News | May 31, 2016

Meet the 2016 Southern Exposure Film Fellows

Next month, six rising filmmakers will arrive in Birmingham for SELC’s 2016 Southern Exposure film fellowship.

During the six week summer program, the fellows create short documentaries that tell impactful stories about Alabama’s environment and the important work required to protect its abundance of natural wonders and scenic beauty.

SELC’s partner groups play a crucial role in identifying pressing issues around the state, connecting the fellows with impacted communities, and providing knowledge and expertise about Alabama’s environmental wealth and incredible biodiversity.

Now in its fifth year, the Southern Exposure film fellowship has resulted in the creation of nearly 30 films. As a result of these poignant stories depicting the triumphs and challenges facing the state, numerous films from past fellowship years have been selected for screening in juried film festivals around the country.

Live screenings and online distribution of the films continue to reach a variety of audiences, helping Southern Exposure fulfill the mission to spread awareness, appreciation, and inspire action on behalf of Alabama’s environment.

SELC and Black Warrior Riverkeeper have partnered in donating DVDs of the Southern Exposure films to the Birmingham Public Library System. The 2013, 2014, and 2015 DVDs are available to the public in all 19 Birmingham Public Library locations.

SELC and Southern Exposure’s Program Director Michele Forman are pleased to welcome this year’s fellows.

  • Matthew Grcic: Matthew recently graduated from Loyola University Chicago, where he earned his Masters of Communication. As a part of the Digital Media and Storytelling Program, Matthew focused his studies on non-fiction storytelling through film. His films have screened at several film festivals across the Midwest, and his documentary, “Discovering the Truth,” has won several awards including a Student Award for Excellence from the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at the 2015 Chicago Regional Emmy Awards. Matthew has a love for the environment and outdoor recreation, and a passion to tell meaningful, transformative stories through film and photography.
  • Mary D. Recio: Mary D. is a recent graduate of the University of Alabama, where she earned her B.A. in Telecommunications and Film. Although originally from Tennessee, Mary D. considers Alabama her true home. An aspiring documentary filmmaker who has discovered her passion for storytelling within the last few years, her work has allowed her to travel across Alabama and develop a deeper understanding of the state from behind the camera. Her most recent film “Shugs” follows a Birmingham tap dancing group of women ages 57 to 75, and was an official selection at the Sidewalk Film Festival in 2015. Mary D. hopes to continue to create films inspired by people, and to grow through the subjects she highlights.
  • Scott Schimmel: As a native of the music mecca Athens, Georgia, Scott has always been surrounded by creativity. After a stint working around the globe as an environmental scientist, he came to the realization that he was truly a filmmaker at heart. Currently, Scott is an M.F.A. candidate in the Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University. His most recent film, “Community Meal,” which follows a group of activists combating food waste, took second place at the 2015 Sustainability Shorts Film Competition and has screened both domestically and internationally.
  • Celine Schmidt: Entering her final year in the Brown University-Rhode Island School of Design Dual Degree Program, Celine is pursuing a B.F.A. in Illustration and a B.A. in Science and Society. Her interests include using animation and the fine arts to foster greater public understanding of environmental science topics and the complex social issues surrounding them. In Celine’s future creative work and career, she hopes to focus on issues of environmental inequality.
  • Liza Slutskaya: Liza was born in Ukraine and moved to the U.S. when she was five years old with her mother and grandmother, two strong role models who instilled in her a deep respect for other cultures and the arts. A recent graduate from Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. in Anthropology and Film Production, Liza’s research and production interests include community, taboo culture, and identity. In her last year at Johns Hopkins, Liza worked on a film with an accompanying written thesis that focused around small town life along the mega-highway I-95 in South Carolina, a project that has guided her in pursuing documentary filmmaking as a career.
  • Cai Thomas: Hailing from Miami, Florida, Cai received her B.A in Communications and Film Studies from Boston College in 2016. Her short film “Blake Bolden,” which follows a professional female hockey player, aired on NESN's Next Producer in 2015. Cai traveled to Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 2016 as a Jacques Salmanowitz Moral Courage in Film Grantee to produce a documentary on gender inequity in waste management with Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). An avid traveler, Cai enjoys connecting with different communities and telling their stories.