Peter Byck works with journalism, sustainability students to make solar documentaries

From left to right, LaDawn Haglund, an associate professor in the department of Justice and Social Inquiry who is auditing Peter Byck's class, and Annika Cline, a junior and journalism major, edit there group documentary project before their final class day ends. Peter Byck, who is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts and director of the 2010 documentary on alternative energy "Carbon Nation," is a professor of practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication instructing on Sustainability Short-Form Documentary. (Photo by Corey Malecka From left to right, LaDawn Haglund, an associate professor in the department of Justice and Social Inquiry who is auditing Peter Byck's class, and Journalism junior  Annika Cline edit their group documentary project before their final class day ends. Peter Byck, who is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts and director of the 2010 documentary on alternative energy "Carbon Nation," is a professor of practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication instructing on Sustainability Short-Form Documentary. (Photo by Corey Malecka)

Journalism and sustainability students joined forces this semester with film director Peter Byck to create short documentary films. Byck is the director of the documentary film "Carbon Nation," an environmental documentary about the growing carbon footprint and potential energy solutions.

He brought his years of experience making films to ASU to teach for the first time in his career, and said he is planning on sticking around.

Byck worked with students to teach them how to create documentaries, combining sustainability, journalism and film-making to produce five-minute films all based on one topic: solar energy.

"I taught them everything I've learned," he said.

Byck's been in the business for 25 years.

Each group took a different look at solar energy. Many of them had no experience with producing a movie, while others started with no interest in environmental topics.

The class was divided into groups of four, each with at least one sustainability student. They spent all semester working on the five-minute documentary, all of them learning together how to interview subjects, film, then edit their film.

Sustainability senior Mary Beth Bigelow said she had a lot to learn when she started the class.

"I learned so much; I didn't even know what B-roll was," she said.

There was a lot to learn in one semester, and making just a five-minute documentary took countless hours. Some of the students said they often found themselves working on the films in the middle of the night with a lot of footage they couldn't use.

Journalism junior Marcus Reardon said they all put in long hours and the editing process could sometimes be a struggle.

"There were times when we would come to class and there would be five or six things in the movie that you kind of hope Peter doesn't notice," he said. "But the thing I learned is that Peter does not not notice things."

Sustainability senior Alexandra Evans said she took the class as her capstone project, but had no experience coming in to it.

"I've never done anything in filmmaking or in journalism before," she said. "It was completely out of the ballpark."

Some of the students had not even heard of "Carbon Nation" before taking the class, but after spending so much time with Byck throughout the semester, the students said they came to admire him as a filmmaker and teacher.

"He believed enough in us enough that he could be honest," Evans said.

The films will be screened in two locations on Dec. 6: first at 9 a.m. in the First Amendment Forum in the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication building and then at 2:30 p.m. at the School of Sustainability on the Tempe campus.

 

Reach the reporter at kloschia@asu.edu or on Twitter @klosch


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