Short Film Showcase: Staying Afloat on a Drowning Island

A tiny island in the bayous of southern Louisiana is slowly disappearing due to rising seas and coastal erosion. Hear how the last remaining residents of Isle de Jean Charles are coping with a foreboding future in filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee’s haunting portrait of a community on the edge of extinction. I spoke with him about the filmmaking process. Meet the last speaker of a dying language in Marie’s Dictionary and imagine a world without salmon in Yukon Kings, Vaughan-Lee’s two other films featured in National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase.

When did you first start making films?

I first started making films in 2005. Up until then I had been a jazz bassist but ended up making a career change after I was given an opportunity to work in film and loved it. I tried to do both for a while, but soon my music—at least professionally—took a back seat to filmmaking. But I feel a great deal of my experience and training as a musician, especially as an improviser within the jazz genre, has been a great asset to my filmmaking. As I never had any formal training in film I learned on the job, often by putting myself in situations where I was over my head and had to adapt and learn quickly. My background in improvisation helped me with this, despite how different the creative processes and challenges are in these mediums. Like music, film is a collaborative process, something I thrive on both [during] production and in postproduction. And, more directly, music plays a big part in my films. I love the interplay of story, image, and score. For me it’s one of the most creative parts of the filmmaking process.

What attracted you to the medium?

I guess I was always interested in telling stories, and —> Read More