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Exploring Environmental Filmmaking from East Coast to West with SOC Student Amelia Tyson

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Amelia Tyson and Ashley Luke standing on either side of a sign at a conference.

The San Francisco Green Film Festival is an annual event that showcases new films and holds discussions and special events for its attendees. This year, in its ninth go-round, the film festival was held from September 24-29. The theme was "Home," which encompasses a broad range of critical issues including affordable housing, migration, sustainable cities, habitat loss, and more, according to their website.  

This year, MFA Film and Media Arts Student Amelia Tyson attended the festival. She is a documentarian who aims to infuse the heart and a message of stewardship in the films she creates. Tyson is primarily focused on stories of an environmental nature, hoping to both educate and awaken in viewers a desire to genuinely care for the earth. This past summer, she had the great privilege of being a fellow with the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship program in Alabama, where she produced a short film looking at why Alabama does not have a water management plan and what that means for the state, in the short and long term.  

While Amelia is a student, she also does work for the Center for Environmental Filmmaking(CEF). The Center for Environmental Filmmaking, located in McKinley, is a center that focuses on producing films and new media that are pertinent to the environment and education. Its mission is to inspire a new generation of environmental stewards, filmmakers, and mediaexperts who create work that is informative, ethically sound, entertaining, and makes a positive difference. Amelia has been actively working with CEF in developing her skills and talents.    

Through CEF, Tyson was also able to attend the second Women’s Environmental Leadership Summit in September. Tyson was one of the 100 women invited as a scholar. “As a filmmaker, I felt honored to be among such professionals, whose careers ranged from the lawyer to non-profit director to environmental educator, and who had already contributed so much to the cause of environmental stewardship,” she said, reminiscing about the opening evening of the summit. That evening Dr. Adrienne Hollis, Lead Climate Justice Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientist and shared her experience and best practices in pursuit of environmental justice. “Don’t give up, get in the room and influence, but take care of yourself because the fight for a healthy environment is a long fight,” said Hollis, as words of wisdom.  

Tyson reported that the panels had depth and breadth, from Placing Environmental Justice in the Larger Civil Rights Movement and Self-Care and Environmental Advocacy to Translating theScience: Research and Real-World Applications to Youth Engagement Along the Anacostia. On the first day, she attended a panel session that she said was especially engaging for her as a filmmaker. It was led by Tracy Perkins, Assistant Professor at Howard University, titled Documenting Your Waterways, invited participants to explore ways the Anacostia Watershed has been and can continue to be documented. “It bridged the gap between the scholarly and the hard science of environmental work and documentation and storytelling,” she explained.   

Tyson is taking advantage of what she’s learning inside and outside of the classroom as she develops her professional skills. Recently, she worked with MFA Film and Electronic Media student Carlos Macher on a documentary called Walking for Freedom: A Venezuelan Story. The film is a collaboration between Mycrom Films, Plan País, and the Global Shapers, which focuses on Venezuelan refugees who were forced to flee their country on foot. The journey that these evacuees make according to the documentary’s website “is across the Simón Bolívar International Bridge that links Venezuela and Colombia, past the illegal passing known as la trocha, and through to their final destinations, wherever they may be.”

The film was screened for select audiences on June 29 at the One Journey Festival in Washington, DC.