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This Time the Story Led to Belize: Pace Class Makes a Documentary a Year

Pace University media students are working on a documentary on sustainable shrimp farming for submission to indie film festivals.

Pace Professor Maria Luskay took students, alumni and New York Times blogger to Belize in March to follow the story of Linda Thornton, an Illinois native who in 25 years has become an international expert in sustainable shrimp farming.

Their purpose: to create a documentary on Thornton's experience. 

Luskay is a member of the Department of Media, Communications and Visual Arts at Pace. Revkin, author of Dot Earth, is the one who got Luskay and her students in touch with Thornton and helped organize the trip. 

The collaboration of graduate and undergraduate students interviewed Thornton, exploring her exploits from pig farming in the United States to shrimp farming in Belize.

“It’s a tale of endurance and creativity,” said Luskay. “We selected this trip to Belize to tell the compelling story of Linda and her travails as a woman in the sustainable shrimp industry.” 

In Luskay's classes, students get real hands-on experience filming documentaries and learn the pre- and post-production involved in producing a film that will be up to 20 minutes long.

For the past nine years during the spring semester, Luskay has taken her class into the field to create documentaries on various topics. Last year, they produced the documentary “The Life of an American Ambassador” following Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The endeavor earned Luskay an award at the Indie Short Film Competition.

The plan is to submit the Belise documentary to about six festivals including  the Woodstock Film Festival, NY Film Festival and Red Wasp Film Festival.

Martin Totland, a junior and communications major, said she enrolled in the course because “I always wanted to work on location while filming a documentary.”

While  senior Megan Katuran, a veteran of last year’s trip, said, “I went just to experience the difference between the formal ambassador’s world to the aquacultural world of Belize shrimp farming.”

They visited three of the shrimp farms Thornton operates and learned about sustainable shrimp farming. 

The group is almost finished with the transcripts of their interviews. They have captured the video onto the editing system and are planning where the clips fit in the story. The script for the narrator is currently being written.

You can read the students' story and follow their progress on their blog. The class is working to complete the documentary by the ultimate deadline: Graduation Day (May 4).

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