Behind the Scenes of Environmental Media Production

For those completing the Bren School’s Strategic Environmental Communication and Media focus, the introductory “Environmental Medial Production” class is many students’ first foray into basic camera handling–being behind a camera, directing, editing, and producing films.  The students’ final projects exemplify the technical growth achieved throughout the quarter, but we have been told it’s not always as easy as it looks.  Enjoy a behind the scenes peak into how students chose their interview subjects and some of the challenges that they faced along the way.

“The Sustainable Aquaculture Research Center”
Interview with: Dr. Hunter Lenihan
Film by: Geoff Willard (MESM 2016) and Kaia Joye Moyer (MESM 2015)

I didn’t so much “meet” Professor Hunter Lenihan for the first time, as I did “experience” him.  It was orientation week at Bren in 2013 and in the middle of a lecture hall full of anxious first-year MESM students doing “class bonding” activities, Hunter burst in through the back doors and shouted “GO BREN!!” and let out a few hearty grunts.  And with that, just as quickly as he appeared, he was gone.

Hunter has an infectious energy that permeates a space.  He loves his work and the ocean in a way that emanates from him–get him started talking about marine ecology and there’s no slowing him down.  He’s booming, he’s boisterous; his wild unpredictability is completely predictable.  Who wouldn’t want to interview him?  So with only moderate cajoling, Hunter agreed to talk to us about a new project he was working on: the Sustainable Aquaculture Research Center (SARC) at UC Santa Barbara.

The morning of our interview, Geoff and I found ourselves scrambling.  It was windy and the Goleta Airport traffic was seemingly non-stop.  “Sorry Hunter, would you mind just pausing for this airplane?” (We probably filmed 20-30 minutes of Hunter just sitting sweating in the sun waiting for the noisy planes to pass.) The lighting was harsh. The waves were loud.  At one point we realized we hadn’t charged the camera battery and had to make an emergency sprint back up to Bren for a backup.  But this is what classes are for, right? To learn in the field and “gain experience?”  If that’s the case, I think it’s safe to say we are “well experienced.”

At the time of this filming, SARC was still in its development stages.  While a few of its components have changed and evolved, we are excited we got to be involved in SARC from its inception.  It provided us the opportunity to see firsthand what was going on in fisheries and aquaculture here in the Santa Barbara area.  And we found that by simply being graduate students, people—fishermen, farmers market patrons, professors, abalone farm workers—were remarkably gracious, allowing us to shove cameras in their faces and invade the routines of daily jobs. #gradschoolperks

To learn more about SARC and were it is now, please visit:

(By Kaia Joye Moyer)


“The Rocky Intertidal Zone”
Interview with: Dr. Carol Blanchette
Film by: Tova Handelman

When we were told that we could interview any scientist for our ESM 441 assignment, I took the opportunity to interview one of my ocean heroes.  Dr. Carol Blanchette is a marine biologist at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) who has focused her research to the rocky intertidal, kelp forest, and seagrass ecosystems. Though Carol works as a lead researcher for many organizations, she also acts as an external advisor to my Group Project (GP), Developing a Citizen Science Program for the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe).  Our team is working to develop a citizen science program to monitor the rocky intertidal zone and Carol’s expertise in the field has provided us with expert insight on the intricacies of this ecosystem.

Carol speaks about the intertidal zone with enthusiasm and passion, so I knew she would be a great interview subject. While filming, she had so much to share that I could have easily made a 15 minute film! Since the assignment required us to keep the film shorter, I decided to continue working on the project into this quarter and create another deliverable for our GP client. Stay tuned for that film to come out in Spring Quarter!

(By Tova Handelman)


“Geyer’s Gyres”
Interview with: Dr. Roland Geyer
Film by: Andy Bilich, Kevin Langham, and Juan Mayorga

On a sunny November afternoon in Santa Barbara, three Bren School master’s students set out to throw plastic into the ocean…

Well, sort of. Armed to the teeth with plastic bags and bottles, Juan Mayorga, Kevin Langham, and Andy Bilich set out to film B-roll (aka-supplemental footage) for their project on plastic marine debris: rack focuses of plastic bags and seaweed, pans of recycling bins, dramatic zooms of bottles floating in the waves… After what felt like a million different shots over four separate expeditions, they had what they needed and headed back to the editing lab. Don’t worry…the plastic came too!

Plastic marine debris is a problem of growing concern because of its current and future impacts on human and environmental systems. Until recently, however, the magnitude of the problem was largely unknown. This past fall, Roland Geyer, associate professor in industrial ecology and green supply chain management at the Bren School, was part of the team that first quantified the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans.  According to that research, which was published in the journal Science, around 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean every year. To put this in perspective, that’s enough to cover the island of Manhattan ankle deep in plastic multiple times. In this interview, Roland discusses the growing magnitude, global causes, and uncertain implications of the plastic marine debris problem.

(By Andy Bilich)

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