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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The Big Day is Almost Here

Long time, no see! We have been working intensively under a frenetic rhythm in the final stages of editing our film on coral reef conservation in Curaçao. This kept us away from the blog for a while. Here’s Cassie Pacenka putting Avid through its paces at 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Cassie Pacenka grinds through the details in our film.

Cassie Pacenka grinds through the details in our film.

Part of putting a documentary together includes late nights, especially toward the end of the process, to be sure every detail is perfect. Matching the music and making sure all the acts tell a cohesive story are just a two of the many tasks we are working on.

Overnight, we added the narration. Professor Katherine Fink  went into the booth to record the text that is going to help guide viewers throughout the story.

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Everything comes down the hard work of a committed team lead by Dr.Luskay and Professor Revkin.

With the premiere at Jacob Burn Film Center only one week away,  we are pulling out all the stops.  And if that means sleeping on the floor, so be it!

Dalla Ripka sleeping on the floor of the editing room.

Dallas Ripka needed a well-deserved rest! Its is nap time

This is going to be a crazy week for us. Over the next few days, many hours will fly by as we scroll down the timeline to finish the film, and get it ready for a screen test Friday at Jacob Burns.  This is crucial before we reveal the film to the sold-out theater!

Thank you, by the way!

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In a week, we finally get to show our documentary – Curacao’s Coral Challenge:  Reviving the Rain Forests of the Sea. Hope to see you there, or on YouTube.

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

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:

Using the GoPro: Filming Underwater, and Launching our YouTube Channel!

With just three days to go until we fly out to Curacao, we had a dry-run of our underwater filming last night during our class time. We took to Pace University’s pool in the Goldstein Fitness Center to test out the cameras for when we go snorkeling in Curacao this coming week.

We have also launched a Pace Coral Youtube channel and created a Vlog that includes some of the highlights form last night’s shoot.

Make sure to follow our channel, as well as our other social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) to “Keep it Coral” with us over Spring break!

Why Coral Reefs Matter, in Curaçao and Beyond

by Brianna Connelly
Courtesy of Mark Vermeij

Courtesy of Mark Vermeij

As everyone knows, our documentary is about the coral reefs in Curaçao, however it is important to consider.. Why coral reefs? And Why Curaçao?  Coral reefs are one of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth.  As we learned in oceans episode of “Earth a New Wild,”  coral reefs make up less than 1 percent of the ocean but support more than half of all marine life!

Pollution, overfishing, coastal development, careless tourism and other activities, combined with climate change, can steadily degrade reefs — and thus one of the planet’s storehouses of biological diversity.

Reefs also have important economic value to humans; they provide coastal communities with resources and services worth billions of dollars per year. Some estimates find that over 1 billion people depend on reefs for food. 

They also protect these communities close to the shoreline from waves, storms, and floods.

Some may ask, “Why should we all be worried about coral reefs, particularly when many of us live very far from the tropical oceans?”

As with rain forests, coral reefs have been found to produce compounds that can be the basis for new drugs to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses, and other ailments. 

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Our Class Meets One Coral Challenge – Naming Our Film

by Lissette De Leon

Halfway through this week’s class, Dr. Luskay said it was time to come up with the title of the documentary. This is tough when you haven’t shot any footage yet! But it had to be done because of advance publicity for the premiere in May. Who would have thought creating a film title could be so difficult?

Prof. Revkin opened up a blank white Word document on the screen. (Side note: If you see his laptop you won’t be able to keep up with all the tabs and windows he has open.)

Then all the thinking began. Students blurted out words related to the documentary: revival, rescuing, underwater city, conserve, coral, algae and many more. (See the Wordle above.) Dr. Luskay wanted everyone to have input, but their wasn’t much creativity in the room. A couple of students, including myself, were unable to come up with any inspiring ideas, which appeared to drive Dr. Luskay insane!

Others filled the gap, though: Despair to Repair. Yuck to Yeah! The best out of all the ideas, thanks to Dallas and Cassie, was “KEEPIN’ IT CORAL.” Shockingly Prof. Revkin liked the idea, Dr. Luskay said “I CANNOT BELIEVE IT” and stormed out of the room. When she returned, the brainstorming resumed and we settled on this title:

Curacao’s Coral Challenge – Reviving the Rain Forests of the Sea

After that hour-long stressful struggle, Dr. Luskay said, “Does everyone agree on this title? Because later I do not want to hear about other suggestions.” Finally, with a sigh of relief, the title was official.

While Keepin’ it Coral didn’t make the cut, Prof. Revkin (who’s a musician on the side) said it would be a perfect name for the key soundtrack song. Alex Coma, who composes and mixes music, is on the task.

Keepin’ it Coral… COMING SOON!