SCA has earned many honors over the years: from the Interior Department, the US Conference of Mayors, the Garden Club of America and others (not to mention Founding President Liz Putnam’s Presidential Citizens Medal).
This week, however, we entered an entirely new realm when the SCA documentary “National Park Diaries” copped three Telly Awards. The Tellys honor video and television across all screens and at Tuesday’s 39th annual presentation, “Diaries” – produced by SCA and Reel Works Teen Filmmaking in association with American Express – took a Silver Telly for the People’s Choice Documentary and bronze statuettes for best nature documentary and best editing. The film chronicles the experiences of SCA conservation crews at Denali National Park in Alaska and Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, linking the “Diaries” collaborators with the likes of HBO, National Geographic, Vice, and others as 2018 Telly recipients.
Twenty-four hours later, the film screened at the Hoboken International Film Festival (HIFF), a celebration of cinematic supremacy that took place not in New Jersey but an hour away in Greenwood Lake, New York. Driving into this tiny village as the sun slipped below the mountainous horizon, it was easy to imagine the gleaming rays were some sort of solar Hollywood premiere lights.
This was not Cannes, Telluride, or even Banff, however. The award night emcee was Gilbert Gottfried and “National Park Dairies” screened in a function room in a local restaurant. But the fact that it even made the HIFF program further validated SCA’s mission of empowering young leaders – especially considering the affirmation came from outside the conservation community.
That said, the film drew many environmentalists, including a number of SCA alumni. Dorothy McQuaid, a ranger at the Springfield (MA) Armory National Historic Site and former SCA Hudson Valley Corps member, lauded the documentary for portraying “15 and 17 and 18-year olds contributing to the environment and becoming part of something bigger.” Part of Dorothy’s job is encouraging young park visitors to become Junior Rangers and she believes the film will “absolutely” encourage teens and other young people to take better care of the planet.
Megan Lung, an environmental analyst in upstate New York as well as a two-time SCA alumna, smiled as watched saw scenes from Peddocks Island off Boston, where she served in 2015, and didn’t fall for Denali crew leader Garth Cilley’s on-screen query “When do you raise a pick mattock over your head?”
“Never!” she shouted (with her inner voice). “It’s a trap!”
Hudson Valley and Excelsior Conservation Corps veteran Stefan Ramirez said he “related to the crew members a lot” as they developed working relationships from scrap, and Hudson Valley Corps Program Manager Libby Young declared “I wish I could watch it five more times – it’s amazing!”
The filmmakers also attended the screening. Reel Works Co-Founder, Artistic Director, and Executive Producer Stephanie Williams revealed one of the crew leaders was so passionate in describing her commitment to youth development and conservation, that she routinely choked up. “I’ve seen this film one billion times because I edited it,” Stephanie stated, “and there are still times I tear up watching it.”
Producer Ryan Rivard, who shot the Alaska crew, agreed. “I’m most proud that we authentically represented SCA and all the important and great work that they do,” he said. “[The film] is also reflective of the teens’ personality – they’re having fun, making jokes, and sometimes tired but always joining together for a bigger cause.
I hope that more people will see this and get inspired to do more – and to be more.”
Above, L-R: Stefan, Libby, Ryan, Stephanie, Megan, and Dorothy