Watch Deia’s films on her website at Pale Blue Dot Media.
Deia Schlosberg recently finished her MFA in Science & Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University in Bozeman, with her thesis being the film, Backyard, about the human cost of fracking. Her background is in environmental education and visual arts, as well as expeditioning, having been awarded a 2009 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award for a two-year, 7800-mile through-hike of the Andes Mountains. She subsequently lectured around the U.S. on the lessons in sustainable living she learned over the course of her time in the Andes.
TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
DS: I had been trying for years to find something that effectively combined my two passions: environmental education and visual arts, when, LO! MSU’s SNHF program smacked into my radar somewhere in central Argentina whilst on an internet cafe search for What To Do Next (after hiking the Andes for two years). The more I ruminated on this prospect, the more it felt like exactly the right course of action, and I haven’t regretted it for a second since. I am a filmmaker. There are messages and stories that I think need to be spread widely, and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out the best way to do that.
TERRA: Tell us about your recent project, "Backyard."
DS: Backyard is a half hour doc about five people’s experiences with fracking, or more accurately, with the oil and gas extraction occurring around them. The stories take place in four states, all in various stages of energy “development,” though everyone’s stories overlap so much that a larger picture emerges from them. I went into the project pretty open minded, talking with people on all sides of the controversy, touring a drilling rig, touring a “man camp,” talking with rig workers, and I came away from the experience overwhelmingly disturbed by the depth of corruption and manipulation going on with these energy companies. They are slowly killing people but their PR machine is formidable. It’s really scary. I don’t know if you can publish that... I kind of got on my soap box there. The film isn’t that preachy, don’t worry. Also, it recently won two College Emmys, which still blows my mind, for best doc and a special humanitarian award. That makes me so happy, that these kinds of human rights stories are being valued by an entity like The Academy. Wow.
TERRA: What has been a rewarding moment for you in the field?
DS: Without a doubt, getting to know my subjects and developing relationships with them. I still communicate with most of them on a regular basis. That was actually one of my main goals in making Backyard, to explore the ethical handling of documentary subjects so they don’t feel like objects (as a documentary-subject friend of mine put it). In general, though, I’m rarely on a shoot that doesn’t make me think, “Dang, this is so cool. If I weren’t filming right now I would never get to be here. I love my job.”
TERRA: What're the three things you'd never go into the field without and why?
DS: Good headphones to monitor audio, because a great shoot with bad sound is unbelievably frustrating. More cards and batteries than I think I’ll need, because I always end up needing them. A shot list, because it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and get so much other great stuff and forget the basic, boring things, like people coming and going, establishing shots, etc. that are so helpful down the road in the edit.
TERRA: What is your favorite aspect of filmmaking?
DS: I get to learn about whatever I want to learn about. It’s like being a professional student, without the tuition and tests. Whatever subject I’m doing work on, I’m EXPECTED to have a solid understanding of: national park management plans, shale geology, the Yellowstone River, farming in Mozambique, Arctic expedition logistics....and so on. It’s fantastic.
TERRA: What's next for you?
DS: I’m working with a team (which I’m very excited about, having done Backyard solo) on a large scale hydrocarbon visualization project. That doesn’t necessarily sound that exciting, but we’re going to make the invisible visible and hopefully make some big changes as far as environmental regulations and human health go. I’m also editing a film called Cold Love, about one explorer’s search for meaning in some of the most hostile, and rapidly changing, places on the planet.