This article is from our interview with Gianna during the 2016 Blue Ocean Summit. You can preview the Summit Resource Guide for Ocean Change-Makers and purchase a copy here.

Gianna SavoieIn a world where people are bombarded with a constant stream of information, photos and video, it’s hard for content to rise above all the noise. With short attention spans, if viewers don’t connect with the medium or story within just a few seconds, they’re on to the next post in their newsfeed.

Fortunately for us, and for the future of the seas, award-winning filmmaker and environmental biologist Gianna Savoie understands how to craft deeper stories about the ocean that draws viewers in and keeps them raptured by her imagery and narrative.

So how exactly has Gianna found success? What’s her secret to rising above the noise to connect with her audience?

Gianna credits her ability to hone in on the why behind the story she’s trying to tell instead of focusing on the what or the information of a subject.

By asking herself why she cares about a topic, she’s identified her starting point. From there, she delves into why others with different viewpoints might be interested and explores the subject with them as she captures content for her films.

“It’s about empathy and connecting,” Gianna told Blue Ocean Summit host, Laurie Wilson, at the 2016 event. “Put yourself in their situation.”

Most importantly, Gianna believes that you cannot lose control of your message. Throughout production, filmmakers must protect the movie’s message and the audience take-away must be “crystal clear.” She urges filmmakers to not focus solely on the doom and gloom, but to find a more subtle way for viewers to understand the gravity of the topic.

In addition to producing powerful films, Gianna spends her time teaching future filmmakers at Montana State University and is also the executive director of Ocean Media Institute.

OMI works to expand the public’s knowledge of ocean issues and to encourage conservation by taking an artistic approach to ocean education. Gianna explains that OMI’s mission is three-fold: Create, Educate, and Advocate. They do this by, 1) teaching scientists to communicate their stories in interesting ways and working with them to produce and distribute innovative media that compliments their research; 2) pairing media-makers with scientists on expedition to create compelling narratives; 3) shedding light on ocean issues by sharing personal stories of those we seldom hear from, yet whose lives are deeply impacted by each ebb and flow through OMI’s signature I Am Ocean campaign.

Founded in 2014 with filmmaker, Jeff Reed, OMI has seen great success in a short period of time under their leadership. Two of OMI’s films, I am Ocean: Chad Wiggins and In Pursuit of Plastics were finalists at the BLUE Ocean Film Fest and Chad Wiggins is an official selection at the Le Bois Film Festival. Their film, I am Ocean: Pua Case, won “Best Dotcomentary” at the Reef Renaissance Film Festival and is an official selection in both Ethnografilm Paris and Ekotopfilm in Slovakia. Looking ahead, I am Ocean: Philippines is in edit mode and their newest film, The Shape of a River, about the Yellowstone River, will be touring this spring.

Asked to share advice for future filmmakers, Gianna encouraged others to be bold, take risks, and step out of their comfort zone.

“Latch onto the surprises within the story, those ‘wait, what?’ moments,” Gianna said. “That’s where the energy lies. And find the universal message that speaks to everyone. When you find that common ground, true bridges can be built.”

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