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Past Highlights

School of Communication professor Chris Palmer and alumnus Michael Cascio in the Wechsler Theater.


Michael Cascio, SOC/MA '73, a senior vice president for the National Geographic Channel joined Center director Chris Palmer at one of the Center's weekly film environmental series events

Film Series

Working with Filmmakers for Conservation, the center showcases important new films and celebrated filmmakers every Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. in AU’s Wechsler Theatre. Topics have included Whale Wars, the role of humor in environmental activism, the Chesapeake Bay, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the crisis facing our oceans. Speakers include top executives and filmmakers from organizations such as National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, Friends of the Earth, and the Earth Conservation Corps. Here are a few highlights.

Okay, I've watched the film, now what?

Stephanie Flack, Angelica Das, and Vanessa Serrao

This panel showed clips from inspiring films and explored the ways films can be turned into action at both the policy and personal levels. Discussion moderated by Chris Palmer, featuring Stephanie Flack, Potomac River Project Director, The Nature Conservancy; Angelica Das, Associate Director, Center for Social Media; and Vanessa Serrao, Director of Digital Media and Communications, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. How do we produce films that make a difference? Watch video

National Geographic's Television Film War Elephants

David Hamlin, Writer Producer

One of National Geographic's top writer/producers, David Hamlin, showed clips from War Elephants and discussed the stories behind the film. Watch video

Catherine Zimmerman

The Meadow Project

Catherine Zimmerman, Guest

The Center for Environmental Filmmaking hosted Catherine Zimmerman to discuss her work on The Meadow Project. Watch video

SOC CEF Presents The Whale 1

The Whale

Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm, Directors

Directors Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm discussed the film The Whale and the personal experience of both filming the orca Luna and unexpectedly becoming involved in the story themselves. Watch video

SOC John Amos

Using Satellites to Protect Our Environment

John Amos, President of Skytruth

John Amos, President of Skytruth, spoke to American University students about using satellite images to investigate and illustrate the many ways in which human activity is changing our environment. Watch video

SOC Dave Hamlin

National Geographic Society's landmark series "Great Migrations" 

Dave Hamlin, Producer of Great Migrations

Series Producer David Hamlin will show excerpts from the stunning footage he and a team of world-class filmmakers shot over three years in 20 countries and talk about the challenges they encountered. Great Migrations is the most ambitious series in the history of the National Geographic Society -- a seven hour exploration of the millions of creatures who wage tortuous journeys every year for the sake of themselves, their families and even their species. Watch video

SOC CEF Bayley Silleck

Bayley Silleck: Life & Lessons in the Motion Picture Industry 

Bayley Silleck, Producer, Director, Writer, and Oscar Nominee

Baylee Silleck reflected on how he became involved in making documentary films and shared some stories with an audience at American University as part of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, including his struggles with Southern movie theaters who refused to screen films that dealt with evolution, his impressions of early IMAX films, engine failure in a small plane flying over South American jungles, and general advice for aspiring filmmakers.  

He shared highlights (and some "low-lights"!) of his life in the motion picture industry, summarizing some of the important lessons he has learned and would like to pass along to the next generation of filmmakers -- including the creative challenges, constraints, and pressures of production. Watch video

Pressure in Paradise 

National Park Service Producer Chuck Dunkerly and American University MFA Candidates Ted Roach and Aditi Desai

National Park Service Producer Chuck Dunkerly and American University MFA Candidates Ted Roach and Aditi Desai discuss their experiences working on a film about Pearl Harbor. Watch video

SOC CEF Vanessa Environmental fim fest

Nature Break

Vanessa Serrao, Founder of

The Center for Environmental Filmmaking presents Vanessa Serrao, Founder of Serrao spoke about her experiences filming wildlife and creating as well as how to make wildlife centric web videos. Watch video

Student film

2010 Student Environmental Films

Several students screened their work at the Environmental Film Festival in the nation's capital. The film "Water Troopers" was written, directed and produced by AU students Andrew Hall, Patrick Jones, Jeremy Polk and Shanon Sparks. "Water Troopers" showcases the history and importance of Maryland’s Natural Resources Police. Watch video.

SOC CEF Tapped curbside recycling

"Tapped" - An Expose on the Bottled Water Industry

Hosted by CEF
Paul Wapner, Director of AU's Global Environmental Politics Program, Tom Lauria, International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) Lobbyist , Chris O'Brien, AU Director of Sustainability and Wenonah Hauter, activist

             After a screening of the film "Tapped," panelists discussed the controversy over bottled water. Watch video.

High school student filming underwater

Ocean for Life: A Cross-Cultural Experience in our National Marine Sanctuaries

Hosted by Jonathan Shannon from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Panel: Danny Ledonne, Jeremy Polk, Katie Kassof, Lauren Demko and Alex Morrison

Filmmakers who previously worked on the program as film mentors described the amazing experiences they had last summer working with both Middle Eastern and Western high school
students. They also shared film projects the students created. Watch video.

John Francis

National Geographic

John Francis, Producer

John Francis spoke with students about his experiences across the world, and about how National Geographic offers grants to budding young filmmakers. Sponsored by Chris Palmer and the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. Watch video.

SOC Smithsonian Channel Logo

Smithsonian Channel

David Royle, Executive Vice-President
David Royle explained the teamwork between Showtime and Smithsonian to get the channel up and running, and defined important aspects of the channel's programming. The Smithsonian Channel won four gold medals at the New York Film Festival last year and is the youngest channel to ever earn an Emmy.

SOC 1Sky Logo

1Sky and WITNESS: Video for Change

Gillian Caldwell, Campaign Director for 1Sky and former Executive Director of WITNESS
Gillian Caldwell showed video from 1Sky's climate change campaign. She also demonstrated the use of video in environmental advocacy and its power to change human rights policies.


Photo: Michael Cascio

(Photo: Jeff Watts)

The Reality of Documentary TV

Michael Cascio, SVP, National Geographic
Michael Cascio shared stories from the front lines of making real – as opposed to reality – television, and why documenting the truth about our world is way more interesting than fiction.


SOC CEF Reel Whales

Animal Planet’s Whale Wars

Jason Carey, Executive Producer, Animal Planet
The EP of Whale Wars discussed the challenges of tackling controversial animal conservation as dramatic storytelling and how doing so is beginning to rebrand a television network.


Classroom in the Wild: Florida takes students to one of the most pristine estuaries in Florida

Laughter, Comedy and Environmental Activism

Chris Palmer, American University
A film-clip illustrated presentation on how to take advantage of one of the most powerful tools available to us in environmental activism—humor.


Student Environmental Short Film Festival, plus Panel Discussion (co-sponsored by REI)

Hosted by Professors Chris Palmer and Sandy Cannon-Brown
Panel: Charles Dunkerly (National Park Service), Danny Ledonne (CEF and AU), and Jen Shoemaker (National Geographic)

Some of the best environmental films being produced by students today.