A Coral Film Makes the Silver Screen



This was the moment we were all waiting for: the premiere of our documentary “Curaçao’ s Coral Challenge: Reviving the Rain Forests of the Sea” at the Jacob Burns Film Center.

The room was filled with family, friends, Pace University faculty and film center regulars who came to be the first to see what we had worked on for so long. After an introduction by Dr. Nira Herrmann, Dean of the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, the lights dimmed and the opening montage and music began rolling.

As the film went on, we all had a feeling of mission accomplished. But after the credits rolled, there was more to be done. First came a Q&A led by Susan Todd, a prominent filmmaker.


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Photos by Andre Infante and Yumeng Ji

Then there were celebratory group photos. It was exciting to realize that the film center was hosting a simultaneous screening of “Antarctica 3D: On the Edge,” by the legendary environmental filmmaker Jon Bowermaster.

It was an unforgettable night.

And today, of course, there are a few final steps — the first being promoting the film to all of you and encouraging you to watch it on YouTube, read more on The New York Times blog Dot Earth and tell all your friends to watch and share the film, as well!

If you didn’t catch the premiere,  you can go to Dot Earth or Youtube to watch it now. And thank you for “keepin’ it coral” (some of us still wish that were the title)!

We are also sending out thank you notes to interviewees and others who helped with this amazing learning and creative process, as well as the staff at Jacob Burns.

Also, we can’t forget to thank Kayla Pacenka, the graduating high school senior who created all of the animations and graphics in our film. She’ll be studying graphic design at Marymount Manhattan College in the fall. They clearly have an eye for talent!

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Our Coral Documentary is Ready for the Silver Screen


We are counting the hours until Tuesday, May 12th, when we premiere our film Curacao’s Coral Challenge: Reviving the Rain Forests of the Sea at Jacob Burns Film Center.

After spending many long nights in the editing room, the anticipation for everybody to see how the documentary looks on the big screen is huge. On Friday, we got a taste of it! We went to do a technical specification test at Jacob Burns to make sure everything is perfect for the big day.

We all watched carefully, paying close attention to every detail, from the sound to the colors. The goal was to catch anything we might not have noticed in the editing room. In the end, we were very excited and proud of what we’ve accomplished.

And we can’t for you to watch it, too! You can still purchase tickets at the Jacob Burns Film Center box office or at their website.

And then watch for the film on YouTube, this blog and Professor Revkin’s Dot Earth blog at The New York Times.

Attend Our Coral Film Premiere May 12!


We are so excited to invite all of you to the first screening of Curacao’s Coral Challenge: Reviving the Rain Forests of the Sea. The premiere will be at Pleasantville’s Jacob Burns Film Center on May 12th. The movie will be shown at 7:30pm, followed by a Q&A with us – the crew. You can see who we are here.

We cannot express how honored we are for Jacob Burns to be the premiere venue. This landmark is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution engaged with promoting the finest in independent, documentary and international cinema. Since 2001, more than 4,000 films from around the world have been shown here, and over 130,000 students participated in the center’s education programs – 50 percent from underprivileged communities.

Click here for limited complimentary tickets. Hurry because they are going fast! See you there!

Shaping a Film by Matching Songs and Scenes

Soundtracks can help shape the rhythm and mood surrounding the story in a film. How many times do you catch yourself remembering a film through its music? Take, for instance, Star Wars. Would the saga envisioned by George Lucas have the same grandeur without its John Williams orchestral theme?

Or Steven Spielberg’s daunting Jaws with that music anticipating that the huge and deadly shark was coming.

Music can be a vital part of captivating storytelling. And that is what we are trying to figure out. The entire class went on a scavenger hunt in order to find the perfect tune to match the opening of our film. As we went through the pages of transcribed interviews, and searched for footage, we had our headphones on, as well.

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From Shooting to Storytelling – A Coral Film’s Second Act


We are starting to brainstorm about how our documentary is going to unfold. Tonight we start with a long blank sheet of unrolled paper marked, “Opening, Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Closing….” By the end of class we will have taped snipped excerpts from transcripts of interviews into the empty areas, creating a rough guide. There’s still analog work in this digital age!

The clock is ticking. The film debuts at the Jacob Burns Film Center on May 12th. We are very excited to share every bit of this journey with you, but we have to do it in about 20 minutes of screen time, and in a way that both captures attention and captivates viewers in a media environment flooded with TMI – too much information.

It seems like ages since we returned from the beautiful, sunny island of Curaçao with gigabytes of video, including 13 interviews and background imagery– a.k.a., b-roll – of beaches, construction work, coral and more. After logging – categorizing what we have and organizing it all to make editing swifter – we have to start stitching everything together.  Continue reading

Tourism, Fishing and Sustainability: Three sides of Curaçao

We are approaching the end of a frenetic week of filming for our documentary about coral reefs and Curaçao. Thursday was packed with interesting interviews spanning a range of topics.

The perspectives of the fisherman Robert Edwin Flameling and Brenda Benjamin from the Tourism Bureau are to some extent at odds with the desires of the scientists and environmental officials. Benjamin said that the island doesn’t have enough hotels, given that tourism flow in Curaçao is increasing and the sector is expected to thrive in January and February of next year.

Flameling took the biologist Aaron Hartmann and Professor Revkin out well before dawn, returned to the dock with three small tuna — representing only enough income to pay for the diesel fuel burned in seeking them. He expressed anger about the runaway coastal development all around the bay where he keeps his boat, about competition from industrial fishing fleets and supermarkets selling frozen imported seafood. And he was skeptical about discussions aimed at establishing the island’s first “no fish” zones.

curacao tuna catch

Aaron Hartmann, who is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson of the Waitt Institute both presented hopeful, but realistic visions of sustained coral ecosystems, built on working with fishermen, divers and officials to develop a consensus when comes to “using the seas without using them up” – Johnson’s Waitt Institute motto.

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Ready, set, action! The filming begins

by Jhennifer Moises

Even though it was 6:00 am when we all met at JFK International Airport, on March 14th, the excitement was shown on everybody’s faces. The anticipation to reach our destination – Curaçao – built up, as we got close to boarding.

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Photos by Yumeng Ji

And only two hours after landing in Curaçao, we were in gear, walking to Carmabi Marine Research Station, where we talked about our schedule and plans for the week, which includes snorkeling on reefs, kayaking in mangroves and an architectural tour. Also, we got to learn a lot about lionfish after talking to fishermen. Cassie and Professor Revkin even tried fresh lionfish sashimi.

Keep up with our adventures in Curaçao as we shoot the documentary on coral reef’s conservation. Curacao’s Coral Challenge – Reviving the Rain Forests of the Sea is in the making!

Looking forward to the great week ahead of us! Make sure to watch our vlog: