Pace University Premieres 'Bee Aware' Documentary on Earth Day

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After much hard work, dedication and anticipation, Pace University’s documentary film team – PaceDocs – recently premiered 'Bee Aware', a film focusing on the environmental threats facing one of the most important pollinators for humankind. The film aptly debuted online on Earth Day as it spotlights the vital role bees play in our food supply; their importance to the environment; and some of the challenges facing the insect and the environment.

“The PaceDocs team, under the guidance of Professor Maria Luskay, always does remarkable work. This year, they did something extraordinary, persevering through a pandemic to create a truly inspiring, thought-provoking, and poignant documentary.” -- Marvin Krislov, president of Pace University.

After much hard work, dedication and anticipation, Pace University’s documentary film team – PaceDocs – recently premiered Bee Aware, a film focusing on the environmental threats facing one of the most important pollinators for humankind.

The film aptly debuted online on Earth Day as it spotlights the vital role bees play in our food supply; their importance to the environment; and some of the challenges facing the insect and the environment. It was followed by a virtual Q&A with the filmmakers via Zoom.

“The PaceDocs team, under the guidance of Professor Maria Luskay, always does remarkable work,” said Marvin Krislov, president of Pace University. “This year, they did something extraordinary, persevering through a pandemic to create a truly inspiring, thought-provoking, and poignant documentary. ‘Bee Aware’ is a wonderful example of Pace students’ commitment to hard work, hands-on education, and environmental conservation. I couldn’t be prouder of this group of young filmmakers.”

The film was shot on location at bee farms throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and can be viewed here.

Initially, the class -- made up of 20 graduate and undergraduate students from around the country -- was set to embark on a trip to Paris, France last spring to spotlight the rooftop bees that survived the historic Cathedral of Notre Dame fire. But the global pandemic halted all international travel, and the university, like most others around the world, immediately pivoted to remote learning.

Professor Luskay, whose “Producing the Documentary” course is part of the Department of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts, knew the show must go on. Luskay, assisted by Professor Lou Guarneri and the PaceDocs team scrambled and came up with “Plan Bee.”

“This year’s lessons were ones of endurance and adaptation,” said Professor Luskay. “The students really learned how to adapt, change and solve problems as the world around them changed. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They produced a great film.”

The popular class is part of Pace University’s highly regarded film program, and as part of it, students have been introduced to documentary filmmaking, teamwork, problem-solving, and organization. They’ve also been introduced to different areas of the world where they’ve experienced firsthand a number of important environmental and humanitarian issues -- and have been challenged to document them in remote locations around the globe.

In recent years, Pace filmmakers have produced documentaries about the earthquakes in Hawaii (2019); the endurance of the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria (2018); Cuba at a cultural crossroads (2016); reviving Curacao’s coral reefs (2015); as well as many other poignant films.

“Every year, Dyson College’s student filmmakers travel abroad to produce a documentary that shines a light on an important issue, educating us all,” said Tresmaine R. Grimes, dean, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education. “I am so very proud of this year’s team, as they not only produced a compelling, informative film, but also rose to overcome the unique challenges posed by the pandemic. Congratulations to them and Professors Luskay and Guarneri for another stellar PaceDocs production.”

Although difficult at times, students say the experience was invaluable, and gave them a real dose of what it’s like to make a film under challenging circumstances.

“We had a special experience,” said Austin Braun, a graduate student from Stockholm, New Jersey. “We learned how to produce a film online. We learned that we can make a powerful film with all of the technology we have … It’s the future of filmmaking.”

While it may very well be a sign of things to come in the industry, getting there was no small accomplishment. In addition to finding new locations to film and experts to speak with over the summer, the class had to learn how to edit together while working remotely across the region.

“We worked our tails off,” Braun added. “Through hard work and determination, we got it done.”

For Cory Kinchla, a graduating senior from Tewksbury, Mass., the journey has been wild. A digital cinema and filmmaking major, he chose Pace specifically for its documentary program. Clearly it was upsetting to start over, and “chaotic at times” but the endgame was worth it.

“It was a real life experience,” Kinchla said. “The whole experience was about adapting, improvising and overcoming. We can say we produced a documentary through a pandemic and made it happen. We were able to pull it together. That’s the reward.”

You can also view Plan Bee, a behind the scenes look and interview with the students about making the film during the pandemic.

About Pace University: Pace University has a proud history of preparing its diverse student body for a lifetime of professional success as a result of its unique program that combines rigorous academics and real-world experiences. Pace is ranked the #1 private, four-year college in the nation for upward economic mobility by Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights, evidence of the transformative education the University provides. From its beginnings as an accounting school in 1906, Pace has grown to three campuses, enrolling 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in more than 150 majors and programs, across a range of disciplines: arts, sciences, business, health care, technology, law, education, and more. The university also has one of the most competitive performing arts programs in the country. Pace has a signature, newly renovated campus in New York City, located in the heart of vibrant Lower Manhattan, next to Wall Street and City Hall, and two campuses in Westchester County, New York: a 200-acre picturesque Pleasantville Campus and the Elisabeth Haub School of Law in White Plains. Follow us on Twitter or on the Pace News website.

About Dyson College of Arts and Sciences: Pace University’s liberal arts college, Dyson College, offers more than 50 programs, spanning the arts and humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and pre-professional programs (including pre-medicine, pre-veterinary, and pre-law), as well as many courses that fulfill core curriculum requirements. The College offers access to numerous opportunities for internships, cooperative education and other hands-on learning experiences that complement in-class learning in preparing graduates for career and graduate/professional education choices. http://www.pace.edu/dyson.

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Jerry McKinstry
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