Scholars of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking are selected annually to further the Center’s mission to produce the next generation of environmental and wildlife filmmakers.
2012/2013 Center Scholar Winners
Maria Arreguin and Corin Wilson are producing an action-adventure web series for children designed to encourage responsibility and enthusiasm for the environment. Particular emphasis will be on exploring and celebrating the wilderness within the United States.
Erin Finicane’s film is a part of the National Park Service webisode series on America's Wilderness. Her project explores the value of wilderness through the eyes and ears of select characters who have developed emotional connections to the natural landscape. Erin is using these video perspectives to inspire others to discover their own personalized versions of Wilderness and share those reflections with one another on a public forum.
Sarah Gulick is contributing to a web series celebrating designated wilderness areas. The films are being developed with the National Park Service in advance of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act with the goal of developing public and political awareness and support for additional wilderness designations, the highest level of land protection. Sarah is also continuing work on a short film highlighting the sea turtle conservation efforts of a remote village in Belize.
Sylvia Johnson a Fulbright scholar and National Park Service Film Fellow. Her short film, Alagados was an official selection at film festivals across the globe.
Sylvia is currently in post-production on Roaming Wild, a documentary about the controversy over wild horses in the West. Tens of thousands of wild horses call Western states like Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico home. An invisible battle is being waged across the American West–over resources, water, freedom–and wild horses find themselves at the epicenter of an age-defining controversy where the demands of modern development collide with the needs of the wild. The public lands they call home are lands of limited resources and increasing demands and competition for those resources. Each year the federal Bureau of Land Management rounds up thousands of mustangs by chasing them with helicopters into pens. Some are tamed and adopted, some sit in holding pens indefinitely, and some end up slaughtered for human consumption abroad. Wild horse activists plead for the round ups to stop. Roaming Wild is an age old story of man versus wild playing out in the 21st century. In this film, wild horses, cowboys, ranchers, and activists all struggle to defend disappearing ways of life in the American West.
Sylvia has assembled a fantastic team of women filmmakers and they are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to raise the finishing funds they need to complete editing and post-production. Check the campaign and trailer out here:
They have also just launched a companion website that will feature a series of short web videos: www.roamingwildfilm.com
Brian Kelley is asking the question, Has nature on film become more beautiful and compelling than the real thing? In Brian’s behind the scenes film, All Natural, three wildlife filmmakers take us into their world, revealing the often unnatural art that is wildlife filmmaking.
Ana Sotelo’s film, Guardian of Guano, is a documentary about Island Guard Ricardo Moreno's life on a Guano Reserve in Southern Peru and his struggles to protect the Guano producing birds that live on it.
Jennifer Stratton’s focus is on interactive storytelling and utilizing animation techniques in environmental films to find new ways to delight and inspire viewers. Her current documentary project focuses on the experiences of veterans working in sustainable agriculture.
2011/2012 Center Scholar Winners
Congratulations the following five graduate students for being selected as 2011/2012 Scholars at SOC’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking:
Sarah Gulick: Sarah Gulick is founder of Studio Up, specializing in the creation of integrated educational interactive experiences – video productions, interactive displays, and websites. She is currently in her final year of the MFA program in Film and Electronic Media at American University. Over the summer Sarah spent time in a small village in Belize filming and assisting with conservation efforts for the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle. They successfully rescued and satellite tagged a turtle—a most amazing experience. The project is currently in post production. Her thesis work is a series of web videos celebrating wilderness in collaboration with Wilderness Stewardship Division of the National Park Service. As a CEF graduate fellow with the NPS Harper's Ferry Center for Interpretive Design, she has been traveling throughout the United States to film and produce videos celebrating the beauty and value of wilderness and challenging our stereotypes about who enjoys these protected places and why. In 2014 they will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, yet many of the most iconic parks (like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Great Smoky Mountains) still do not have the high level of protection offered by the wilderness designation. It is important is to raise public awareness and to inform policy makers about the value of wilderness designations. Wilderness areas are the last truly natural and most diverse environments. Videos are being added regularly to the new NPS Wilderness channel: http://www.youtube.com/NPSWilderness
Helenah Swedberg: Helenah set out to chronicle the life of Jackson Landers and his quest to consume invasive species in Close to the Bone, however, her film took a new path as their relationship changed throughout filming. She is releasing her film in the coming months in the wake of Landers’ book release, Eating Aliens. Previously, Helenah was the Director of Photography for the film 'Menhaden: The Most Important Fish in the Bay,' which screened on Maryland Public Television in April 2012. The film won three regional student Emmy Awards for that film, including Best Photography. She also produced, shot and edited a tree-part web video series for National Geographic about the male tiger at the National Zoo, and won Vision Awards (AU:s own film prize) for that, Best Cinematography and Best Documentary Production. Currently Helenah works as the Creative Director at Reishman Real Estate in Dupont Circle. She maintains a video blog that offers a glimpse of a project she is currently working on: Fathers Behind Bars.
Jennifer Stratton: Jennifer is a researcher, educator, thinker and maker. She grew up with a strong spirit of exploration, constantly moving around the globe as part of a Naval Special Warfare family. For the past several years she has worked as freelance interactive designer and data visualization Specialist for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She hosts photography/animation workshops for youth centered on environmental issues both independently and as part of the National Geographic Media Camp team. In partnership with NOAA, the 2011 Ocean for Life program brought 30 students from all over the world together to learn about one another through ocean science, while documenting their with cameras. As a Center for Environmental Filmmaking Scholar Jennifer traveled to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary to help teach students media production skills. Jennifer has also taught media workshops as part of public conservation-focused events such as National Public Lands Day and World Ocean Day. She believes the collaborative problem-solving skills necessary in filmmaking are a fitting reflection of the collaborative problem-solving skills necessary to solve the complex, global environmental issues of today. In 2011 Jennifer was the Motiongraphics Director for 'Menhaden: The Most Important Fish in the Bay,' which premiered on Maryland Public Television in April 2012. The film won three regional student Emmy Awards and has screened at several film festivals throughout the past year. In 2012 Jennifer was awarded an Embassy Science Fellowship from the U.S. Department of State. As a Center for Environmental Filmmaking Scholar Jennifer has also produced handmade animated shorts and infographics that explore human connections with water and aim raise awareness of the global importance of keystone species in our oceans, bays and estuaries. These shorts are being compiled into a web series Our Ocean Commons.
Aditi Desai is an independent digital storyteller skilled in producing, editing and shooting documentaries with a diverse background in counseling, legal advocacy, peace and reconciliation and environmental conservation work. While working as a counselor and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, Aditi realized that visual storytelling could bring critical human rights issues from the margins into the mainstream.
Embarking upon an MFA in film production, Aditi learned the skills and gained the tools necessary to create mission driven videos that would have a positive impact on the issues she cared about. Aditi has produced videos for clients such as The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Prince Charitable Trusts, PBS, the National Park Service, Discovery Communications and the American India Foundation.
Winner of a Cine Golden Eagle, a student Emmy and three TIVA-DC Peer Awards, Aditi’s award-winning programs were featured online in places like The New York Times’ Green Blog, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, NationalGeographic.com, TreeHugger.com and Discovery.com. Her work has played in festivals such as the DC Environmental Film Festival, the Newport Beach Film Festival, the American Conservation Film Festival and the Annapolis Film Festival, been broadcast on PBS and the Smithsonian Channel and traveled in museum exhibits around the world. Eternal Peace, a film she produced for the National Park Service, went viral on YouTube garnering over 2.2 million views.
Beyond public platforms, her films have also been used to leverage stakeholder action and promote public policy change via nonprofit websites, in meetings and conferences to raise awareness about issues ranging from the depletion of shark populations due to the demand for shark fin soup to the importance of sustainable farming practices to protect agricultural lands for future generations. Aditiis currently in the postproduction phase of Entangled, a documentary film about competitive kite flying in India. You can learn more about the project here: entangledmovie.wordpress.com.
Aditi holds an MFA in Film and Electronic Media from American University and a BA in Psychology from Smith College.
Sylvia Johnson (for a second year): Sylvia Johnson is a Fulbright scholar and National Park Service Film Fellow. Her short film, Alagados was an official selection at film festivals across the globe. Sylvia is currently in post-production on Roaming Wild, a documentary about the controversy over wild horses in the West.
The next round of the Scholars Program will be next fall (deadline December 1, 2012).
Congratulations again to Sarah, Helenah, Jennifer, Aditi, and Sylvia.
2010/2011 Center Scholar Winners
Aditi Desai and Kai Fang:
Together they just completed the production phase of their film "Entangled." Shooting in India was an exciting, hectic, transformative and exhilarating experience. They got to witness Uttarayan first-hand, and saw the environmental impact that the glass-coated kite string (manja) had on the local wildlife during this day long kite festival. At Jivdaya, a charitable trust that recues and rehabilitates animals, they saw countless pigeons, kites, storks, vultures and peacocks that were injured or killed due to the Manja, which really underscored the need for a film like theirs to promote awareness and spur chance around this deep rooted cultural issue. You can read more on their blog.
Photo by Jeremy Polk
Jeremy Polk A former scholar of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, Jeremy produced three short films examining climate change. The films feature glaciologists from around the world, who Jeremy met during his travels to the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) in Denver, CO, the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), in Boulder, CO, the Brook Lab at Oregon State University, and WAIS Divide, a field camp in the middle of West Antarctica. The films we produced in cooperation with the National Science Foundation and the WAIS Divide Ice Core Project.
The Bonobo Connection is a 32 min. documentary on one of our closest relatives, the bonobo ape. Former MFA graduate student Irene wrote, produced, and directed the film for her master's thesis project. NBC4's Wendy Rieger (Washington, DC's local affiliate) produced a story on Irene's film and the story aired on NBC in September 2012. Actor Ashley Judd narrated The Bonobo Connection. Irene recorded with Ashley at Dark Horse Recording studio in Franklin, Tennessee, where musicians such as Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, and Tim McGraw have all recorded. Irene's promo for her film won three TIVA Peer Awards including a Peer Gold for best narration. The film is currently circulating festivals, and has been awarded official selection of the 2012 International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana. a feature-length version of the film is being produced and currently in production. The film has also won best student production at the 2012 TIVA Peer Awards and is up for another Peer Award this November. Voice of America coverage on bonobos, featured Irene’s film. There's an article, a video and it's also airing on FM stations internationally.
Sylvia Johnson is a Fulbright scholar and National Park Service Film Fellow. Her short film, Alagados was an official selection at film festivals across the globe. Sylvia is currently in post-production on Roaming Wild, a documentary about the controversy over wild horses in the West. Tens of thousands of wild horses call Western states like Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico home. An invisible battle is being waged across the American West–over resources, water, freedom–and wild horses find themselves at the epicenter of an age-defining controversy where the demands of modern development collide with the needs of the wild. The public lands they call home are lands of limited resources and increasing demands and competition for those resources. Each year the federal Bureau of Land Management rounds up thousands of mustangs by chasing them with helicopters into pens. Some are tamed and adopted, some sit in holding pens indefinitely, and some end up slaughtered for human consumption abroad. Wild horse activists plead for the round ups to stop. Roaming Wild is an age old story of man versus wild playing out in the 21st century. In this film, wild horses, cowboys, ranchers, and activists all struggle to defend disappearing ways of life in the American West.
Sylvia has assembled a fantastic team of women filmmakers and they are currently running a crowd funding campaign to raise the finishing funds they need to complete editing and post-production. Check the campaign and trailer out here: http://www.indiegogo.com/roamingwild They have also just launched a companion website that will feature a series of short web videos: www.roamingwildfilm.com
Danny Ledonne has screened his comedy documentary, Duck! (a duckumentary) at film festivals nationwide. This quirky film about the many relationships between humans and waterfowl has shown at Montana CINE, the American Conservation Film Festival, and Film Fest Twain Harte, with ongoing screenings by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Danny teaches filmmaking at Adams State University in southern Colorado and runs his own video production company, Emberwilde Productions. He has recently finished editing a road trip film about the kindness of strangers called American Bear, shot/edited a documentary about surviving in the wilderness called A Perilous Journey, and is currently writing/directing a documentary about the origins and future of Santa Claus. His first feature length film, Playing Columbine is available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and DVD.
Ellen Tripler's short documentary film Dying Green is a 2012 Student Academy Award winner, a 2012 College Television Award winner and a CINE Golden Eagle Award winner in the Independent Division. The film is about how Dr. Billy Campbell, the town's only physician and his efforts have radically changed our understanding of burials in the United States and the revolutionary idea of using our own death to fund land conservation and create wildlife preserves. Ellen and Dr. Campbell were featured on PBS Newshour and interviewed by online correspondent Hari Sreenivasan. Besides winning numerous awards the film has also has been the Official selection of Film Festivals across the U.S. including: Official Selection DC Environmental Film Festival and 2012 Official Selection Montana CINE International Film Festival. Tripler won Best Student Documentary and Best Educational Content (a Merit Award) at the Montana CINE International Film Festival, Official Selection Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival, RIFF 2012, Official Selection Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, 2012, Official Selection Greenville International Film Festival 2012, Official Selection American Documentary Film Festival 2012, Official Selection Santa Fe Independent Film Festival 2012 and Official Selection American Conservation Film Festival 2012.
Shanon Sparks completed her coursework at American in the Spring of 2010. She is in production on her thesis film, a feature length documentary about sharks. She hopes to dispel some of the common myths about these graceful creatures, so vital to the ocean’s health. Shanon will share the grace and beauty of these commonly hated animals and portray them in a more natural and compelling way. She examines the intelligence of sharks by introducing audiences to a group that has been taught basic “medical” maneuvers by a shark trainer. She has interviewed numerous shark experts from a variety of world-renowned organizations including but not limited to Oceana, the Pew Foundation, the National Aquarium, and Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium.
To deepen her personal experiences with these dangerously misunderstood animals, she joined a dive team at a well-known Shark Diving operation. She dove frequently with wild reef sharks, Goliath Groupers, Great Barracuda and Moray Eels as the underwater staff photographer. Part of her research involved gauging people’s reactions to encountering a gentle population in the wild, and asking how their experiences compared to what they’ve seen on Television.
During her experiences, she was fortunate enough to meet with the late Wes Skiles, a famed filmmaker and cave diver. She also had the pleasure to frequently dive alongside Emmy and Oscar Award Winning cinematographer, Frazier Nivens. These vital mentoring experiences supplement a traditional curriculum by adding lessons from veterans in the field, something her advisors strongly encourage.
Her fantastic advisory board includes Chris Palmer, Leena Jayaswal, Sandy Cannon-Brown, Bill Gentile and John Douglass. She is currently completing principal photography in Florida and expects to submit a rough cut for advisor evaluations and peer review in April 2011. She is very grateful to her sponsors Jan and Catherine Post for providing the necessary dive equipment. If you would like to donate funds, materials or provide additional support for a film that we truly believe is needed in the industry, please contact Shanon Sparks or Chris Palmer.
The Scholars program recognizes and salutes graduate students who show outstanding leadership qualities as reflected in their thesis films. Five Scholars are selected annually to further the Center’s mission.
They are selected each year as they embark on their thesis projects and chosen during the second year of their graduate program when they have accumulated at least 18 credit hours. Part time students are eligible.
The 2009/2010 Scholars were Ellen Tripler, Danny Ledonne, and Shanon Sparks. The 2010/2011 Scholars were Aditi Desai, Kai Fang, Jeremy Polk, Irene Magafan, and Sylvia Johnson. And the 2011/2012 Scholars were Sarah Gulick, Helenah Svedberg, Jennifer Stratton, Aditi Desai, and Sylvia Johnson. The 2012/2013 Scholars were Maria Arreguin, Corin Wilson, Erin Finicane, Sarah Gulick, Sylvia Johnson, Brian Kelley, Ana Sotelo, and Jennifer Stratton.
Each grantee receives a total reimbursement of up to $1,500 of actual expenses for his or her thesis film.
The following requirements apply:
1. Scholars must be students in good standing, have a record of excellence in film, video or new media production, and a minimum GPA of 3.5.
2. Scholars must exhibit outstanding intellect, leadership, and ambition.
3. Scholars must show they are determined to make films that matter, that make a difference, and that make the world a better place.
4. Scholars must have demonstrated perseverance, creativity, and passion, as well as diligence, integrity, and focus in past work.
5. Scholars are selected based on their proposal for a thesis topic relevant to the Center’s mission.
6. Scholars are required to populate the Center website (on a page specially reserved for them) with stills, clips (or a trailer), synopses, possibly blog posts, their bios, and a short essay at the completion of their film describing what has been accomplished.
7. Scholars are required to credit American University, School of Communication, Center for Environmental Filmmaking, and add the Center logo to their thesis films.
The application process is as follows: By December 1, please submit a one to two-page letter to me describing how you will use a $1,500 grant to further the mission of the Center.
Include with the letter your project proposal, which should include a synopsis of your film and a list of anticipated expenses, the names of your lead faculty advisor and committee members for your project, and a note from your advisor that the project has been approved. Also submit an up-to-date resume/CV.
A faculty committee will judge the entries and grant awards based on each student’s merit and commitment to the mission of the Center. Scholars will be announced by December 20.
Please contact me if you have questions: email@example.com or x3408.
Scholars of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking are selected annually to further the Center’s mission to produce the next generation of environmental and wildlife filmmakers.