Oregon State University’s first feature-length documentary is coming soon to a digital platform near you.
“Saving Atlantis,” a 76-minute film about threats to the world’s coral reefs, premiered in February 2018. It was the first major release by Oregon State Productions, a film production company formed by the university to draw attention to OSU research and magnify its impact.
After a series of special screenings, educational distribution through schools and libraries and spending some time on the film festival circuit, the documentary is poised to become available on iTunes, Amazon and other digital distribution services starting Tuesday, according to David Baker, the film’s screenwriter and co-director.
Because this was the first major documentary from OSU’s film production company, nobody was sure what to expect.
“It took awhile to find a distributor, and frankly we weren’t sure if we’d be able to do it or not,” Baker said. “But we’ve had a really good response from distributors.”
Oregon State Productions has now contracted with a Los Angeles distributor called Gravitas Ventures.
In addition to digital platforms, the first phase of distribution will involve making “Saving Atlantis” available through cable television and pay-per-view channels, Baker said. After that the film will be offered to streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix, and eventually broadcast TV.
“It’s just going to reach more people with the message of what’s happening with coral,” Baker said.
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“It’s kind of an experiment to see if we can get more eyeballs on the film through this commercial process,” he added. “The theory is we will.”
The hope is that “Saving Atlantis” will raise awareness of the serious environmental threats to the world’s coral reefs, which are being hammered by everything from overfishing and pollution to climate change and ocean acidification.
According to OSU researcher Rebecca Vega Thurber, one of the scientists featured in the film, more than half the planet’s coral reefs have already been lost, a quarter of all coral species are threatened with extinction and once-rare mass bleaching events have become annual occurrences.
In at least one case, the OSU documentary seems to be making a difference, Baker said. One of the locations highlighted in “Saving Atlantis,” a reef called Varadero off the coast of Colombia, was on the brink of being destroyed to make way for a new shipping channel to serve a busy port. But the film has helped rally opposition to that project, and so far, at least, the reef has been spared.
“We can’t take credit for everything, but there is a certain power or level of attention that is raised when people from other countries see the film,” Baker said.
“The people who are fighting to save the reef used this as a way to say, ‘Hey, we’re being watched.’”
Proceeds from distributing “Saving Atlantis” will be used to fund fellowships for aspiring filmmakers at OSU, Baker said. Students will be able to pitch five-minute documentaries about OSU research projects to Oregon State Productions, and the best proposals will be funded.
“It’s a way to pay it forward and also to encourage science and natural resource storytelling by students from all disciplines across campus,” Baker said.