Far away from her native South Side of Chicago home, Liz is currently in her third year of pursuing an MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University. After obtaining a degree in History and an interest in archaeology that took her from New Jersey to Ireland to Central Illinois, Liz could not shake her interest in making films. Armed with a camera, Liz now aims to connect viewers with the rest of the world by learning about issues such as light pollution or the interesting unknown subcultures of the world. Currently a producer of the Element Film Festival, Liz is also works for Montana PBS located in Bozeman, Montana. In her free-time, Liz enjoys photography, getting outdoors, and – every once in a while – binge watching some of her favorite shows.
TERRA: What inspired you to make a film about seals?
LW: The film wasn’t originally centered around seals. Instead, I intended to make a film exploring the concept of how folklore and myth help to protect archaeology sites (and sometimes cause their destruction) and relate it back to how it also occurs with wildlife conservation and additionally if it can help with other conservation efforts. Folklore and myth is one way that can help people relate back to the natural world, something that is becoming increasingly more important with climate change, overfishing, and mass extinction right around the corner. How are we, as people and humans, supposed to care if we don’t reconnect with the natural world? Some people do that with science, and others do it by hiking and going on walks. Other people connect through the stories and folklore.
TERRA: What surprised you the most about working with the seals?
LW: First – how adorable they are! As pups and adults. If you took a dog and gave it flippers instead of legs and paws, you have a seal. Now as a disclaimer – NEVER approach or touch seals and that goes for other wildlife too. They look like pups, but they are still wild animals and that should be respected.
Second – their eyes. I was so surprised at how human-like they can be. After seeing them, I understand why stories and folklore of Selkies persist. They are also very curious creatures – one seal called Sammy in Wexford kept popping up to check us out, but he was not sure what to make of the camera. Whenever we pointed it away, he would stick his head out and watch, but when we pointed it back at him he would go underwater and watch us from there.
TERRA: What types of equipment did you use? Do you have a favorite piece?
LW: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera, tripod, and a sound kit. We also used a 2 FT slider system by Rhino Camera Gear. That was probably my favorite piece – some of the movements we managed to get people thought were drone shots. I definitely suggest checking them out: http://rhinocameragear.com.
TERRA: Did you have any particularly rewarding or dangerous moments while making the film?
LW: I think the most rewarding moments were meeting the people we interviewed. Brendan, Kelli and Bairbre are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I love that each of them are passionate about the subject they pursue and they are happy to share it with everyone.
TERRA: What are the 3 things you’d never go into the field without and why?
LW: 1. Gaffe tape. I think it’s been said before and I’ll say it again. You can never have too much gaffe tape.
2. Basic lens cleaner kit (air pump, lens wipes, etc.) The most irritating thing ever is going into the edit bay to find a giant speck of dust in your shot and then spend more time to erase it in After Effects.
3. Memory cards – enough of them with enough space. It’s heartbreaking to be in the field with no computer and hard drive to wind up having your camera tell you it can no longer record because you don’t have enough space.
TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
LW: Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve just always wanted to be a filmmaker, but I didn’t realize you could be one until I was in Junior High when another student talked about it and I just could not imagine doing anything else after it.
TERRA: What’s your favorite aspect of filmmaking?
LW: Can I say all of it? I love the entire process of creating something – it can be frustrating at times, but it just makes it more rewarding.