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Keeping the Potomac: The Politics of Water

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The Potomac River
Production still courtesy of Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath & her team for Maryland Public Televsion

Last fall I had the immense pleasure of participating in one of the best courses offered at AU, in my opinion, COMM 568: Environmental and Wildlife Production, a class created and managed by the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. I knew the class would be an excellent course because it was presented as an opportunity to gain professional experience producing a film for Maryland Public Television. The class is heavily focused on practice and gaining “real-life” experience, and it certainly met my expectations!

My experience in the class was similar to what working on a professional production team would be like. We received a few lectures at the beginning of the semester, however, class time was largely used to catch up on each team’s progress, discuss plans, and make decisions about our production. The smaller class-size (12 students) allowed for all of our voices to be heard and for our opinions to make an impact on the finished product.  

We were divided into groups of three and spent time in class and out of class tracking down subjects and storylines that could be included in our sections. After a few weeks of intense pre-production we began production. My group chose to focus our topic around combined sewers in DC, however as we began filming we noticed that the topic just was not coming to life. We toured DC Water and interviewed a DOEE manager and spent a lot of time trying to track down crew teams we could interview as “expert-users” of the river. However, when it came down to it, we needed to find a personal story.

The other great element of the class was the connection we made to a local environmental advocacy organization: The Potomac Riverkeeper Network. Our main subjects were the three Riverkeepers: Mark, Brent and Dean. My group had the pleasure of working with Dean, highlighting one of his major efforts: standing up to Dominion over the coal ash ponds at Possum Point Power Station. Dean’s efforts lie in community engagement, public hearings, and even a bit of civil disobedience in order to protect drinking water as well as the health of the Lower Potomac. The thread of our film is the Potomac River, but our main subjects are all actively providing a voice for this precious resource.

I’m incredibly proud of the film we produced, and I hope that our audience finds it enlightening and an important issue to be concerned with. There are certainly many problems with our rivers in North America, and the problems won’t easily be solved; hopefully our film will shed light on a few of these issues and spark public engagement. I hope that you’re able to catch our film on Maryland Public Television in April during Chesapeake Bay Week and at AU during the DC Environmental Film Festival, March 21-24. 


Keeping the Potomac: The Politics of Water Trailer from Chelsea Greene on Vimeo.

Learn more about the MFA in Film and Electronic Media.