Noted filmmaker-photographer Michael O Snyder believes even a film on environment should entertain

Nonika Singh

“Environmental issues principally are bad news...” Having said that, awarded and feted filmmaker and photographer Michael O Snyder is not out to paint doomsday scenario with his films. Sure enough as he delves into subjects as vast and diverse as expedition into the Arctic, killer whales of Canada and more, he says, “Most of us are not aware of the dangers that are inherent and imminent in our ecosystems.”

“Environmental issues principally are bad news...” Having said that, awarded and feted filmmaker and photographer Michael O Snyder is not out to paint doomsday scenario with his films.

Yet he believes, “Moving away from fear is not as helpful as moving towards hope. Let’s get talking about solutions.” On the jury of the All Living Things Environmental Film Festival that opens on October 9, his viewfinder will assess them not just on the parameter of relevance. He states, “I would like to see these films talk about people who are involved in environmental projects and not just hover around the what, where and why of the issue at hand.”

Certainly, an environmental film can’t be seen through the same prism as say a commercial/ mainstream film. Nevertheless, the fundamentals remain the same. The adage ‘entertain or die’ applies as much to films on environment as say any other cinematic narrative. Since ‘no story no film’ works for/against environmental films, he is constantly looking for stories and a personal connection too. He puts it succinctly, “If it’s not personal to you, if you are parachuting from outside, your ideas will not work.”

Love with nature

Despite a degree in environmental science, his real reasons for gravitating towards filmmaking are deeply personal. Growing up in East coast of America, spending most of his time outdoors he fell in love with nature. But at the same, he had been a witness to destruction around him and slowly climate change became his biggest concern. Filmmaking, the other word for complication, is also according to him the richest medium that actually makes us live in a real space, even if it’s in reel time. He adds, “A good film is a transponder.”

But on its real time impact he is a bit circumspect. “Films can at best create awareness. For real change we have to fundamentally change the laws, basically the rules of the game which are geared towards benefits of few over many. We already have the science and technology to bring in policy change, what we need is a sense of urgency and agency.”

Whether in this game climate warriors like Greta Thunberg can make the big difference, he does not believe in an either/or paradigm. Rather his focus is upon how you build collaborations. Of course, when he has other scientists on board, the filmmaker in him is constantly aware of the need to simplify the complexity of environmental issues. “You can’t dumb down at the audiences which are fairly intelligent.” But, at the same time he feels they should not be bombarded with information. Ultimately, audiences take away only a few things. And Snyder is adamant that medium is the message and the message can’t override the treatment.

Having earned several awards for films like Into the Dark, The Vision Within and A Simpler Way, he can’t quite deconstruct the formula to making an award winning film. But, yes, surprise element and personal connect, he believes could do the trick. With his films featuring in over 40 festivals, he deems, “in filmmaking, sky is the limit.” Only he traverses the expanse between earth and sky to make the world we inhabit and future generations shall inherit a better place.

Tribune Shorts


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