I was fortunate enough to be invited to the 25th National Environmental Tar Creek Conference held at Northeastern Oklahoma (NEO) A&M College in Miami, Oklahoma from October 10-12. This was the 25th year of the conference – which is both impressive on one hand and concerning on the other, given the persistence of the issues surrounding Tar Creek. The purpose of the invite was to present my film, Take Care, Tar Creek – Revisited.
My wife and I drove up to Miami from Norman earlier in the day.
I had not seen the program and did not know exactly when I presenting. When I opened the conference program I was surprised to see that there was more to it. The title read, “Chat Research Results in Super 8 Movie – Aaron Gibson, researcher and filmmaker.” So wait, was I supposed to talk about my Masters Thesis research project from 20 years ago to this room full of actual scientist, researchers, regulatory agency representatives, and community members? At once I felt unprepared, under-qualified, and anxious. Thankfully, my wife was there to reassure me that all I really needed to do was relate the past to the present, and go from there.
Watching the session just before mine; a Doctoral candidate talking about sulfate-reducing bacteria, did not instill confidence, but instead reminded me how disconnected I was with “the science.” What was I doing here? Why wasn’t I here years ago when I could actually speak intellectually about the hypothesis, about sampling and data collection methodology, about results, the spectrum of metal concentrations, about the distribution of particle sizes in the mine tailings, and about statistical analyses? But how could I, now, twenty–plus years later? Yet, here, and moreover, NOW, I was.
The time came and Mrs. Rebecca Jim introduced me and I made my way to the front of the room.
At this point, I don’t remember if what I said was relevant. Surely I mentioned my background, summarized my research, did what I could to connect the past to more current experiences. I downplayed my “research” side, my “scientist” persona. The position I was in now, was not a “scientist,” but as a filmmaker – and in that capacity, I felt much more at ease.
There was some technical issue with the showing of the film, in fact, the movie kicked off a few seconds beyond the opening scene – but was a moot point – something that surely nobody would really notice.
After the film the lights came up and there was applause and I notice some people drying their eyes. I thanked the room for their response to the film and took a few questions. There were questions about the type of medium used, if I had the chance to shoot the film on some other kind of media, would I? What advice could I give someone going from science to filmmaking? I received several compliments about things in the film.
The session concluded with Rebecca thanking me at the front of the stage and I took my seat.
There was a second showing later in the evening as an after-hours event in an auditorium. This was also listed in the program but this one just read “Super 8 Movie” and had a blurb about a discussion with the filmmaker. I found this showing to be more comfortable for me, possibly knowing what to expect and knowing that just the film aspect would be the focus of the discussion. Some of the audience members had seen the previous showing – but this one was better because I was able to start the film at the actual start.
Again, at the end, there were some questions and comments about the making of the film, and I went into more detail about the interview itself. At the end of the showing I was honored and recognized with a Mike Synar Environmental Excellence Award for “my cinematic vision of the story Tar Creek herself would tell.” It was a wonderful gesture and came quite unexpectedly.
Overall, the experience was meaningful in that this creation, not just mine, but everyone who had a hand in it – originated from nothing and culminated in a final piece (or tool, or thing, or product, or whatever you want to call it), to encapsulate a story that has value. Not value in the sense of monetary value, but value in the sense that it can be used to further the position and the message. Activism value. Change value. The kind of value that makes a difference to the environment and to people.
The film is a means to make science palatable for people who are not scientist or policy makers.
I am currently in the process of applying to various film festivals.
I am excited to announce that the film was accepted to the Red Dirt Film Festival in Stillwater, OK. More to come in future posts.