What Lies Beneath? Dāv Kaufman’s Movie Stars the Bottom of Lake Minnetonka

Long Lake resident Dāv Kaufman has made a documentary about shipwrecks in Lake Minnetonka.
Director/producer Dāv Kaufman reviews an underwater shot list with his dive crew.

Dāv Kaufman grew up on Lake Minnetonka’s Echo Bay. His father was a high school history teacher who used to tell him stories about the lake.

“My father always said there were shipwrecks at the bottom of Lake Minnetonka,” Kaufman says.  “I never knew if he was just telling stories or if it was all true.” He thought his father might be exaggerating—a speedboat or two maybe, but big ships at the bottom of the lake seemed unlikely.

Kaufman is a filmmaker who attended UCLA film school. He returned to Minnesota and continued his career acting in films, promoting music festivals and writing novels, as well as making movies. He also has two YouTube channels that feature his short documentary-type content about and for people who keep reptiles as pets; this work helps to “keep the lights on,” Kaufman says.

A few years ago, he started thinking about the stories his father used to tell him and did some research. He soon discovered that there are 90 identified man-made objects at the bottom of the lake. Some of them are small boats or cars that were driven onto the ice and fell through, but a lot of them are the kind of shipwrecks his father used to tell him stories about.

After researching the list, Kaufman identified six shipwrecks that seemed like a representative cross-section of what lies on the bottom of the lake. Beneath Lake Minnetonka is a documentary that explores those six ships using underwater photography and historical commentary. Kaufman's film features footage of a tugboat, four of the old street-car boats that used to cross the lake in the early 1900s and a more modern wreck of a smaller boat that went down in the 1970s.

Cinematographer Ken Merriman has spent hours deep in the lake, capturing the haunting and sometimes downright spooky images of ships that have been underwater so long they’re covered with algae and have become home to largemouth bass and sunfish.
Beneath Lake Minnetonka has been in production for two years; the crew must, of course, stop production during the winter. The project is now over 90 percent complete. Kaufman still wants to shoot a few interviews with historians and local experts, but, more importantly, the expensive work of postproduction still has to be done. Editing, composing and adding music, balancing sound, and all the other things that make raw footage into a movie are all big-ticket items.

“Postproduction is where your budget is,” Kaufman says. “Those are hard costs that you can’t work around.”

He estimates that his company, Echo Creek Media, needs about $30,000 to finish the film. Kaufman has used his own funds to get the project this far along, but now he needs community support to finish.

Maggie’s Diner in Wayzata has signed on as a sponsor, and he’d love to see a few more local businesses get on board. Twin Cities Public Television has made a commitment to run the movie and to promote it.

“It will air on six PBS stations in Minnesota and Wisconsin for five years,” Kaufman says. “That’s a lot of attention for the community and for businesses around the lake.” Echo Creek Media is a nonprofit, so financial support for Beneath Lake Minnetonka is a tax-deductible donation.

Kaufman is passionate about finishing the film. “It’s my love letter to Lake Minnetonka,” he says. “I want to share it with everyone.”  

If you’d like to support Beneath Lake Minnetonka or get more information about the project, contact Dāv Kaufman at Echo Creek Media: echocreekmedia@gmail.com.