Project History

The Idea -1990s

Finding David Douglas began as a conversation in the early 1990s between Betty Patapoff, a pioneer public television producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Lois Leonard, a historian and former exhibits curator at the Oregon Historical Society. Betty had long wanted to do a documentary on David Douglas, but the project was not realized before Betty’s retirement

In 2001, Lois met Gordon Mason, a botanist from Sheffield, England. Gordon was visiting Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, traveling as a scholar for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in London and was following in David Douglas’s footsteps around the globe

Gordon put Lois in touch with Syd House, Forestry Commission Scotland and co-author of a respected biography on Douglas. This connection opened many doors and firmly anchored the project to include Douglas’s Scottish roots.

Research in London & Scotland

Lois traveled to Scotland, having been invited to give a lecture for the David Douglas Society of Scone in the parish church where Douglas himself had worshipped. As the guest of Syd House, much important field and archival research took place in Perth, Scone Palace, and the surrounding countryside. Research continued in London at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Library, examining Douglas’s journals and 19th century horticultural journals.

Project Development/Pre-Production

The documentary became a project of the nonprofit organization, Oregon Heritage Cultural Commission (OCHC). An international Advisory Coalition was formed and the attention of the U.S. Forest Service was captured. A project budget was developed and content research continued.


With initial funding in place, location shooting was accomplished 2008-2009. The production crew traveled to northern Canada, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, California, London and Scotland.

Post Production to World Premiers

Script development and editing commenced in 2009 with a grand event and public screening at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Perthshire, Scotland. Audience feedback both from Scotland and North America was key to developing a final product. In April 2010, an important screening event (with a more finished cut) was held at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon.

More funding was necessary to complete a final cut (June 2012) and package Finding David Douglas. The film was critically reviewed during the summer, and world premiers were held at the Oregon Historical Society and in Perth, Scotland (November 2012).