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Course Highlights

A student photographs sea lions in the Galapagos.

Hands-on Learning

A student photographs sea lions in the Galapagos.


The Center for Environmental Filmmaking offers the distinctive Classroom in the Wild, an intensive outdoor workshop in beautiful environments around the world, including Florida, the Chesapeake Bay, Alaska, and Costa Rica. Students camp out and learn how to meet the sometimes extreme challenges of natural history field production, including how to prepare and organize a shoot, use filmmaking equipment, record sound, and shoot footage to make a compelling and engaging story—all with minimal environmental impact.

The Center also offers two on-campus classes: Producing Environmental and Wildlife Films, which teaches students about the business of filmmaking and the art of being a successful film producer, and Environmental and Wildlife Production, which gives students the opportunity to engage in the hands-on production of films for networks like PBS. One such documentary, EcoViews, won a regional Student Emmy in 2008. Another, The Anacostia River Project, was selected as an outstanding example of meaningful and influential filmmaking by The New Media Literacy Project, and funded by the Ford and MacArthur Foundations.

In the spring semester 2009, associate director Larry Engel launched a collaboration with professors from the College of Arts and Sciences and School of International Service to teach the innovative course Practicing Environmentalism: Galapagos Islands. The semester-long course was followed by a site visit to the Galapagos where students teamed up to produce four films.

Concentration in Environmental and Wildlife Filmmaking

Graduate students may concentrate their studies in environmental and wildlife filmmaking through the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. Some courses are entry-level graduate courses, others advanced specialized graduate courses, and still others electives. Please consult with the director, Chris Palmer, or the associate directors about the concentration, and also consult with the director of the Film and Media Arts program, John Douglass. You should map your course plan for each semester in careful consultation with faculty advisors and Center directors.

Required and Entry-Level Courses: In most required courses and other Film and Media Arts entry-level courses (such as Writing for Visual Media, Film & Video Production I and II, Principles of Photography, Digital Imaging, and introductory new media production classes) students may work on environmental and wildlife assignments and final projects with the approval of the teacher.

Courses Specifically Designed for the Concentration:

  • Producing Environmental and Wildlife Films | COMM-524-001

    This class is subtitled “The Art of Producing” because virtually everything you learn in the class is relevant and helpful to whatever film-related career you are thinking of entering. In fact, some students take it who aren’t even going into filmmaking because of what they get out of the class.

    Taught by professor Chris Palmer, it’s held on Tuesday evenings at 5:30 pm in MGC 303A and examines the goals, strategies, and tactics necessary to produce films or new media.

    Students research issues, create stories, find characters, pitch ideas, develop proposals, write treatments, identify audiences, sell films, and work with nonprofits. You’ll learn about ethics, citizen activism, and raising money. And you’ll learn what it takes to become a successful producer and hear first-hand about the ins and outs of the industry. The class helps get you ready for the “real world.” Guest speakers come from organizations like Discovery and National Geographic.

    There are no prerequisites, except a passion to learn, make a difference and succeed. Open to juniors, seniors and grad students, and offered every semester.

    Please e-mail professor Chris Palmer to learn more about the class or if you would like to receive a copy of the syllabus.

  • Environmental and Wildlife Production | COMM-568-001

    Would you like to get a PBS credit on your resume? Then please consider taking a fascinating class with Center Associate Director prof. Sandy Cannon-Brown called Environmental and Wildlife Production.

    This class has a special relationship with a major PBS station, Maryland Public Television. Prof. Cannon-Brown’s class produces a half-hour program (EcoViews) which is broadcast on MPT at prime time. The film won a Student Emmy in 2008.

    MPT is so pleased with EcoViews and the partnership with the Center that they have committed to have the class continue to produce new programs for MPT to air in the spring on Chesapeake Bay Week.

    Graduate students in film and video and journalism are invited to register for COMM-568-00. Prerequisites may be waived with permission of the school or the instructor - if you have professional or academic experience in production or broadcast journalism. Undergrads who meet the prerequisites are also invited to register.

    If you have questions about your qualifications for the class, please contact prof. Sandy Cannon-Brown (703-276-7077 office, 410-714-1231 cell).

    Please consider taking COMM-568-001 if you want to raise your career to the next level.

  • Classroom in the Wild | COMM-080

    Classroom in the Wild offers students direct field experience during semester breaks and summer vacations. They are short but intensive noncredit courses. Specific fees apply for each course.

Advanced Courses

Students in the concentration are encouraged to design their course work in close consultation with their instructors so that environmental and wildlife topics are investigated. The following courses are recommended for the concentration:

  • Advanced Writing for Documentary Film | COMM-596
  • History of Documentary | COMM 511
  • Social Documentary | COMM-512
  • Documentary Production | COMM-686
  • Producing Film & Video | COMM-513
  • Production Practicum: Web Development | COMM-638
  • Production Practicum: Blogs and Dynamic Sites | COMM-638


To encourage exposure to scientific, environmental and biological underpinnings of the field, the department has reached out to faculty in CAS, who have agreed to accommodate our graduate students in their science courses. Consult your advisor and the appropriate faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who teach undergraduate classes in environmental subjects. Examples include:

  • Marine Biology | BIO-340
  • Marine Mammals | BIO-342
  • Science and Policy of Biodiversity | ENVS-3/5xx
  • Science Policy of Sustainability | ENVS-3/5xx