Thursday, March 13, 2008

138. Blue Horizons Continued: A View of Maria de Oca's Santa Barbara Sustainable Seafood Film Project

The first time I was ever exposed to "Seafood Watch" was actually through Yasmin and Mickey von Dassow (I witnessed their marriage up in Washington state). Yasmin and Mickey actually first met and hit it off at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. So, one day Yasmin passed out all these Seafood Watch cards around the Earth Sciences Department (the west coast "2006" guide). I didn't think much of them upon first exposure, but I started to see these cards circulate all over the place. Like they were becoming common currency... or your "ocean action" trading cards instead of those video game action figure Pokemon trading cards that kids like to trade. We've got fish on our cards instead of Pokemon or Pikachu!

Hence, on the last day of lecture in Ben Halpern's marine conservation course, he brought in his wife, Kim Selkoe (at that time, I didn't know they were married and had a kid, and they both work at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), very very small world). Kim an employee at the Ty-Warner Sea Center teamed up to write a grant at Patagonia to help start the Santa Barbara Sustainable Seafood Program, or essentially transfer the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program down to the Santa Barbara region. They both are involved in networking with local seafood serving restaurants in terms of raising awareness of the seafood they purchase and serve to customers. In addition, they are raising seafood awareness among consumers. Maria de Oca, my classmate, had the opportunity to document the innerworkings of this budding program, and she did a great job. I like her style a lot: a very fun news report style. She also used great music--from some French band, I believe. I remember Maria working so hard trying to contact the agents of these musicians just so she can have the rights to use the music on her film... just so she can submit the film to the Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival! I didn't think music rights would be such a hassle. I guess that's why it pays off to create your own music. You are simplifying your life: instead of waiting five days to get music rights, you use 5 days or less to compose your own whacky music!

I think Maria's film is the favorite of my class because it was short, to the point, entertaining, light-hearted, informative, and NOT distorting the viewpoints of the people interviewed. There were one or two films in the class I felt were badly edited and greatly skewed the point of view of the individual interviewed, and since I knew the people very well, it actually pissed me off greatly. I probably already talked about this before, but I think one of the most horrible parts about film is poor representation of the persons interviewed. That is partly why I like making my films as "dig into my head" films... Why? Because I acknowledge from the beginning that the only person I truly know and can accurately represent is myself and that when I include other people, it is not necessarily them but MY perception of them. If I have this approach to film, then I can NEVER go wrong. And no one can pin me to the wall for misrepresentation. On a rare occasion, I feel just a little bit clever, and this is one situation.

Back to the Seafood Watch cards. I don't know whether they serve their duty or purpose. I am not sure whether these cards are really of any help or use. It just creates the same problem of instant gratification with information. It's just people telling other people what to do and think rather than the individual consumer taking time out to think and do and explore and ask questions (not that anyone has TIME to do that, but it's a nice idea). The individual consumer not only being a consumer of seafood but a consumer of seafood watch information. The card does not ask the consumer to be his or her own investigative sleuth. I guess that's where my philosophy differs here. As I have said a bazillion times, the only goal I have in "teaching" is to teach people to teach themselves. If you skip over that step, then there's no point in anything.

So, Seafood Watch is another situation of INSTANT GRATIFICATION ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION. Then again, these cards are better than NO information at all. Maybe I'm just being a cynic this morning. When looking at these cards again, I couldn't help to think that publishing these cards involved killing trees to save fish. I just noticed "recycled paper" in small font. Didn't say 100%. So, I'm suspicious. Twisted Environmentalism comes back to hit us over the head again!

I had the pleasure of helping Maria on this film. On the first day we went over to Elements Restaurant... Maria was totally on top of things... and I just enjoyed taking pictures of her, Kim Selkoe, and the chef of Elements. It was the best photoshoot I had that summer!

Right now, Maria is out and about with interviews for graduate school. She applied to SEVEN graduate schools. Maria is very determined to get a masters degree and work on research involved marine ecology in the Arctic. Very specific, I'd say, but determined and visionary. I like, I like very much.

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