Thursday, January 7, 2010

Filmmaker Q&A: Morgan Kirkham, "Herring Gut Learning Center, Alternative Education in Action"

Morgan Kirkham is a freelance photographer and filmmaker hailing from the great state of Maine. After picking up his first video camera in the summer of 2008, Morgan has produced over 30 online multimedia narrative productions using photography, video and audio and is currently working on a film with David Conover of Compass Light Productions about the new wind turbines built last summer on his home island of Vinalhaven, ME.

His film "Herring Gut Learning Center, Alternative Education in Action" was filmed last spring and follows a group of students involved in a dynamic, marine-based alternative educational program located in the fishing village of Port Clyde, ME. Traditionally ignored, separated from their peers or placed in the back of the classroom, these alternative education track middle school students are given a second chance through this program that promotes real-life application of knowledge through the raising and selling of farm-ready seed oysters grown by the students themselves.

Morgan actually lived in San Francisco for the first half of 1999 while taking a semester off from Vassar College and now visits his brother and family in Berkeley on a regular basis.

What is your overall summary for the film?
A non-profit marine education facility provides an alternative, environmentally sensible learning opportunity for students struggling in a traditional classroom.

What was your inspiration for creating the film?
Once I saw these students interacting with each other in the classroom, I knew this was a great story and that all I had to do was not screw it up.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?
Audio was the biggest challenge for sure -- lots of whirring pumps and fans due to the nature of oyster farming.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?
I hope this film helps people realize the great need our country has for serious, fundamental and dynamic change to the way we educate our children.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?
The most enjoyable part of creating this film was watching the students reaction to the final product. They loved it, and for that I am most grateful.

Who (or what) is your inspiration?
The power narrative filmmaking has to engage people.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films?
I began creating films about where I live because I think it is a special place. This place is the coast of Maine so the ocean is there, but up to this point it has been more of an implicit, rather than explicit, presence in my filmmaking. Also, I don't have any underwater housing(s) for my cameras yet.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival?
I submitted this film to your festival because I want to get the story of “Herring Gut Learning Center” to a wider audience.

Is this your first time participating in an ocean-focused film festival?

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?
The first day I came to Herring Gut, sans camera, to just get a sense of what the place was about. The students were in a classroom planning out their day and I just couldn't believe that kids of any age, let alone alternative education track 6th, 7th and 8th graders, were interacting with such passion, respect, and maturity.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?
I like eggs benedict a lot.

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