Group hosts film fest, calls for student entries

"Green Shots," inspired by a new undergraduate minor, will accept films dealing with sustainability.

Allison Wickler

From the whales in “Free Willy” to the water-polluting corporate scandal in “Erin Brockovich,” the environment has been a major theme of many films.

Organizers at the University’s Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative, which controls the new sustainability-studies minor, hope to bring even more interest to the environment through film.

on the web

Students interested in submitting a film or more information can go to: www.sustainability.umn.edu/greenshorts

Their “Green Shorts” environmental film contest will challenge undergraduate students to create a short film – five minutes or fewer – on an area related to sustainability.

The organizers are encouraging students to address any environmental problem, including how students and society can effect positive changes for the future, said program coordinator Kris Johnson.

After coordinators for the sustainability minor created a short film to advertise the program, they realized film might be something a broad range of students could be interested in.

“Even people who aren’t thinking about sustainability … might have a lot of creative energy to put toward that,” he said.

Submissions are due April 26, and the film screening will be May 3 at the Bell Museum of Natural History.

The top three filmmakers, based on audience vote, will win iPods, and the films will be streamed on the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative Web site.

This is the first year for the sustainability minor and a film contest seemed a good way to draw interest, said contest judge and coordinator for the sustainability-studies minor Derric Pennington.

“We wanted to welcome or embrace the idea that to solve complex environmental or sustainability challenges requires sort of a diverse perspective,” Pennington said. “And it just sounds cool.”

Michael Banker, contest judge and senior media-resources producer for Bell Museum Productions, said making a film is a good way for filmmakers to learn more and articulate what they believe.

Johnson said some of the potential problems with the contest result from its newness.

“We really don’t know if five students will submit films or 100 students will submit films,” he said.

While the judges haven’t decided the exact criteria they will use to judge the films, the four judges will look at the films’ messages and creativity, he said.

Anthropology and cultural studies and comparative literature sophomore Christine Eshelman said, though unfamiliar with filmmaking, she is considering submitting an entry because of her interest in sustainability issues.

“It’s a way to have art make social change,” she said.

Sustaining the environment on a cultural level is important, Eshelman said, and she plans to address how society can promote sustainability in urban areas.

Johnson said he hopes with new, simpler technology, students won’t be intimidated by a filmmaking project.

They can take an issue they care about, “take a risk, and spend a weekend or a day putting it on film,” he said.