Challenge Prize: Overcoming Adversity

The Center for Environmental Filmmaking Challenge Prize is an annual competition open to second year SOC graduate students who have overcome (or are overcoming) challenges and adversity in their lives (such as poverty, marginalization, racism, or personal tragedy) and plan to use environmental and wildlife media to make the world a better place.

Successful applicant(s) will each receive a $1,000 prize. The intent of this prize is to provide funding for the creation of environmental and wildlife media.

Applicants must be in good academic standing in a SOC graduate program (min. 3.5 cumulative GPA), and be committed to making environmental media that aim to influence personal behavior or public policy.

To apply, applicants are required to:

  1. Submit a resume.
  2. Submit a letter of recommendation from an AU faculty member.
  3. Provide a personal statement up to two-pages double spaced that addresses the adversities that they have overcome (or are currently facing).
  4. Provide a synopsis (no more than 300 words) of their envisioned media project.

A condition of the award is that all awardees provide a short description and photos of their completed project for publication on the Center for Environmental Filmmaking’s website and social media. The goal is to inspire other students environmentalists, donors, and the public.

This prize is non-renewable, and the deadline each year is November 1. Winners will be announced every year by November 20. A faculty committee will judge the entries and grant awards based on the criteria outlined above.

Challenge Prize Winners 2019

Ashley Luke

Ashley's producing a short documentary about the climate refugees of Louisiana's bayou. An area still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Katrina more than 10 years later caused alarming displacement of the coastal region. The documentary will examine how these refugees have adapted to the natural and manmade threats to their environment.

Robert Boyd

Robert's producing a short documentary about the abundant microbial growth, flourishing in kitchens and bathrooms, due to water wastefulness. His film, Table to Toilet: Fueling a Microbial Bonfire, will hold a microscopic mirror up to viewers, showing them the immediate, and close to home effects, of their wasteful water usage.

Mary Alice Mcmillan

Mary Alice McMillan is an MFA candidate in American University’s Film and Media Arts program. A North Carolina native, she is passionate about stories of rural America and the intersection between the environment and health. She is developing her thesis film about breast cancer-related genetic disorders and the role that environmental factors play in the study of genetics. Mary Alice hopes to pursue a career as an independent documentary filmmaker and share stories to create positive change.

Jay strojnowski

Jay has a particular interest in relatively unexplored aesthetic approach to photography and filming.

Jay's project, ALL RED: Great Falls National Park is an experimental environmental short film that examines Great Falls National Park solely through the use of the infrared spectrum. It is the first infrared experimental/environmental film recorded with a raw video codec using a dedicated infrared cinema camera.

Shannon Shikles

As Shannon is working on her thesis film, simple and clear is not enough. SCICOMM: Raising Our Voice for Science in Public Policy will show what scientists deduce to be the next step in communicating science, why it is important and why it has to be different.

2017 Recipients
Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal, and Crystal Solberg
2016 Recipients
Doaa Nour, Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath, and Kent Wagner
2015 Recipients
Shannon Lawrence, Will Reid, and Sam Sheline