Friday, February 25, 2011

Belize- tiny country with a lot of character.

Only a couple more weeks until we are off to Belize!  Our travel agent stopped by for a visit to go over our itinerary for the week.  We will be arriving at Belize City Airport on March 12th and making our way to Independence for 4 nights with a welcome dinner at Hotel Hello.  For the next three days we will be spending it at Linda Thornton’s three farms, Cardelli, Aqua Mar and Haney, where we will start production.   From the 16th to the 19th we will be spending it at Pelican Beach in South Water Caye where we will be experiencing the Belizean lifestyle.  

South Water Caye is a private island only 15 acres in size.  It's a tiny island that's bordered by a variety of colorful coral reefs. This will be a great time to shoot some b-roll, do underwater filming, photograph and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.  

Researching and collaborating ideas are extremely important when getting ready to film a documentary.  This is all a part of the preproduction process.  During class time we went over presentations that some students put together.  We talked about different species of shrimp and the differences between an intensive, semi-intensive, and extensive farm (if you are curious these farms vary in amount of shrimp per volume of water among, amount of labor and maintenance required, and water exchange among other factors).  We also discussed the past, present and future of shrimp farming. 

We never really considered how much work it takes to grow the shrimp in farms that end up on our dinner plates. It is a pretty complicated process especially when the farms have to adhere to strict environmental standards.  Different parts of the world raise their shrimp differently, so for the sake of this documentary we focused our research specifically to Central America.  The shrimp arrive in the post larvae stage where they are raised in hatcheries. From the hatchery they move to a grow out pond that allows them to grow to the desired size. This process usually takes a few months. The shrimp are then harvested by using nets to scoop them from the water or by sometimes draining the pond.  The prime time to harvest shrimp is October before the waters drop in temperature, however many farms now have more than one harvest throughout the year.

With all the different processes out there, our documentary’s purpose is to understand how the Belizean shrimp farms operate so efficiently while being environmentally friendly.  Eco-friendliness is not just a trend in Belize, but rather a lifestyle.  We discovered this when researching our accommodations. The hotel where we will be staying while shooting the interviews at the farms does not have electrical outlets in the rooms. This was our main concern because we have so much equipment to charge during the week. Fortunately, the owner of the hotel has been kind enough to let us recharge our batteries in their office.  We have a feeling some of the girls might be sneaking their blow dryers into the office. 

With that being said, another experiment we will be monitoring is how a group of college students will do after being disconnected from technology for a few days. No texting, no Facebook updates and no tweets. Let’s hope everyone charges their iPods before departure.  Stay tuned….

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shrimp vs. Prawn?

We got a lot accomplished today.  Everyone is in the process of gathering their research and finishing their group or individual assignments.  Travel arrangements are in order.  We also contacted Linda Thornton to arrange meeting times.  For the first three working days we will be interviewing and shooting at Cardelli, Aqua Mar and Haney farms.  
We also learned a great deal about shrimp today.  Do you know what the difference between a shrimp and a prawn is?  Well, we sure do!  Our group had a healthy discussion on where we buy our seafood and if we prefer king prawns or jumbo shrimp.

The consensus of the group was while many of us enjoy shrimp cocktail, we don’t exactly know where our shrimp is coming from. Which is why, we’ve decided to trace the shrimp’s movement back to the source. Our first step is to go from the plate at a local restaurant to South Street Seaport market where it’s purchased. We want to see what decisions the buyers make when they choose the shrimp to be featured on the menus.  We plan to film them next week and will report back with our findings!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

And we're off!!!

This is so exciting!  As Pace University students in the Media and Communication Arts program, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this travel course to Belize.  We’re producing a documentary about the world of shrimp farming.  In our excursion we plan to learn and explore this country, its culture, and new areas of its environment.

Linda Thornton is one of the few women shrimp farmers in the world.  She is a dedicated and well-known advocate for sustainable aquaculture in Central America and a valuable resource for our film.  Ms. Thornton originally from Illinois, vacationed in Belize where she fell in love with the lifestyle and beauty of the country.  Being an experienced shrimp farmer her transition to Belize was smooth.  Since relocating to Belize, she learned how to farm shrimp and currently manages Aquamar, one of three shrimp farms we will visit.

One of Ms. Thornton’s main goals is to develop ways to farm shrimp that isn't harmful to the environment.  In many parts of the world, farms that produce the frozen shrimp result in the destruction of mangrove forests and other costal ecosystems.  These farms use large amounts of water and generate choking flows of waste in the water.

We are honored to have Andy Revkin, a veteran New York Times environmental correspondent, author of the Blog Dot Earth and senior fellow for environmental understanding at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental studies, to help plan and execute this film with us.

Currently, we’ve started the pre-production process.  So far, we have handed out individual and group assignments. All students are in the stages of researching and brainstorming film ideas.   We hope you join us on our journey to Central America by following our Blog. We will detail our exploration into the world of shrimp farming and our experiences as we learn new aspects of the environment.