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Behind the Scenes of Film Making with Grace

Environmental Film Making in Washington D.C.

By: Grace Eggleston, Previous Photography Intern

I figured out a long time ago that there are two things I really enjoy: being outside and playing around with cameras.

After graduating from Pitt this past year, I thought about what kind of career path I wanted to go down and decided I wanted to try out film school. I wanted to get the technical training with cameras that I’d never had before and learn how the freelance filmmaking/photography business works. But while looking for schools I found myself in a weird position. I didn’t want to go to NYC or LA for that classic Hollywood/fiction film school experience. My perfect school would allow me to focus my creative work on what I love most: wildlife conservation, outdoor adventures, and peoples’ relationship with nature! I was pretty sure this type of program wasn’t a thing, until it fell right into my lap after a day of intense Googling. American University’s MFA concentration in Environmental Filmmaking!

So here I am in DC, almost finished with my first semester of grad school in a program that has exceeded my expectations. The work is intense but it’s SO much fun! My classmates and I are learning how to set up and run professional cameras, audio equipment (so hard!), and lighting. We’re learning how to edit short films, practicing how to interview documentary subjects, and the logistics of traveling and setting up equipment in different locations. Perhaps most importantly, though, we’re learning how to identify an important story and shape it into something interesting and new for an audience. For me, those stories are about the environment and our relationship with it. I’m so excited to be in a program that will help me explore this in the next few years as I begin to make my first films! (Next year I get to take classes like Producing Environmental and Wildlife Films and Classroom in the Wild where we’ll travel to the Chesapeake Bay to shoot film projects and live in the field!)

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It’s also inspiring to be in a city with so many environmental nonprofits and to be in school with other people that are passionate about a niche topic like this. Just the other day I got to run sound and camera on a classmate’s project where she interviewed a lifelong climber/conservationist. We filmed at Carderock, an island just outside the city that’s full of small cliffs that plunge down into the forest and the river. Earlier in the semester, a professor met us out at the same island to try to teach us how to repel while holding camera equipment!

Long story short, I’m thrilled to be here, mashing my two loves of cameras and nature together!! Thanks for reading and have fun on your next outdoor adventures!!

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