posted April 4, 2008

Student Film Places Second in National Contest

A film by Hope College junior Tyler Depke of Grayslake, Ill., has placed second nationally in the first annual "Preserve Our Planet" College Film and PSA Contest held by National Geographic Channel (NGC).

Depke will receive a $1,500 prize during an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 8-9, when he will see the world premiere of the NGC film "Human Footprint" Tuesday evening during the annual global gathering of National Geographic Explorers and have an opportunity to network with the explorers during conference activities Wednesday morning.

Depke directed, edited and produced the film "STOP! Think Green and Save," which follows Hope junior Jake Gilliland of Round Lake, Ill., as he demonstrates simple ways to conserve energy as he goes through his daily routine. Topics include conserving water while brushing one's teeth; turning down the thermostat at night and dressing warmly; using cold water while doing laundry; using natural light during the day; choosing not to heat-dry dishes when using the dishwasher; and installing high-energy light bulbs.

The contest received more than 100 entries, which were narrowed down to the top 20 by the contest committee. The first- and second-place winners, and also honorable-mention designees, were chosen by a select panel of judges from NGC, National Geographic Society, and contest partners ecoAmerica and GreenCareers by MonsterTRAK. The second-place winners were originally to have been chosen through online voting, but in its April 3 news release about the contest NGC noted that the decision was made to have the judges make the selections after issues with the voting process were discovered.

The first-place winner in the film category is "The Experimental Generation," by Alex Jeffries from UCLA. The three honorable mentions in the category are: "The Animal Cracker Nature Show," by Genna Duberstein of AmericanUniversity; "The Gloom Solution," by L. Renee Stander of the University of Georgia; and "What You Do Counts," by Peter Wigginton of Earlham College. A first-place winner, two second-place winners and two honorable mentions were also chosen in the PSA category.

Depke's stop-motion film, which is slightly less than five minutes long, is made entirely from still images and includes no dialogue. A sequence that shows Gilliland sleeping features a real night's sleep chronicled using a timer. Coins, articles of clothing and utensils move on their own to spell out in written form the messages that the film first demonstrates. Depke shot some 14,000 images with a digital single lens reflex camera, incorporating about 5,000 into the film, which he created between the start of the semester in January and mid-February.

While most of the film focuses on Gilliland's conservation efforts, it closes with him sharing his ideas with classmate Michael Golden of Crystal Lake, Ill. Several students are on camera in the film's closing seconds to help form the letters of the film's final message, "What you do counts," which they spell out on the floor of the atrium of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center.

Gilliland's '09 Pull tug-of-war shirt and a Hope sweatshirt worn by junior Michael Golden of Crystal Lake, Ill., are two visual touches that also connect the film to its local setting. Most of the photography took place at Depke's and Gilliland's campus residences, Fairbank Cottage and Ross Apartments respectively.

Depke is a geology major who is minoring in chemistry and environmental science. His activities at Hope also include the college's Environmental Issues Group. This summer he will be conducting research in Sweden with the department of geology, conducting and developing photogrammetry techniques for mapping uses; and in the forthcoming fall 2008 semester he will be studying abroad in Bolivia, where he hopes to hone his proficiency with Spanish and study documentary filmmaking. He is the son of Rob and Jennie Depke of Grayslake.

The National Geographic Channel contest solicited college student films and PSAs that highlighted existing efforts to preserve the planet, highlighted what people should be doing to preserve the planet, showcased consequences of not preserving the planet or incorporated the theme "What you do counts" in a creative way. "What you do counts" is the theme for the inaugural year of "Preserve Our Planet," focusing on helping people understand their individual carbon footprint and provide alternatives to lower their impact on the planet.