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How filmmaking could help save the ocean

Meet Chris Chen and Maria Bernal-Silva, the creative forces behind Marine Conservation Institute’s new organizational video


Earlier this year, Emmy-nominated video editor Chris Chen of Whiskey Sky Media listened in on a conversation that would lead to an extraordinary project. In his San Diego home, Chris leaned in and dialed up the volume on the Eco-Conscious Diver podcast, just in time to catch Caitlin McCall’s interview with Dr. Sarah Hameed, Marine Conservation Institute’s Director of Blue Parks. Sarah talked about our growing network of Blue Parks (exemplary marine protected areas that meet scientific standards for true and lasting conservation effectiveness), and about our mission to save wild ocean places. As he listened, Chris realized that there was a bigger story to tell about this organization, from our global work to incentivize strong marine protections to our local campaign to save seamounts right off the coast of California.

After listening to the podcast, Chris and fellow videographer Maria Bernal-Silva approached us with a project in mind: they wanted to help tell our story. They understood that the work we do is crucial. Our planet is at a dangerous tipping point, and without protecting the ocean—and protecting it well—then we will lose our shot at slowing down climate change and saving species from being lost forever.

But how to communicate that? Chris and Maria spent countless hours of research, filming and interviewing our staff, crystalizing it into a video that showcases the heart and purpose of our organization.

Chris Chen visited our Sonoma County office staff to capture footage of them on a local beach. Pictured: Director of Blue Parks Dr. Sarah Hameed.

Who are these amazing filmmakers who brought our mission to life?

A native San Franciscan with a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema, Maria Bernal-Silva moved to San Diego in 2012 to join San Diego Zoo Global in their vision to lead the fight against extinction as their Senior Digital Media Producer. Maria currently works as a freelancer in wildlife conservation film and photography. Her multi-passionate career has taken her to Kenya, New Zealand, Fiji, Tasmania and Churchill, Manitoba. Along this journey of environmental storytelling, Maria says "I am extremely grateful for the continued honor of working with, learning from and getting to know some of the best, most creative and genuine people in film and wildlife conservation.”

Chris Chen discovered his love of videography after college—returning to school to study film in San Francisco, and afterward jumping into work with a multimedia company. Chris has spent over a decade creating video content for clients including Pandora, Intel, and the San Diego Zoo, specializing in the latest drone technology for aerial footage.

In particular, Chris really loves telling stories about conservation: “If I could, that’s all I would be doing!” As for the video he and Maria made for Marine Conservation Institute? “I hope it generates some support for MCI and that this year’s goals are reached because of it,” he says, “and my hope is that it leads people to want to help save the ocean and give back a little.”

Photo of Chris Chen

Chris is a deep believer in the power of filmmaking. “Everybody has a story to tell,” he says, “and video is one of the best ways to tell it.” In particular, when it comes to learning and being inspired about wild landscapes, Chris believes that visuals can make an organization’s story immersive and compelling. “You never know,” Chris says—”a video could change everything.”

The team here at Marine Conservation Institute is dazzled by Chris and Maria’s expertise and the beauty they captured.  We hope that in watching their video, you, too, will be inspired by their generosity, their love of nature, and their belief in the work we’re doing to save wild ocean places. Take a look!