Teens inspire action through LEAF eco-film contest

These PSAs could stand for pollution, save the dolphins, and action for the environment.

Indeed, the California nonprofit Leaders of Environmental Action Films (LEAF) has challenged the next generation to make eco-statements through 30- or 60-second "ecommericals," the best of which win prizes. The results have motivated students aged 14 to 19 to make short video clips that spur action, including their own.

LEAF students at work

LEAF students at work

"Not only did the film [my submitted ecommercial] change my mindset and inspire me to be more environmentally conscious (I'll go to the beach with my friends and take two handfuls of trash back to the car after every trip), but it has been viewed over 3,000 times on YouTube," says Kyle Herman, 19, who co-produced the ecommercial that won LEAF's 2011 first place prize.

LEAF, which launched in 2009 to empower environmental youth leaders through film, music, eco-fashion, and technology, partnered with Inside the Outdoors Foundation to develop the popular film contest. Students get about five months to produce an eco-film on any environmental subject.

LEAF students at work

LEAF students at work

Spurred by the contest win, Herman and his co-producer Mallory Arkin, who now study at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, have gone on to prestigious internships at Culver City and Wonderland Sound and Vision, respectively, and continue to work on LEAF-sponsored films.

But it all started with a water bottle that missed a trashcan and mysteriously "followed" its owner the rest of the day. Titled "Actions Follow Us," the film's message was obvious: "The environmental steps we take or don't take now will affect future generations. Our actions follow us into the future, so we need to be sure we are making environmentally conscious choices with those future generations in mind," says Arkin.

While Arkin remembers learning the importance of pre-production, meticulously planning, and testing various methods to make the bottle track, the actor, Herman, reminisces about the fun of making film. "Not many things are more gratifying than going out for an afternoon, doing something you love, having fun with your friends, and being able to say you did it all for a good cause," he says.

Mattan Cohen, 20, who won the 2010 LEAF contest with a moving piece called "Change the Future," has also felt the ripple effect from producing a winning LEAF ecommercial. Her favorite moment of filming was at sunrise atop a large hill—and viewers felt the same emotional impact from the natural visual effects. "Though you can't reverse time to mend the damage we've afflicted on the planet, there are certain measures to take in everyday activity that can prevent energy waste, keep environments healthy, and soften our blow upon the ozone layer," she says.

LEAF students at work

LEAF students at work

For Herman that started with a reusable water bottle. He says, "Little everyday things, I feel, become very powerful over a long time."

The next LEAF film contest will likely occur during Earth Month in April of 2014, according to LEAF founder Ana Rothwell.

If you are interested in donating to LEAF, click here.

If you are interested in LEAF students filming your company's sustainability efforts or participating in LEAF Rocks the Planet Google+ Hangouts, contact Rothwell.

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