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VCU Rice Rivers Center documentary wins prize at RVA Environmental Film Festival

The film gives a look at the life cycle of an oyster from the bivalve’s perspective.

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A still of an oyster harvester in the short documentary film “An Oyster’s-Eye View of the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program" by Ronaldo Lopez.
Photo courtesy of Ronaldo Lopez

A short documentary by a VCU Life Sciences faculty member is the winning entry for local environmental subjects at the annual RVA Environmental Film Festival.

“An Oyster’s-Eye View of the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program,” by Ronaldo Lopez, showcases the work of VOSRP, an initiative of the VCU Rice Rivers Center. The recycling program, headed by Todd Janeski, aims to restore oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed through the creation of sanctuary oyster reefs. VOSRP recycles waste oyster shells from partner restaurants to use as the substrate of these reefs.

Lopez, a faculty research associate at the Rice Rivers Center, used inventive camera work to communicate the work of VOSRP through the “eyes” of an oyster. A combination of wide shots and shots from the perspective of an oyster being harvested, plated, eaten and finally recycled, tell the life story of the bivalve.

An Oyster's-Eye View of the VA Oyster Shell Recycling Program

The effect was accomplished via the newly coined “oyster cam,” which made the filmmaking experience probably the most fun of any film he has done in the past, Lopez said.

“We ended up taking an outlet box and cutting it to fit a GoPro and [an] oyster shell inside to create our oyster cam,” Lopez said. “Everything we shot we shot twice, once from the wide angle with the regular camera and then with oyster cam so we could cut to the oyster’s point of view where it was appropriate.”

Science Matters, an educational program of the local Community Idea Stations by the Public Broadcasting Service, airs a minute-long version of the film between programs. The minute-long version was scheduled to run for a year starting in July 2017. The full-length work also was featured on the Science Matters website. 

The film will be screened at the RVA Environmental Film Festival at the Byrd Theatre on Feb. 11, at 4 p.m., along with second- and third-place winning pieces. Lopez will receive a grand prize of $1,000. Runner-up prizes of $100 each will go to Kenny Fletcher of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for “Menhaden: The Chesapeake's Unsung Hero” and to Jess Jacklin for “Waterman.”

Ronaldo Lopez speaks before the screening of 'Jane' at the RVA Environmental Film Festival about merging science with documentary filmmaking.
<br>Photo by Leah Small, University Public Affairs
Ronaldo Lopez speaks before the screening of 'Jane' at the RVA Environmental Film Festival about merging science with documentary filmmaking.
Photo by Leah Small, University Public Affairs