Watch Me Embarrass Myself For a Good Cause

For the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of a pretty cool project organized by Dr. Jeremy Jackson at UC-San Diego’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Scripps is a top center of marine science, and Dr. Jackson is a leader in raising public consciousness about the serious crisis our oceans are in. He’s written and spoken extensively on the issue, and he cofounded Shifting Baselines, which mobilizes actors and comedians to communicate the issue to the public in language they can understand.

(WGBH in Boston has streaming video of a Lowell Lecture presentation he gave on the subject in 2002. It’s a great presentation, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re not a fish geek — Dr. Jackson is great at explaining complicated issues in plain language.) 

Anyway, two years ago Dr. Jackson invited me to participate in a summer program he runs every year for his students. He invites communicators in various fields to spend a week working with his students, teaching them how to communicate effectively in various media. (He brought me in to teach the online portion of the program.)

The best part of his program is that it is relentlessly non-theoretical. The students are expected to do practical projects in communications, culminating in spending two days writing, shooting, and editing a complete dramatic or comedic 30 or 60-second public service announcement on an ocean issue they care about. They do a much better job than you probably expect.

So why am I writing about this now? Because Shifting Baselines has finally gotten permission to post all the students’ PSAs from the last two years on the web. They’re all excellent work, especially considering they were all produced in just 48 hours by marine science students with DV cameras, not by film students.

(If you’ve got a DV camera and want to take a whack at the project, they’re posting these as part of their Shifting Baselines Flix contest, which invites people to make their own PSAs.  Top prize is a copy of Final Cut Pro and $1,000 — and all entries are judged by a celebrity panel that includes Timothy Olyphant from Deadwood, Rainn Wilson from The Office, and my personal love goddess, Zooey Deschanel from too many indie flicks to name. Contest ends December 31.)

I encourage you to go and give them a look. As an incentive, here’s an Easter Egg: two of the PSAs (one from each year) contains a star turn by none other than me. The first Intrepid Reader to find the two I appear in and post them in the comments of this post will receive worldwide fame and recognition. 

So get to watchin’!