The LACCD Sustainable Media Studio: Shooting A Green Tomorrow, Today

by Melinda Ann Farrell, Director, LACCD Sustainable Media

It’s Lights, Camera, Action at LACCD Sustainable Media, the student-led documentary studio of the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD). Armed with high definition cameras, field recording equipment, big imaginations and one of the largest public sector green building programs in the country as their subject, the talented student auteurs of the LACCD are educating and entertaining their peers on the subject of sustainability and climate neutrality, using the art of documentary filmmaking.

Producing video sustainability stories “by students, for students,” the studio’s filmmakers are turning the camera’s lens on themselves and their colleges to showcase marquee building projects campus by campus and reveal the behind-the-scenes transformation of the Los Angeles Community College District through the voices of the students, faculty, board members, administrators, architects, construction firms and community members who all contributed to the effort. The studio’s original works are posted on under the Student Video gallery as well as on our Vimeo channel.

Energy and You”, the group’s recent production, comedically tracks a community college student’s carbon footprint as he valiantly tries to get to class on time. To encourage students to take advantage of the new Big Belly solar trash compacting and recycling systems and learn more about the District’s comprehensive recycling initiatives, the studio created “The Adventures of Big Belly”, a college fairy tale featuring a sassy talking solar compacting unit that rallies students to beautify their campuses by recycling, compacting and diverting more waste from landfills. The studio is currently in post-production on a film featuring the landmark $145 million South Campus Project at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, targeted to earn a LEED Gold rating. It is the largest construction project in the program with two architecturally significant buildings offering 120,000 square feet of office and smart classroom space. The new South Campus project and its neighboring Child Development Center provide much needed enhancements to the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood where they are located.

It is our belief green curriculum should be accessible to everyone and we are particularly proud of the collaborative piece we produced with Braille Institute and City College that follows a group of students who concurrently attend both institutions as they participate in the development of a sustainable pathway between the two schools. “The Braille Trail” was recently chosen as one of the featured films in the first annual Community College Film Festival.

To reflect the District’s mission of significantly contributing to the goal of climate neutrality, LACCD Sustainable Media strives to do its part by adhering to the code of best practices in sustainable filmmaking.  The studio is based on a tapeless workflow to transmit both raw footage and final cut digitally and is built on a recyclable media platform where the content from a master shoot can be repurposed for original videos and inclusion in sustainability kiosks, presentations and web featurettes. We car pool to shoots, use environmentally friendly office supplies, sit on sustainable furniture, use a recycled biz hub, brown bag it, eat from real dishes and often ride our bikes to work.

Lead editor of the studio Maya Santos attends City College and has a background in architecture.  “There is always something to learn about sustainability because you can apply this kind of awareness to every aspect of life. I feel very fortunate to be able to ride my bike to work, put my green waste in a composter, and to be able to recycle. I feel even more fortunate to be able to collaborate and create videos that promote this kind of awareness throughout the Los Angeles Community College District and beyond through very real projects and practices.”

The LACCD has already made the case persuasively for building green through the success of its Sustainable Building program.  More than 313 projects including 85 new LEED targeted buildings have been completed, and 144 more are in progress across 9 campuses and two satellite campuses.  The Board of Trustees mandate calls for all new construction in the effort to be built to LEED certification standards. A robust renewable energy plan calls for campuses to generate at least 15% of energy needs by deploying solar PV farms, solar thermal, central plant technologies, smart classrooms, comprehensive recycling and waste reduction. A sustainability curriculum is in development to prepare its students for jobs in the green economy. Clearly, there are a lot of compelling stories to be filmed.

We hope to encourage all student filmmakers to pick up your cameras, share your stories and shoot your own green tomorrow, today.