posted March 24, 2008

Online Votes Can Propel Student Film to Award

 A film by HopeCollege junior Tyler Depke of Grayslake, Ill., is one of three Web film finalists in a contest sponsored by National Geographic Channel in which the general public has a say through online voting.

A panel of judges is selecting the first-place finisher in each of the two categories in the channel's first annual "Preserve Our Planet" College Film and PSA contest. The second-place winner in each category will be determined based on the number of votes that each finalist receives through a nationwide online vote continuing through 5 p.m. on Monday, March 31.

Anyone who visits the contest's Web site may vote, and each person may vote once each day. The films and voting are featured at the contest's site at: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/preserve-our-planet/film-fest/film.html

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.

Depke is a geology major who is minoring in chemistry and environmental science. He saw the contest as a way to link his academic interests and his concern for the environment with his interest since his freshman year in video editing.

"I've been wanting to connect the two, and that was one of the ways that I thought I could," he said.

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., a step that Depke feels is particularly important.

"We need to expand the knowledge," he said. "He talked with Mike and gave that idea to someone else. I think that is what this contest is about."

Correspondingly, Depke has created a group on Facebook to help spread word of the contest, and if he wins will donate a portion of the contest's $1,500 prize to a non-profit environmental organization based on the number of people who join the group, which is named "National Geographic Video Contest: With your help I will donate up to 1,000."

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.

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 Golden 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's activities at Hope also include the college's Environmental Issues Group. 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.

The Web film winner will receive $1,500, and the Web PSA winner will receive $1,000. Both will also receive a trip to Washington, D.C., to have their work screened at the kickoff event of the annual worldwide gathering of National Geographic Explorers on Tuesday, April 8, along with the first-place winners selected by the panel of judges.

Winning and select film finalists and PSAs will also be broadcast nationally as part of NGC's Earth Day events via NGC On Demand wherever that service is available.

The other two finalists in the Web film competition are "The Animal Cracker Nature Show," by Genna Duberstein of AmericanUniversity in Washington, D.C.; and "The Experimental Generation," by Alex Jeffries from UCLA in Westwood, Calif. Online voting began on Tuesday, March 18.