SFFILM awarded its inaugural SFFILM Environmental Fellowship along with the $25,000 cash prize to filmmaker Christi Cooper and her documentary Youth v. Gov. Cooper will also receive a year of mentorship and services to support the development, production, and impact campaign for the film.
The SFFILM Environmental Fellowship in partnership with Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions is geared towards mid-career filmmakers with a feature documentary project in development or early production that focuses on pressing environmental or conservation issues. Cooper is an Emmy Award-winning cinematographer with a passion for transforming complex issues into compelling storytelling. Youth v. Gov will chronicle a landmark lawsuit brought by 21 youths who are suing the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry for creating a climate emergency and endangering their futures.
Youth v. Gov was selected from a field of 70+ submissions by a committee of film and environmental experts from SFFILM, Vulcan Productions, Sierra Magazine, EarthX and the Redford Center.
“Talented filmmakers are telling powerful stories about climate change and the environment, and we are proud to be able to help bring this particular story to life via this new partnership with SFFILM,” said Carole Tomko, general manager and creative director of Vulcan Productions. “We support Christi’s incredibly timely film and recognize the importance of providing filmmakers financial and creative support.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with Vulcan to add to our commitment to the crucial early development stage of this documentary and elevate emerging voices tackling such significant issues of the environment and conservation,” added Caroline von Kühn, Director of Artist Development at SFFILM. “Through this process, it was really quite encouraging to see how many talented filmmakers are out there tackling these critical issues, but we are especially excited to support Christi and this timely, inspiring story of the next generation fighting for the future of our climate.”
“We are incredibly honored for this needed support to continue documenting this important story,” said Cooper. “We are once again at a point in history where youth are rising up and demanding change, from gun reform to social justice. These youth plaintiffs are on the frontlines of the climate crisis in our highest courts of law, holding their government accountable to protect their rights and inspiring other youth to take action. This story also has the power to change our discourse on climate change in a time of intense partisan divide, and to reframe it as a paramount responsibility of our government to protect our future.”
The SFFILM Environmental Fellowship supports a documentary filmmaker over the course of six months who is creating a powerful story about conservation and the environment. In addition to the $25,000 grant, the fellow will travel to San Francisco and Seattle to participate in filmmaking and environmental workshops and to cultivate connections within the entertainment industry. The program consists of three key components: a residency at SFFILM’s FilmHouse for artistic support and mentorship; guidance from a dedicated environmental advisor; and development of a community outreach campaign and educational plan. The fellowship will run from June to December 2018.
An Emmy-award winning cinematographer, Christi Cooper grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where she was fortunate to be surrounded by people that nurtured and helped her develop a strong connection to nature and the outdoors. She obtained an M.S. in Microbiology from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Regensburg, Germany. After significant time in basic research and teaching at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, she made the decision to pursue her dream of an MFA in Science and Nature Filmmaking at Montana State University. In addition to communicating sometimes very complex issues through storytelling and visual narrative, her primary goals are to combine her research skills and in-depth knowledge of science with her desire to create compelling narratives focused on raising awareness about socio-political issues. In what little “free” time she has, she enjoys being a mother and a partner, growing her own food, and relishing in the incredible beauty and lifestyle of Montana.
In 2015, 21 young plaintiffs, ages 8 to 19, filed suit against the U.S. government asserting a willful violation of their constitutional rights. Youth v. Gov follows this turbulent legal battle as the government and fossil fuel industry take extraordinary measures to get the case dismissed. The case will go to trial on October 29, 2018 in Eugene, Oregon.