Telling odd stories through short films to get people to care about wildlife management

Post by Zachary Mayer

The use of an interesting story can give reason for people to become invested in an important issue. In the field of wildlife management especially, getting to people to care about the plight of a seemingly uncharismatic species without the use of a flagship species can seem like an exercise in insanity. Yet knowing how to tell the story of the uncharismatic species might be the catalyst that gets people to care about its management.

In my case, I set out to the tell the turbulent management history of the greenback cutthroat trout, via a short film, to bring attention to the highly destructive consequences of nonnative trout introduction. Short films have been described as an engaging way to succinctly educate those who may not have any prior knowledge about a topic (Kabadayi, 2012). Use of a short film might make me sound like the next Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino, but lucky for me I’m not competing to win an Oscar, so my “plot points” can be delivered through use of good narration (via my roommate) and good editing (via myself). As long as I have some interesting, eye-catching background footage (or b-roll, as they say in the industry), I don’t need to rely on tear-jerking acting and writing to get people to care about the management of nonnative trout.

I broke up the creation of my short film into a few parts: 1) drafting the script for narration, 2) filming background footage, 3) recording narration, 4) editing. Drafting the script let me put all the information I gathered and needed to articulate into a few succinct paragraphs that would my narrator could read from. The information that would be ultimately narrated would be different from that on the script, but the script gives a general direction to what information needs to be communicated.

Landscape picture showing a creek in a mountain landscape with sunbeams creating a lens flare.
Picture from my background footage. A good backdrop like this can provide the perfect canvas to provide information about my issue through narration and video editing. Image: Zachary Mayer

Filming the background footage was simple enough; however, I preferred to do it on a clear, sunny day to capture and establish an idyllic tone throughout the video. While recording the narration, I wanted to focus on building a narrative while also communicating scientific facts. Building a narrative while communicating science has been shown to be an important tool in getting people to remember potentially confusing information because create a personal connection to the story (Dahlstrom, 2014). Luckily, I had an interesting story to tell that led right into the issue of nonnative trout management. Finally, editing the footage down and laying over the narration was the most time-consuming and difficult part. While the narration is an important foundation of building a good narrative, editing is where the narrative becomes cohesive.

With a little help from the Nashville Film Institute (NFI), I was able to understand how to get started and a large and intimidating project like this. The full video can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBSNhQZSLII


Zachary is a student at the University of Wyoming studying Zoology.

references

Dahlstrom, M. F. (2014). Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with nonexpert audiences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(Supplement_4), 13614–13620.

Kabadayi, L. (2012). The Role of Short Film in Education. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 47, 316–320.

“How to Make a Short Film: Things You Should Know”. NFI.edu, https://www.nfi.edu/how-to-make-a-short-film/.

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