Short but Powerful: Students Tell Our Environmental Story on Film
Environmental Sciences Professor Linda Hooper-Bùi is organizing a film festival for environmental shorts made by high school students across Louisiana with seed money from UCLA. The project, called GreenShorts, will involve mentorship, a hands-on workshop, as well as the film festival itself to be held on the LSU campus, likely in Hooper-Bùi’s home college, the College of the Coast & Environment, this May:
GreenShorts is an environmental film competition for high school students that has been going on for three years through UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability. Our worlds collided when they received an anonymous donation last year. I truly have no idea who that person was, but somebody contacted them and said, “We think what you’re doing is really great and we want you to expand to another area.” Louisiana was chosen because we have extreme weather and environmental problems as well as many voices in different communities that aren’t necessarily engaged and encountered by standard media. By that, I mean people who are low income and underrepresented, including racially. Also, GreenShorts is for high schoolers—they’re the ones who will be making these short films, and they don’t typically have a voice in the media either. I love how this project will be elevating students’ voices and get people from marginalized groups to participate.
The films will be judged by a group of movers and shakers in Hollywood who are at the nexus of the movie industry and the environment and who have been involved in what you could call environment-plus filmmaking—whether that’s Netflix or Skydance Media.
In Louisiana, people are very connected to the land, through hunting and fishing and wonderful things happening out in nature all the time. The idea is to engage students through teachers and after-school programs such as Upward Bound or our EnvironMentors program here at LSU and try to get the word out far and wide to try to engage students at very large high schools and also at rural and very small high schools. I want every high school in Louisiana to know about this great opportunity that UCLA has offered us.
Students will produce two- to three-minute films in any of five categories: Watertopia—imaginative solutions for clean and sustainable water; Wild Louisiana—animals, plants, or natural systems found in your community; It Takes a Village—profiles on communities coming together to rise against climate change; You Are What You Eat, elements of the food ecosystem like dining, agriculture, supply chain and culture; and No Justice, No Green—intersection of environmentalism and social justice issues, such as poverty, race, and gender in relation to the environment. Students can submit one film per person per category by March 27.
The films will be judged by a group of movers and shakers in Hollywood who are at the nexus of the movie industry and the environment and who have been involved in what you could call environment-plus filmmaking—whether that’s Netflix or Skydance Media. The fact that they’re judging is really going to give agency to these high school students, and we’ll have a film festival and award ceremony on Thursday evening of May 12 here at LSU, where we’ll first screen the top three winners in all five categories and give them awards of $750, $500, and $250, respectively. Then, we’ll screen as many of the others as we can. Students will come see their films on a large screen at LSU, and I’m currently looking for opportunities to screen some of them at scientific meetings that are happening, and in the students’ own communities, and among potential decision makers—the students themselves will probably come up with the best ideas for how to get their film viewed.
Our plan is to have a workshop in February, a make-a-film-in-a-day kind of thing. The idea is to make sure the students don’t get overwhelmed with the impossibility of making and editing a film. I’m not a particularly media-savvy person, but I did edit a film on my phone just a couple of weeks ago just to see if I could do it.
What’s important to me is that this will be a mentored experience, which fits my ethos. Both the science and the filmmaking will be mentored. I’m now developing a list of people who are willing to help guide the students, and emails have been coming in fast and furious. Our plan is to have a workshop in February, a make-a-film-in-a-day kind of thing. The idea is to make sure the students don’t get overwhelmed with the impossibility of making and editing a film. I’m not a particularly media-savvy person, but I did edit a film on my phone just a couple of weeks ago just to see if I could do it. We have committed film makers that will help mentor the students.
I think of the money we’re getting from UCLA as seed money. It’s a very small grant, about $7,500, but it will allow us to help students if they can’t afford transport, to pay student workers, and to cover parking permits. In addition, the prize monies are coming directly from UCLA on top of the $7,500. I’m now writing grant proposals to fund GreenShorts next year; I want to keep this project going. My goal is to get 50 films submitted this year, and at some point, I hope we can overwhelm the judges with the number of films.
For more informatoin, please email GreenShorts Louisiana.
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