UAF theater student proves necessity is the mother of documentaries

By Jeremia Schrock
Sun Star Reporter

This month saw theater major Sam German debut his film, “Visual History of the Alaskan Sea Ice” at the PolarCINEMA film festival, an extension of the 2007-2008 International Polar Year (IPY) conference. German’s film is a montage of photographs and video footage showing the movement of sea ice from the 1950’s up to 2008. While easily a nice addition to any student’s curriculum vitae (to say nothing of an undergraduate’s), what is more impressive is that the film debuted not at a local festival, but in Oslo, Norway. And that German shot the film because he was dirt poor.

“I was having a lot of financial issues at the time,” German said. “There was [an] error in my financial aid. I was paying out-of-state tuition while my aid was being based on the in-state tuition rates so I only got a $140 refund.” As German was living off-campus at the time, money suddenly became one of German’s primary concerns. “So, there was a lot of motivation to get a grant or extra funding from some other place.”

That “other place” ended up being the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). EPSCoR is a university-based, federal-state partnership that aims to enhance science and technology infrastructure in the private sector, government, and education through grants to academic professionals, both student and non-student alike.

German began working on the film in February of 2008. He began by organizing footage shot in 2007 by Maya Salganek, Assistant Professor of Digital Performance Media.  That was followed by a strenuous search through the Rasmuson Library’s Goldmine computer system for any and all archival footage that might have contained images of sea ice. When all was said and done, German estimated that he viewed close to 80 different archival videos in order to acquire enough footage for the film. In May 2008, German traveled to Barrow and spent two weeks shooting with Salganek and a team of student filmmakers before settling down in the summer to begin the editing process.

However, the focus of EPSCoR is on scientific and technological research. German is a theater major with a film minor, not a science student.

“It was a film that was dealing with science so I wondered how “cool” it would be. I also know that I’m not a very “science-y” guy so I wondered how well I would be able to [do] a video about something related to science,” said German. Once he started filming, however, German discovered how motivated and interested the scientists were in their research, a feeling that quickly rubbed off on him. “[It] motivated me to try to create something that they would enjoy…and has inspired me to work more with scientists and try to get their projects/work out there for everyone to see.”

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