The Oyster Revival: Restoring Our Waters

A short documentary by Allison Keir

From the moment I decided to apply to the Gastronomy program with a focus in Communication, my decision to do it has only been more and more reinforced. Aside from the vast amount of knowledge gained from the program, the connections with other faculty and students have provided a place of common ground for me to find inspiration and gratification in. Furthermore, the encouragement and support of the Directors has allowed me to mold my own course track and fulfill some of the core skills sets I was aiming to get out of the program.

My background and passion has for a long time been in film but my passion and concern for the health of our environment has been a lifestyle. I don’t have many memories from my childhood that don’t include being outside, in the woods or on a beach. As an adult I’ve been working in film in some form or another, since 2005 but it wasn’t until I began to develop the documentary, “The Oyster Revival” that I realized I could mesh these two passions together and perhaps make a career out of it.

The journey up to that point was by no means a short or simple one. It started thirteen years ago working out of the Boston area freelancing with other local filmmakers taking on whatever role I could. Eventually, it led me to Manhattan where I spent the first year bartending and picking up any freelance film projects I could get. Weeks turned into months that I wouldn’t have a day off or even notice the ball of sun in the sky but I did not care. I was busy and I loved it. I was hungry to work and get as much experience possible in the film industry. Ironically, it was the bartending position that in the end paid off the most when a regular customer I had become close with introduced me to a film producer, who was looking for an Executive Assistant to help run his company. Long story short, I got the gig and worked with the company for three years, until I slowly started to feel a pull back to what I been referring to as my second home since the days of college, California.

I gave my notice, packed my bags and drove back out to Los Angeles with no work, no place to live and very minimal funds to contribute to my endeavor. Luckily, I had friends that took me in, until I found a full-time job working at a documentary company in the paradise land of Malibu. The job itself wasn’t the creative outlet I was hoping for but it was a shoe-in with a small company that I felt would expose and teach me a lot about an industry that I knew I had much more to learn about. The company focused on television documentaries that at the time were rapidly turning into some form of a “Reality TV.” My motivations slowly dissipated, not in the company but rather what we were chasing after. I couldn’t have been less interested in the Kardashians, the Housewives club, the Bachelorette or American Idol. No doubt they were very big hit shows that had a wealth of people watching each season but I simply had no desire for any of it. Exhausted by the unfulfilling work, I gave my notice after two years and set off to do something else. At this point the only certainty I had was that I was not going to continue to expel all of my energy into work that I felt no fervor for.

Unsure of where to go from there, I figured I’d go back to the basics and just try to connect with other young filmmakers. On a whim, I went to volunteer at the San Diego Arts and Media Center, where I met an instructor who thought I might be a good fit to help out with some of the Outreach Programs they had going on there – and man was she right, I absolutely loved it. I spent the next year working with students from 7-18 years old, making short journalistic style videos and it all brought me back to the reason I fell in love with film in the first place, the journey of exploration.

Within that same year, I slowly circled back to the Boston area with the incentive of being closer to my family. At the point, I knew I wanted to look into working in academia and maybe even go back to graduate school. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity for a position at Boston University’s College of Communication, where I eventually began to explore other graduate programs. But it wasn’t until my development with “The Oyster Revival” documentary that I became more certain about what I wanted to do with my passion for film.

I wanted to take part in helping to reconnect and educate the public more about the health of our environment. All of the news and media we are constantly bombarded by doesn’t always provide us with solutions. It all just seems unhopeful and overwhelming. I had enough hearing about the problems, I wanted to hear solutions. Then one day I came across an article about the Massachusetts Oyster Project and the oyster reef restoration projects that they were establishing around the Boston area. I reached out immediately wanting to get involved and as I continued to learn more about all the other oyster projects going on around the country’s shorelines, I found a story that I wanted to help bring to a forum.

These oyster restoration projects are living proof that we can symbiotically work with nature to help balance it again and that each of us can take part in it. Oyster shells are being recycled from local restaurants and donated to these various oyster projects that are helping to repopulate oysters and create sustainable reefs that function very similarly to coral reefs. Not only do oyster reefs support and help initiate more marine life, oysters are powerhouses when it comes to filtering water. A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. Multiply that by a few million oysters, than you have millions of gallons of water getting filtered on a daily basis. Seems like a no brainer, right? Well, what we found was that these various projects were still lacking overall support from local regulators. Who did not want to put shellfish in unhealthy waters with the fear that local residents would eat the oysters. However there is already sea life living in those unhealthy waterways that people could also very easily eat from and so why not let the oysters thrive so they could assist in cleaning the water. Putting a “No Shellfishing or Fishing” sign up is also another idea but for some regulators that just wasn’t enough. Regardless, the incentives behind these oyster projects have continued to spread and gain more acceptance and support among local communities all across the country. But we can’t just stop with oysters.

A main motivating factor behind my developing “The Oyster Revival” and applying to the Gastronomy program was that I wanted to continue to inspire the thinking, “If oysters can do that, then what else can nature do and how can I be a part of it?”

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