Field Notes – Laura and Robert Sams

Watch “The Marvelous Musical Report of the Marine National Monuments” on TERRA
and check out Laura and Robert’s website at Sisbro Studios.

Laura and Robert's Biography:

Laura and Robert's Biography:

Laura and Robert Sams are a sister/brother creative duo -- writers, musicians, filmmakers, zoologists and educators. They have owned Sisbro Studios since 2001, creating media that inspires people to laugh, learn and explore their world. Their work has been honored with over 50 international awards, including a Parents’ Choice Gold Award, a National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) Gold Award, a KIDS FIRST! Best of the Year Award, a Wildscreen Panda Award (often called the “Green Oscars”), a Special Jury Award and Best Original Music at the International Wildlife Film Festival. Their films have also won Best Children’s Program at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival and many more. Their children’s book, A Pirate’s Quest, won the Midwest Book Award for Best Children’s Picture Book.

Laura and Robert have worked with the Smithsonian Channel, Animal Planet, The Jim Henson Company, the National Science Foundation and the Save Our Seas Foundation. They recently wrote 18 original songs for Rice University’s STEMScopes curriculum about science. Laura and Robert have performed live shows for over 150,000 children, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to international schools in Dubai to hundreds of schools in the United States.

TERRA:  What inspired you to make a film about the Marine National Monuments?

TERRA: What inspired you to make a film about the Marine National Monuments?

LRS: We understood that NOAA was looking for a positive way to celebrate the marine national monuments that could be shared with stake-holders in these island regions. We pitched the idea to NOAA as part of a grant opportunity, and they said yes. I give NOAA a lot of credit, because it is a much different kind of video than they are used to funding. Stephani Gordon, our partner on this project, has visited and filmed the monuments for previous projects. This was a great opportunity to tap into her existing library of footage and create something fun to open people’s eyes to these remote places that the general public doesn’t really hear much about. It was an opportunity for us to blend our passions of wildlife, comedy, education and music.

TERRA: Give us a behind-the-scenes snapshot of creating this film.

TERRA: Give us a behind-the-scenes snapshot of creating this film.

LRS: We began by looking through Stephani Gordon’s stock library of footage from the monuments, and we wrote the song based around the footage we already had available. We had one week to film the additional outdoor portions – Louis emerging from the ocean in his suit & tie, walking sopping wet through the city streets, playing ukulele underwater with a sea turtle – around the island of Oahu. The indoor office scenes were shot over a couple of days in our hometown of Portland, Oregon.

TERRA:  Why did you decide to approach this story through music?

TERRA: Why did you decide to approach this story through music?

LRS: Our target audience was children. We thought a song would give us a fun and quirky way to illustrate these distant places that most people will never see in person. And music can be a good storytelling tool, because a melody can get stuck in people’s heads.

TERRA: What inspired you and your brother to become a filmmakers?

TERRA: What inspired you and your brother to become a filmmakers?

LRS: We sort of fell into the filmmaking game. We both have zoology degrees, but neither of us was interested in becoming researchers. We both simply loved animals and storytelling. Then we had the opportunity to help make a short movie based on our cousin’s children’s book, a story about animals in the winter woods. After visiting several wildlife film festivals with that project, we realized that there was a real need for good wildlife filmmaking for children. It seemed like nobody else was really doing it, so that inspired us to continue on this path.

TERRA:  What’s your favorite aspect of filmmaking?

TERRA: What’s your favorite aspect of filmmaking?

LRS: We are fortunate to have our hands in all aspects of the process – from writing, to filming, to directing, to editing, to the music and sound design. There are lots of things that make it fun. We love watching how an idea on paper becomes reality up on the big screen. We love having that chance to work with talented friends and artists. And when it’s working, it can almost feel like magic. But probably the best part of it all is sharing it with our audience and hearing from total strangers that it worked.