By Angela C. Andersen
Starting with an idea and developing it from start to finish as a film took me on an incredible journey through many emotions and states of mind: the thrill of discovering and defining a concept; the determination to saturate myself in information and people; the exhaustion that came with the drive as other things in life started to play second fiddle; the stress of making sure we left no stone unturned and of living on timelines (times of day, not enough time, what time should I meet you, and—we are out of time); the overwhelming joy and satisfaction when it all came together as The Oyster Farmers, a new documentary film.
The Oyster Farmers tells a local story with a global lens: in any estuary on the planet, a waterbody and a bivalve have shaped culture, heritage, economy, and ecosystem as powerfully as the eastern oyster has done here in the Barnegat Bay. The film takes us through the oyster’s place historically to the current day. It explores how New Jersey is pulling up the rear on the role oysters and “sea farming” can play ecologically and economically. Through the film, audiences get to meet oyster farmers and see firsthand how hard their work is; they meet the next generation of young people from a long line of baymen who are carrying a family legacy of aquaculture.
Our research for the film began in early 2014. I have worked in the environmental field in New Jersey for 30 years and closely within the Barnegat Bay region for 20 of those. From my experience, it was hard to fathom how one might capture “the story of the Bay.” The Barnegat Bay was and still is a broad topic—how do you do a film about the Bay? What angle do you take? Throughout the idea development, the story came back to the oyster. In the symbiotic way that Corinne [Ruff, the Director] and I work, and given my breadth of professional knowledge, I was able to fill in the pieces of the vision she held. I had intimate understanding and connections to begin the story arch, and her thirst for information led us more deeply into the history of the oyster and its place in our region.
We got behind the pen and lenses in early 2015. As we began piecing together a tapestry of historic contexts of the Bay with research and trends, we created interview lists, wrote and tossed aside narratives, rewrote the narratives pulled back from the pile, and recycled them into a story that would require more sitting time than is suitable for most viewers...
After all the creativity and cuts, the film is being released in summer 2017 through the extensive support of grants and sponsors. Our approach to film making is through community collaboration; in partnership with the Jetty Rock Foundation and working with Oak Leaf Media, we rounded out a production team with roots steeped in the Barnegat Bay Watershed. We feel the journey in making The Oyster Farmers was as impactful to us as we hope the film will be to audiences within and outside of our region.
Inspiration comes in many forms and can hit unexpectedly. It is what we do with an inspired idea that is critical to success. If one is courageous (or crazy) enough to follow through on a vision, the accomplishment is an unparalleled feeling. In that spirit, we hope others will be inspired to eat oysters, make films, take chances, and get out on the Bay.
For more information, to support the project, or to sponsor a screening, go to: Facebook - The Oyster Farmers
Instagram - @theoysterfarmers
Website - theoysterfarmers.com