Mind blowing! This event, which happened last week all across downtown St Pete, was incredible on so many levels.
The city was lucky to land this film fest, which moved from Monterey, California and the idea behind it is to communicate that the ocean is our lifeblood, using the medium of film to highlight the beauty and interconnectedness and communicate the hidden reality that our ocean is in real danger and that what happens to our ocean, happens to us.
Take the art and science of film, photography and journalism and blend that with ocean conservation and sustainability and you have people like Sylvia Earle and the Cousteaus in attendance. It was HUGE! There was the film festival of course, but there were also seminars ranging from how to create marine sanctuaries, to plastic pollution and artists creating with those materials, to how to pitch story ideas for publication and film production, and tips for using Red Epic cameras with GoPros.
I couldn’t see and do everything. I didn’t even manage to hit the scheduled happy hours and black tie events. I felt like I was back at school, except everything I was learning was interesting. I simultaneously wanted the week to be over because I was on information overload and yet didn’t want it to end because all of the amazing, creative, brilliant people would go away and not be telling me stuff anymore.
Some of my highlights and things I learned..
1. I only saw a few of the hundred films that ran, but I was blown away by the movie Angel Azul and the artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, who creates artificial reefs from his sculptures. What was cool was that Marcy Cravat, the director of the film, was in the audience and talked about the movie after it was shown and how she lucked into having Peter Coyote narrate the film AND have Sylvia Earle drop in. Really makes me want to visit one of the underwater parks that his work is at to see the sculptures in person. Bucket list, for sure.
2. I also have to mention, Papa Cloudy’s Restaurant, a very simple children’s short film, that really got to me with the overfishing song and the girl-like singing.
3. Babysitting the lifesize inflatable whale parked next to the Museum of Fine Arts.
4. I didn’t get the chance to hear Sylvia Earle speak in person, however I saw her a couple of times – petite, wise-looking and surrounded by fans. One thing I know she advocates is giving up eating anything from the sea. Not only because she considers sea creatures wildlife with their own right to exist in their natural state, but because of the extreme impact to the planet from massive overfishing. I heard that for every one pound of seafood that is sold, an unknown amount is wasted – anywhere from 10-100 pounds.
5. I had never heard of her before, but Barbara Boyle, UCLA film school associate dean, attorney, and associated with movies like the Terminator, was the best storyteller and bold character I heard during the week. After sharing a few feminist and hippie stories from her past, she told me that a person needs one of 3 things to get their foot in the movie making business – either a degree, a killer screenplay or a dynamic short film. I could’ve listened to her all day. I’m not sure if the kids bussed in from school that day appreciated her style, but I sure did!
I also liked her recommendation to Celine Cousteau in one of the sessions that the way to reach a larger audience for environmental, documentary films was to bring in Hollywood for the star power, so people around the world will pay attention.
6. Listening to the very passionate and entertaining Angela Posada-Swafford, a science journalist, and Jennifer Bogo, editor at Popular Science, talk about the art of writing about science (take the same experience, write about it in different ways and sell to different publications based on their styles). How to get published? Be on time, be clear, be organized, be informative and be awesome! So easy, right??!!
It didn’t hurt that we were in attendance at the Poynter Institute. I’ve been dying for years to have a reason to step foot into this Frank Lloyd Wright inspired building a mile from my neighborhood.
7. Talking with the guys from the Great Whale Conservancy. Have you ever seen the Saving Valentina YouTube video?? Did you know that whales are impacted by the world’s shipping lanes? Because whales sink if they are in distress or dying, an unknown number die from boat strikes and the Great Whale Conservancy is working with other big players to potentially shift these shipping lanes away from whale migration areas. The challenge they said, is to learn where the whales don’t go, to find alternatives for the lanes.
8. I liked that Owens Corning, the glass manufacturer, was a sponsor of Blue Ocean and had a very big display and media presence to communicate the replacement of plastic with glass. The festival coordinators worked hard to make sure that there were no plastic bottles in sight and instead replaced them with water coolers and real glasses.
But of course, there is no perfect replacement. Sand (the main component of glass) is also an environmental concern, being a valuable resource that is disappearing with a global demand.
9. Right up my alley was the panel discussion of artists. I LOVED Pamela Longobardi and she felt like she was speaking my language in her manner of communicating. Pamela sees the ocean as full of meaning and a mass of collective consciousness, containing memories of every living soul that has ever existed there. She feels that nature marks the objects that end up in the ocean and she is a forensic scientist that examines and translates through her art.
10. Ok, pretty much his name says it all, Andy Brandy Casagrande IV. He was just plain cool – an amazing cinematographer who was very down to earth and kept saying during his session on GroPros, “talking is boring, here’s another video to watch”. He covered his work on Shark Week and embarrassing stories on crashing camera drones in front of TV big wigs and how to jury rig the GoPro to fit most of your cinematic needs. Everyone in the room was super entertained by him and I just kept thinking – he’s living the life!
This seemed to be a common thread throughout the Blue Earth Film Festival. I was surrounded by exceptional people living their dreams and making a difference in the world. There was plenty to be discouraged about and deeply saddened about the state of our planet and oceans, but there was plenty of discussion about how to best communicate the challenges that we’re facing (with positivity and clarity) and how individuals can make a difference.
Amazing! Next year the event is held in Monaco and returns to St Pete in 2016. I’ll be ready!