Sunday, June 20, 2010

Science documentary film seeks financial support

Over the past two months I have been reviewing and cutting raw footage recorded over the past two years. We've moved forward with our current project by purchasing a 2TB hard drive to dump all of this footage onto, and begin the long, arduous task of cutting, trimming and categorizing each and every clip.
Doing both shooting and editing gives much more experience than just shooting alone. By seeing what I've shot, I immediately see my own mistakes and am able to grow as a cameraperson much faster as a result. In addition, I am able to spot shots that would tie each sequence together, and if necessary, shoot additional footage to fill in the gaps. This is of utmost importance, and while I do enjoy editing--this process has left me feeling quite empty. I go back in time and review each and every moment: a weasel family working together to kill a chipmunk, two bucks bursting through a flock of turkey, a coyote barking madly at my presence, radio collaring a coyote in the middle of the night, examining coyote scat contents in the lab, pinpointing a den location as a result of radio telemetry, canoeing out to an old den site, finding pups in the den...all of these moments will make for a great film--but it's all frozen in time. All of the stories I told last year as a result of getting out into the field each and every day have come to a complete halt. As I stare at the computer monitor and relive each moment: a tom fanning his feathers, a Brown thrasher foraging for food, I cannot help but agonize over the things I have missed and am missing right now.
This science documentary was meant to be three years in the making--not just because--but due to the difficulty of gathering Eastern coyote natural history footage in the wild. We wished to produce a film of likes had never been seen before--and we still could! But we need financial support. This is not my hobby, and I am not independently wealthy, so working for free is simply out of the question. The economy has hit us particularly hard because of the nature of our work. We survive on and exist because of grants. No one is giving out grant money--so our fieldwork has ceased.
One grant in particular, the Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Education Grant, was to support teachers who would write science education curricula to go with the film for Northwestern Pennsylvania schools. I had already given a presentation to the Northwest Tri County Intermediate Unit #5 in order to begin the recruitment process. We had several interested science teachers. The DEP grant would also have supported additional field work necessary for the film production. However, we were notified last week that we were rejected for this grant.
I don't really know where to go from here. I've started going through my 80+ list of granting agencies. Some of which no longer exist, others have changed their focus, but mostly grant agencies have tightened their purse strings and are no longer giving out financial support.
My husband and I have a vision for the theatre at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. We wish to produce films for the theatre about scientific research taking place right here in NW Pennsylvania. There is so much going on that the general public has no idea--and we want to share it with everyone. Educational opportunities are being missed as time goes on. We have such a rich heritage at Presque Isle, in wildlife and ecology. We hope to celebrate that via means of taking the visitor right there, through the viewfinder of a documentary lens. Very few have this capability, and our six time award winning company only needs a point in the right direction. I have an existing proposal that is outstanding, we can write grants, do research, write scripts, shoot, record natural sound, edit and finish a project. To top it all off--we have a venue! We have the Big Green Screen Theatre to showcase our work! I just don't have the ability to search for grants. I don't have access to a grant search engine. We are even eligible for non-profit grants through the Regional Science Consortium. I've spent time writing a business plan to find investors, working with Gannon SBDC. We've networked with the Erie Regional Chamber, etc. etc. etc. I am spread far too thin! And did you know I have a day job? My time would be much better spent making educational science films. There is so much possibility at TREC's theatre, so much potential that is not being taken advantage of, so much that is not being considered. Somehow this filmmaking idea isn't working--so I ask you: what would you do? Where should we ask for help? Is science education important? Is awareness of our natural world important? Should our children find a spiritual connection to nature? Only with film will you reach thousands of people with a message.