Supporting diverse filmmakers and stories of people, places, and paths to accessing the outdoors.
IF/Then Shorts, in partnership with The Redford Center, called for short documentary filmmakers to take part in the inaugural IF/Then x The Redford Center Nature Access Pitch.
Today, most people spend more than 90% of the time indoors. As disconnection from nature takes a mental, physical, spiritual and social toll, there is an urgent need to mitigate the many ways that a largely indoor existence is reshaping our lives for the worse, and to address the conditions and inequities that led us to where we are today.
Marking the first partnership between IF/Then Shorts and The Redford Center, this pitch celebrates storytellers and stories that spotlight the social, emotional, physical, mental, and community health benefits of time spent outdoors. We invited projects highlighting the complex social, racial, economic, and health inequities related to issues of nature access.
With this project, we aim to increase representation of communities impacted most by environmental injustice, who are not often recognized in mainstream environmental movements. Storytellers with short documentary projects featuring nearby nature or wild nature across all geographic and social contexts were encouraged to participate.
The pitch called for original stand-alone short documentaries in production (no more than 30 minutes) that explore solutions-based environmental stories centered around restoring humanity’s connection with nature and the outdoors.
Six finalists were selected to pitch their projects during a live, in-person pitch event at DOC NYC on November 16, 2021. Projects will have 7 minutes to pitch, followed by up to 8 minutes of feedback and questions from a jury panel made up of industry leaders, filmmakers, and environmental experts.
The winning filmmaker, chosen by the jury, will receive a $25,000 production grant along with a year of wraparound mentorship from IF/Then, including production support, creative feedback, distribution consultations, and festival strategy. Two honorable mention prizes will also be selected by the jury, consisting of $5,000 grants and distribution consultation from the IF/Then program staff.
Submissions shall be in the form of character-driven, place-based, community-inspired, short-form storytelling that showcases immediate solutions to cope with humanity’s disconnection with the outdoors, including issues of access to the outdoors and/or the resulting health inequities.
This opportunity will be open to individuals living and working in the US, prioritizing stories and storytellers representing the communities often most impacted by environmental problems and the challenges of outdoor access, which includes Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ people, recent immigrants, undocumented people, people with disabilities, and/or women.
In addition to being on theme, eligible IF/Then Shorts projects must meet the following criteria:
● Be an original short documentary with a final duration of 10-30 minutes
● Be completed within six to nine months of receiving the IF/Then Shorts grant
● Be factually accurate, follow best practices in documentary ethics, and be designed for a U.S. audience
● Be accountable to and authentically represent the people and places featured in the film
● Be driven by (a) compelling character(s), with access to the character(s) secured
● Be presented in English or subtitled in English
● Have no prior distribution attached and be able to participate in the IF/Then Shorts distribution initiative
BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY - WINNER
Director: Andrew Nadkarni, Producers: Swetha Regunathan, Katie Schiller, Cinematographer: Katelyn Rebelo, Editor: Peter Zachwieja
Location: Virginia / Costa Rica
In 2015, renowned rainforest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni survived a near-fatal, life-changing fall from a tree. She thought she had fully recovered. Now, her mother’s death forces Nalini and her siblings to confront echoes of trauma across three generations of the family tree. As Nalini unearths her own tangled roots, she redefines her relationship with the rainforest and plants new seeds within her family.
FRUIT OF SOIL - HONORABLE MENTION
Director: Faith Briggs, Producer: Tracy Nguyen-Chung, Director of Photography: Ryan Miyamoto
Location: Portland, Oregon
The soil in Portland, Oregon is rich with a hidden history — what has grown here is rooted in racism, erasure, and neglect. Yet, a small group of Black farmers is thriving and reconnecting with ancestral knowledge and legacy. And through that soil, nourishing each other.
MAKANA O KE MELE (GIFT OF SONG) - HONORABLE MENTION
Director: Laurie Sumiye, Director of Photography: Anne Misawa
Makana o ke Mele (Gift of Song) transports audiences into a memory of Native Hawaiian conservationist Mililani Browning, who was exposed to nature through an innovative Hawaiian outreach program, ʻImi Pono no ka ʻĀina. On the Big Island of Hawaii, she remembers learning the songs of Hawaiian birds at Hakalau Forest, a wildlife refuge on Mauna Kea volcano.
SOMETHING YET HIGHER
Director: Nadia Gill, Co-Director & Cinematographer: Dominic Gill, Producer: James Mills
Location: Utah / Idaho
As the few black faces in mountain spaces, a small cohort of snow sports athletes gather in this film to share their experiences in hopes of making the environmental conservation movement more diverse and inclusive. Linking their journeys to the legacy of Charles Crenchaw and his ascent of Denali is precisely the kind of narrative that could broaden our perspective upon the role that Black Americans have played throughout the modern era of adventure.
STAY THE COURSE
Directors: Mariel Rodriguez-McGill and Teresa Cebrián Aranda
Location: Bronx, New York
Fourteen-year-old William Capellan loves spending time outdoors. Twice a week after school, he learns to collect water quality data at Rocking the Boat, a youth development program in the South Bronx. Two years into the program, his classmate Nani Reyes, 16, is already plotting an environmental revolution. "Stay the Course" follows William and Nani as they navigate adolescence and discover new dreams along the banks of the Bronx River.
WATER IS OUR MEDICINE
Director: Cathleen Dean, Producer: Thaddeus Gamory, Editor: Serge Dorsainvil
Location: South Florida
Since the beginning, mankind has enjoyed a spiritual connection to water. Civilizations have fought over and revered water for its many wondrous powers, communities of color are no different in their desire to remain connected, but centuries of slavery and now a pandemic has made that fight even harder. This film explores the stories of five people during a pandemic, working through their trauma and stress by utilizing the pristine beaches of South Florida.