Film contest encourages environmental awareness


BRANDON — A new film competition set for next spring will encourage aspiring, young filmmakers to help spread environmental awareness. Students in area elementary and high schools within the Otter Valley Union District will be the focus of the festival.

The Brandon Environmental Film Competition will be open to students enrolled in Barstow Memorial, Lothrop, Neshobe, the Otter Creek Academy and Otter Valley Union High School, as well as homeschoolers with home addresses within the school district.

The films will be judged on a number of criteria and cash prizes will be awarded for first, second, third and honorable mention. The films will be screened for the public in Brandon next May.

Dr. Michael Shank, Communications Director of Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance and Adjunct Faculty at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, is the organizer behind the competition.

He said his wish for this competition is that students explore the natural world around them in Vermont, fall even more in love with it and find fun ways to story-tell why we should do everything we can to protect it, conserve it and restore it. 

“This environmental film competition is a culmination of two things I love: nature and the arts,” Shank said. “The arts are such a powerful medium for storytelling and teaching, and as a professor I love finding creative ways to engage students in experiential learning processes.”

The purpose of the contest is to encourage environmental awareness, foster skill building in storytelling and filmmaking while supporting young filmmakers in the area.

Film submissions should be two to five minutes long, published on a YouTube or Vimeo channel and can be produced with any type of equipment, such as a smart phone.

“People are often moved, emotionally or spiritually, by the arts (be it film, music, theater, painting, dance, etc.), much more than facts or figures,” said Shank. “Short, shareable films — made with something as simple as a smart phone — can convey an inspiring story quickly. And since social media is primarily image-based and video-based, this is increasingly the go-to medium to use.”

Shank hopes that the skills learned throughout this process will be relevant and beneficial to students’ professional careers and their confidence as communicators.

The films should feature an environmental issue in the Brandon area and although they realize that parents and teachers may be involved, the films should be created, written, produced and edited by the students.

“We’ve got an incredible lineup of judges,” Shank said. “We sourced a range of local and national talent in filmmaking, environmental science, marketing and campaign development.”

Judges of the youth films will be Lloyd Komesar, producer of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival; Dr. Kevin Thornton, producer and director of Death in the Wilderness; Courtney Satz, partner at Woods Organic Farm and co-coordinator of the Four Winds Nature Institute Program at Neshobe Elementary; Dr. Nicole Mihnovets, ecology lecturer at Columbia University; Jyoti Stephens, Vice President of Mission and Strategy with Nature’s Path Organic; and Shank.

The films will be judged on clear and coherent environmental messaging, compelling invitation that encourages the public to get engaged in the environmental effort, creative storytelling, visuals, and site visits as well as concise editing.

There will be a $500 first prize, $250 for second, $100 for third and $50 for honorable mentions. Submissions will be accepted until March 1, 2020.

District students should submit their full name, school or homeschool affiliation, and their films website link to the following address:

Students can bring “a healthy dose of new perspective to tired debates about the environment,” according to Shank, and encourage the public to look at issues in new ways.

“These youth will be the caretakers of Vermont’s natural beauty far into the future and their health and security are dependent upon a stable and thriving environment,” he said. “In my mind, it makes all the sense in the world to encourage and support their role as storytellers here.” 

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