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.

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.

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!

The ABC’s of Papiamento

by Alex Coma


In preparing for our filmmaking trip to Curaçao, we were familiar with the Dutch history of the island, but not with the language — papiamento, or papiamentu. It is a true creole stew of influences, mainly Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and several African languages along with Arawak and a touch of French. It is frequently heard in all three “ABC” islands: Antigua, Bonaire and Curaçao.

I’m sure we’ll be using this collection of useful phrases. There’s also a Web-based translator here.

You can take a lesson here:

The roots of Curaçao’s rich cultural and linguistic mix go back centuries. Just a few years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean, an expedition led by a Spaniard, Alonso de Ojeda, and the Italian Amerigo Vespucci found the island. But the Spanish left within a few decades, finding no gold. The Dutch West India Company claimed the island in 1634 and not long afterward began to establish the “triangular” slave trade linking Africa, the Caribbean and America.

The languages of the island’s indigenous culture, known as the Caiquetios, eventually blended with the Dutch, Spanish and African languages. Papiamento was born.

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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