Twelve UCSB students had the opportunity to study in two of UCSB’s top-rated departments simultaneously through the fifth-annual Blue Horizons Summer Program for Environmental Media.
The nine-week program — a collaboration between UCSB’s film and media studies department, Carsey-Wolf Center and Marine Science Institute — combines an introduction to film production with lectures on environmental concerns to help guide students as they each create original documentaries portraying the effects of human behavior on nearby aquatic ecosystems. This year’s projects were screened at Pollock Theater in August and investigated local issues including the effects of invasive species, protected areas faced with commercial fishing and the long-term consequences of celebrations like Floatopia.
Carsey-Wolf Center Executive Director Richard Hutton, a professor of film and media studies, said Blue Horizons’ main objectives are to help students reach proficiency in modern media and teach them to present environmental concerns in socially consumable ways.
“In 100 years the world has just completely changed and we get our information now from all sorts of media,” Hutton said. “I think it’s important for students and responsible citizens to understand the impact of media on their lives and a program like Blue Horizons allows students to manipulate and work [within] the film medium.” Participants were taught about oceanic preservation and film production during the first six weeks of the program, while the remaining three weeks were devoted to letting students create digital videos on local topics of their choice.
Fourth-year environmental studies major Luis Duran said one of the most beneficial aspects of the program was walking away from the experience knowing how to write a script. Duran co-produced “Drawing the Lines,” a film that addresses the potential for scientists and fishermen to safeguard protected marine areas together.
“I really enjoyed scriptwriting — how to develop something from just an idea into a well thought-out story that someone would like to see on screen,” Duran said. “Movie-making is a really good skill to know and more people should try to [apply for the program] next year.”
Fifth-year computational biology major Jacob Ferguson co-produced a “mockumentary” called “The Santa Barbarian,” about the invasion of humans in Santa Barbara. Ferguson said the piece sought to draw attention to homo sapiens’ influence on the environment without appearing hypercritical of the general public.
“We had hoped that our film … would come off as a general piece reminding people, once again, to have better care for their environment without sounding like we were pointing the finger at anyone,” Ferguson said in an e-mail. “We didn’t want people to leave our movie feeling bad about themselves.”
In the film “Release Me,” students Amanda Wasserman, Darryl Mimick and Skye Featherstone chronicled the fight to remove Ventura River’s Matilija Dam in order to return the steelhead trout population to its previous level, while Chris Bowerman examined the impact of modern society on San Diego’s Trestle Beach in “Trestles and the Toll Road.”
Ferguson said though the film-making process required a significant amount of dedication in a very short amount of time, the final product was well worth the effort.
“When all was said and done … it was awesome seeing our films in Pollock Theater in front of our families,” Ferguson said. “You can definitely see the hard work in every one of the films.”
UCSB alumnus Pedro Chairez, who graduated last spring with a degree in film and media studies, said Blue Horizons’ method of hands-on learning gave student producers the chance to develop practical skills to supplement their academic progress. Chairez co-produced “Dry Tide,” a film about Floatopia’s effects on the surrounding ecosystem.
“It’s honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had at UCSB — it was insanely informative and so much fun,” Chairez said. “I probably learned more from that program than pretty much any class I took at UCSB.”
Hutton said he and his colleagues also value the meaningful connections their work allows them to foster with the student body.
“When you look back at the comments students have made, they’ve loved [the program] and it’s been really valuable to them, and we had a wonderful class this year of twelve very dedicated students,” Hutton said. “To be able to take twelve students and give them a deeper understanding of science and then allow them to use that understanding [through] a form of media — that’s a very deep learning experience.”