Documenting Maine aquaculture through film
March 9, 2022
By Afton Vigue, Maine Aquaculture Association
Maine Aquaculture Association uses film to bring fish farm stories to a broader audience
Shortly after I began work at the Maine Aquaculture Association (MAA) in 2019, I realized that aquaculture is a relatively abstract concept for most folks. Few people ever come in contact with a sea farm. While this may seem like a big hurdle for the industry to overcome, I see it as an opportunity for us to tell our story to a broad audience with few opinions on the subject. In the digital age, one of the most compelling tools we have to tell stories is film.
One day, I was brainstorming film ideas with Sebastian Belle, our executive director. He pulled up a link to a video on his laptop and said, “these guys are the gold standard” in terms of films about Maine aquaculture.
The video told the moving story of kelp farmer Karen Cooper and her father Foy Brown, replete with hilarious one-liners and a distinct Maine saltiness. At the end of the video, I was laughing so hard I was crying. Something about the way this film was able to capture these two characters so authentically just struck me.
“These guys” turned out to be GoodFight Media, a documentary film company based out of Washington, D.C. and Portland, Maine. MAA had worked with them back in 2018 to produce two short films including Karen’s story.
In 2019, we decided to build upon the original project by creating three new installments to add to the collection. We reached out to Bill and Patty Zimmerman, who worked with GoodFight and MAA previously to create and fund the first two films via ZFund, their private foundation. Bill and Patty are wonderfully genuine and philanthropic people with a passion for helping to strengthen Maine’s working waterfront. They were excited about the idea of creating more films for the series.
We convened an advisory board with representatives from state agencies as well as nonprofits that work in the aquaculture space, so that we could solicit input from various stakeholder groups for the project. Together, we landed on some key themes that we wanted to come out of the project, including climate change, the role of women in aquaculture, and aquaculture as a diversification strategy for fishing families.
GoodFight led us through the casting process and launched into production. By January 2021, we were ready to release three new films. We took a low-budget approach to promoting the films, leveraging social media to promote and drive traffic to the Maine Coast Harvest website. Within a month, the films received over 24,000 views across all platforms.
The public’s positive reaction to these films taught us a few things. First, we have an amazing story to tell as aquaculture producers. And second, people love good stories. We hope these films inspire others to think of new and creative ways to amplify the voices of sustainable seafood producers in a proactive way, so that aquaculture can start to define its place and story in the world.
Afton Vigue is the outreach and development specialist at Maine Aquaculture Association. She grew up in a commercial lobster fishing family in Tenants Harbor, Maine. She earned her B.S. in Ecology & Environmental Science from the University of Maine in 2017, and stayed on for two more years to earn an M.S. in Natural Resource Economics in 2019. Afton is currently working as the Outreach & Development Specialist for the Maine Aquaculture Association.
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