnership was born.

That partnership also included Jeff’s best friend, Bing Miller, who came to work with Dobbs Productions around the same time. The two have worked together for so long now that when people call Dobbs’ studios, they can’t tell the two men’s voices apart.
Jack Perkins, meanwhile, has been the on camera voice for many of the Dobbs films, bringing his journalist’s sensibilities and inimitable style to the projects. Other Dobbs films have featured the work of former CNN reporter and Maine resident Jennifer Skiff, in “Wild Maine,” a story about Maine’s abundant wildlife, and Tim Harrison, president of the American Lighthouse Association, hosting “The Lighthouses of Maine: A Journey Through Time.”

Many of the Dobbs projects also feature the evocative, original music of local composer John Cooper, who is currently a professor at Maine’s College of the Atlantic. And as the film projects grew in scope and number, Jeff added more talent to his team by engaging writer and researcher Catherine Russell, whose work has been seen on PBS, on stage, and in print.

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