Sea Shepherd Conservation Society partnered with a group of Hollywood industry heavyweights and a middle school from the Los Angeles Unified School District on a student filmmaking contest.
The winner’s film will released as Sea Shepherd’s official PSA for World Oceans Day on June 8th, 2017, on the organization’s website and across social media platforms.
Last December, the 7th and 8th grade Cinematic Arts Academy students at Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks, CA, were challenged to create a short film about what World Oceans Day means to them.
Double Oscar winning sound editor Karen Baker Landers (Skyfall, The Bourne Ultimatum), Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos (The Cove), twice Oscar nominated editor Joe Walker (Twelve Years A Slave, Arrival), Participant Pictures executive vice president of documentary films Diane Weyermann, and Sea Shepherd founder and CEO Captain Paul Watson were among the contest’s judges.
Documentary filmmakers and producers Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish), Kief Davidson (The Ivory Game), Kip Andersen (Cowspiracy), Ross McCall (The Grind of the Faroe Islands), Lesley Chilcott (An Inconvenient Truth), and Sea Shepherd Youth Ambassador, actor Zach Callison, rounded out the list of judges.
The winning film, Oceans, by 14-year-old Carson Strassman, edged out runner up 13-year-old Herschey Liss’ film, Every Ocean, by one vote.
“I have always maintained that the camera is our greatest weapon,” said Captain Paul Watson. “These young filmmakers demonstrate the power of filmmaking and its ability to affect change. Carson’s stunning visuals were beyond impressive and showed us how urgent it is to take a stand for our Oceans. Runner up Herschey’s direct-to-camera message gave a personal viewpoint that hit right in the heart. Congratulations to both the first and second place winners.”
Due to the close race, contest judge Karen Baker Landers of Hollywood post-production facility Formosa Group extended her part of the prize package to both filmmakers: having the two student short films sound remixed by Jared Marshak under Baker Landers’ supervision on Formosa Group’s stages in Hollywood prior to Sea Shepherd releasing the films.
“I’m absolutely blown away by how articulate both kids are as filmmakers,” said Baker Landers.
First place winner Strassman’s prizes also include spending the day on the set of a commercial or music video produced by Supply & Demand Integrated. The bi-coastal company is behind music videos for such artists as Taylor Swift as well as commercials and promotions for brands like Tesla, Nike and Coca-Cola among others.
“These are two amazing shorts and hard to believe they were made by a 13 and 14-year-old; both films are passionate and moving,” said Weyermann, who, as an executive, has overseen the release of such Participant documentaries as the Oscar winning CITZENFOUR and An Inconvenient Truth.
“Watching Carson and Hershey’s films was a great pleasure,” added Walker, who is currently editing Sony’s upcoming Blade Runner 2049. “Two film-makers responding to the issue with dynamically different styles but equally endearing personalities. I’m so encouraged that the environment has two great advocates in the making and that they used film so thoughtfully as their means of communication.”
Said Strassman of his project being chosen as the winning film and Sea Shepherd’s official PSA: “I am really excited about winning this competition because it gives my film the opportunity to be seen and inspire people to help save the Ocean.”
Here are among the judges’ statements on the first and second place winners:
1st Place Winner Carson Strassman, 14 Years Old
Ross McCall: “Carson has not only made an incredibly informative piece, but also a visually stunning film, hauntingly accurate and a must see for everyone with an interest in ocean conservation. I was completely drawn in to this young visionary’s short.”
Lesley Chilcott: “Carson’s film is poetic, thoughtful, gives you something to think about without preaching, and has a nice tone that inspires you to do something.”
Kip Andersen: “Carson’s hit me emotionally. Send him our way please if he is looking for some more gigs. Literally please do.”
Runner-Up Herschey Liss, 13 Years Old
Gabriela Cowperthwaite: “I felt Herschey tried to do something visually different with his film and it engaged me. And engaging audiences in new ways is what will help attract new people to the cause. We need everyone we can get.”
Kief Davidson: “Herschey’s film felt very personal with specific information about what is going on in our own backyard in Los Angeles, which I think will resonate with viewers.”
Joe Walker: “Herschey’s simple message is made strong by being delivered straight and from the heart. I was impressed by the line “No amount of post-processing is going to be able to cover up the fact the ocean is being destroyed” – it was a great expression drawn from his personal vantage point and spoke to the digitally sophisticated generation who inherit this duty to protect the analogue world.”