UNC documentary nominated for Emmy

Jul. 11, 2013 @ 04:36 PM

UNC’s Powering a Nation journalism project has been nominated for an Emmy Award for “100 Gallons: How Water Powers Life,” a multimedia documentary about water conservation, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced Thursday.

“100 Gallons” is billed as “an experiment in journalistic storytelling,” and was nominated in the category of New Approaches: Documentaries. The online documentary has an introductory set of images showing the role of water in human life. The screen also has bubbles that users may click with a mouse, leading them to other content. That content includes graphics, animation, essays, and short documentaries.
Students and faculty members in the School of Journalism completed the project in the summer of 2012 under the auspices of the Powering a Nation project, which investigates issues related to energy production. Each summer, students choose a different story to tell, and are involved in every part of the project, including pre-production, reporting, filming, writing, editing and post-production, said Chad Stevens, an associate professor in the Journalism School and a producer of “100 gallons.”
“The students wanted to have an immersive experience,” Stevens said. “The students themselves decide what they’re going to focus on … and how they’re going to push the boundaries of online storytelling,” he said.
“I think what makes this project successful is that it’s a collaborative effort from the start,” said Josh Davis, who was managing editor and video producer on the project. Davis, who graduated in 2012 with a master’s degree in journalism, said pre-production work began in the spring semester of 2012. During a 10-week session in June and July, students put the finishing touches on “100 Gallons.”
Among the miniature videos contained in “100 Gallons” is a portrait of Steve Duncan, an urban explorer who takes a documentarian on a tour through the sewers of New York. Another mini-documentary focuses on Christine Moore, the last holdout against the natural gas companies in Ohio Amish country. All of Moore’s neighbors have leased their land to the companies for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
Davis worked on the fracking story. He went to Ohio with a social media editor to attend a rally protesting fracking. He was looking for someone whose life had been affected by fracking. At the rally, “everyone’s telling me, talk to Christine,” Davis said. Moore opened up to him “because she had this story to tell,” he said. Davis follows Moore as she agonizes over her decision to sell her home and farmland because of her fears over the health effects of the natural gas drilling.
But “100 Gallons” is not intended to point fingers, Davis said. The documentarians “did not want to demonize any activities or make people feel guilty. We wanted to create a universal appeal, where you see people of all ages and all backgrounds interacting with water. That was our hook to get people to think about how critical water is to life,” Davis said.
Other nominees in the New Approaches: Documentaries category were The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, CNN Digital, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, and The New York Times.  
“From my perspective, I’m one of many coaches,” Stevens said of the nomination. “I’m just proud of [the students] and what they’ve done and their unrelenting desire to try to do something new in journalistic storytelling,” he said.
Emmy Awards recipients will be announced Oct. 1 in New York City.

To view this project, visit www.poweringanation.org/water