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Classroom in the Wild Florida

Classroom in the Wild students in Florida

Learning on Location

Classroom in the Wild students in Florida "meet" the wildlife of the river.

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SOC’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking presents:

Classroom in the Wild in Florida


March 5-11

2011 Classroom in the Wild: Florida Agenda

SOC CEF Classroom in the wild silver river

One-Week Alternative Spring Break in Natural History Filmmaking for Student Filmmakers

With Filmmaker Wolfgang Obst

For more information, contact Prof. Chris Palmer

202-885-3408 or cell 202-716-6160

SOC’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking is offering students a one-week alternative spring break program in Florida to introduce them to the challenges of natural history field production. The program will take place March 5-11, 2011.  

This week-long, non-credit class is for both first-time and experienced filmmakers and photographers who have an interest in the environment, natural history and the outdoors. Led by award-winning filmmaker Wolfgang Obst, students will learn how to prepare for and organize a shoot, how to handle cameras and record sound, and how to shoot the footage necessary to tell a compelling story. We’ll be exploring one of Florida’s most beautiful river environments. 

Students will produce a film as a class with students assigned to the positions of director, camera operator, production manager, sound person, writer and editor. Roles will be rotated every day so each student will gain a deep insight into what it means to take on the responsibilities for each.  

This program will serve as an enjoyable educational experience for aspiring natural history filmmakers and photographers or for anybody interested in communicating environmental issues and natural history subjects.  

SOC CEF Classroom in the wild silver river 2

Classroom in the Wild in Florida will be limited to 12 students (and a minimum of 10).  

The headquarters of Classroom in the Wild in Florida will be on the banks of the legendary Silver River in central Florida. Silver River State Park, near Ocala, has more than 14 distinct natural communities, dozens of springs and miles of beautiful trails. It is home for many different species of mammals, reptiles and birds. Students will explore this river environment by using canoes, swimming in the water, and on foot. It is a paradise for people who love nature. Birds, fish and alligators give a true sense of wilderness. The Silver River spring produces 530 million gallons each day forming the beautiful crystal clear river. The water temperature is 72 F.  

Wolfgang Obst, the lead faculty, is a filmmaker/adventurer who has traveled to over 50 countries, crisscrossed Africa in his Land Rover for four years, climbed mountains, shot several underwater films, flown gliders and has filmed/produced/directed over one hundred documentaries for television, including Audubon TV Specials for PBS and TBS SuperStation. The Silver River is the location where Wolfgang produced and filmed "Beneath Southern Waters" for Time-Life.

On-location issues we will cover: How close one can approach various animals before they run or fly away; when one needs a blind; and how one should approach an animal in a non-threatening way. We will also discuss how to get good clean location sound. More generally, students will learn how to prepare themselves and their equipment for wilderness conditions in order to make the most of their filmmaking opportunities. This is extremely important in filmmaking and often overlooked.  

Filming issues we will cover: How do the cameraperson and director stay creative when they are uncomfortable, hot/cold and exhausted? What does it take to go the extra mile to get that better camera angle? What happens when you are following the storyline but then something unexpected happens that you would like to include? Can you quickly think of shots you will need that lead into that new situation and shots that bring you out again? Students will take their footage into the editing suite and discover how well their material cuts together into a compelling film, and how to improve from there. We will talk about continuity, story and pacing.  

SOC CEF Classroom in the wild silver river 3


Credit: This is a non-credit class. 

Cost: $1,300. Minimum of 10 students. All costs are covered once in Florida. The program fee of $1,300 does not include travel to Orlando, but does include transportation to and from Orlando airport, all meals, canoes, tents, sleeping bags (if you prefer your own by all means bring it along), general camping equipment, etc. Each student must bring their own mess kit. 

Location: Silver River Park. The camping sites are very spacious and offer water, electric, bar-b-que grills and picnic tables. Restrooms and shower facilities are conveniently located.

Class size limit: As already noted, this class is limited to 12 students. We expect a mix of graduate and undergraduate students. 

More specifics on the dates: Students should arrange to arrive at Orlando airport no later than 2 pm on Saturday, March 5. Students will be transported back to the airport on Friday, March 11. You should arrange an afternoon flight out after 2 pm. 

Equipment: Wolfgang will bring his camera, underwater housing and three tripods but please plan to bring your own film and photography equipment. If you have underwater housings for your cameras we recommend bringing them as well. To ensure your equipment does not get damaged please bring watertight containers or plastic pouches. Students are also encouraged to bring their own masks, snorkels and fins, but simply floating down the river and looking down into the water is great too. 

Prerequisites: None. 

Information sessions: Professor Palmer will hold information sessions about Classroom in the Wild in Florida for all interested students in December and January. The times and dates of the first information sessions are at 2 pm and 5:30 pm on Wednesday, December 1 in Professor Palmer’s office (room 303 on the 3rd floor of Mary Graydon.) 

How to apply if you are an AU student: Please register by going through an SOC Academic Advisor. For undergrads, that will be Ashley Ackerly (x2088, if your last name start with D through O. For all other undergrads (last names A-C and P-Z), please go to Christine Frezek (x2090, For grad students, please go to Jean McGee (x2078, 

How to apply if you not an AU student: Please contact Professor Palmer. Classroom in the Wild in Florida is open to everyone. You don’t have to be a student or have any affiliation with AU. Everybody is welcome. 

Liability release: All students will need to sign a release and have proof of hospitalization insurance. 

For more information, please contact: 

Chris Palmer,, (202) 885-3408 or cell (202) 716-6160 

Wolfgang Obst,, (386) 283-7363