Bren students learn the art of environmental storytelling in media

Guest post from Lily Tsukayama (MESM 2016)

“I teach environmental media production because I’m a firm believer in the power of film for positive change.
Equipped with science and communication skills, I know Bren students will be at the forefront of this change.”
– Michael Hanrahan, instructor for ESM 441: Introduction to Environmental Media Production

The Introduction to Environmental Media Production offers students the opportunity to take a course a little outside the box from the typical Bren School suite of classes. Without any prior film experience, students jump into ten weeks of learning about the ins and outs of media production, from basic camera handling skills to the art of editing to tell a story.

While many of the other electives in the Bren School’s Strategic Environmental Communication and Media focus are based in writing, this class incorporates a visual component, which brings its own set of challenges but also its own set of effective tools for engaging an audience.

“We live in an age of visual communication,” says Michael Hanrahan, local video producer at Earth Media Lab who teaches the course. “Like no other medium, video provides Bren students the ability to creatively communicate both data and story, bringing audiences a deeper understanding of their research.”

For the course’s final project, students produced short videos featuring a local scientist and told a story about their research. The student teams had creative control over the entire production process. They were the directors, chose the interview subjects, scouted locations, managed production teams and equipment on set.  All of the editing—ordering clips, color correcting, finding music, adjusting sound, and telling a compelling story–was done by students.

So please take a moment and, in the next few posts, enjoy a collection of the student projects that have come out of the 441 class.


“Managing a Moving Target”
Scientist: Darcy Bradley
Filmmakers: Sarah Antonelli, Amanda Silver-Westrick, and Lily Tsukayama

We checked the weather all week, and of course the day that we scheduled to film the interview turned out to be the windiest. It was the day before Thanksgiving and it was crunch time. We knew that we had to film this interview before the holiday to have enough time for editing.  So despite the wind, we set out for Campus Point.

Sarah, Amanda, and I are all second years with no prior film experience. Needless to say, we were all a bit anxious to film and create our own short video, featuring our favorite Bren TA nonetheless.  As the directors, there were a lot of little things that we constantly worried about while filming. Is the crashing of the waves too loud? Are those paddleboarders in the distance too distracting? In addition, noisy airplanes taking off and barking dogs meant multiple re-shoots. But throughout the interview, the three of us were grateful knowing that we had chosen such an awesome interviewee.

Darcy Bradley is currently finishing up her PhD focused on shark ecology at the Bren School. Since the beginning of the film course, the three of us knew that we wanted to ask her to be our subject. We met Darcy during our first year of the MESM program when she taught sections for advanced data analysis and ecology. We were also inspired by her research presentation at the Bren School PhD Symposium last year. We knew that she was doing really interesting work and that she was really excited about it.

Now, we also know that she’s a great person to interview! She was completely prepared for the interview and had thoughtful responses to all of our questions. She also provided us with a lot of amazing footage at Palmyra that we were able to use in the video. Making this video was such a challenging process, we definitely could not have done it without the help of our fellow classmates, Darcy, and, of course, Michael. The three of us are really proud of the result and are excited to share it!

Share this post

No comments

Add yours