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‘A very different approach’

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

When David Smith and Jordan Vaughan Smith started Climate Advocates Voces Unidas (CAVU), both were living in Latin America.

CAVU Founder and Creative Director David Smith and Board Member Garrett VeneKlasen, right, interviewed NM Wildlife Federation (NMWF) communications and education outreach coordinator Kamila Elsisie, left, and NMWF Regional Connectivity Coordinator Jeremy Romero, center, in the Carson National Forest for the Wildlife Without Borders Film Series. (Vladmir Chaloupka/CAVU)

They each wanted to make a change.

“We worked in nine countries and our work has evolved,” David Smith says. “We were ahead of the game years ago, reaching out through social media. We’ve always used film and video to get our message across.”

After 10 years in Latin America, they made the move to Santa Fe.

The nonprofit’s mission is to use visual storytelling and community engagement to support local solutions to the global climate problem.

The short films uniquely blend science and personal stories to reconnect people with each other and the planet they live on.

On Sept. 22, David Smith picked up his first Rocky Mountain Emmy Award for the video series “Wildlife Without Borders.”

The series is a CAVU media initiative to raise awareness and a better understanding of the importance of wildlife and wildlife habitat to landscapes, local economies and cultures across the West.

“We are grateful for the recognition of our work and the stories we share,” Smith says. “In ‘Wildlife Without Borders,’ we were able to provide people with new insights and perspectives, which is critical as we face unprecedented threats to wildlife and habitats, and, in turn, our own survival.”

Smith served as creative director. He and Santa Fe-based cinematographer Vladimir Chaloupka were awarded the Emmy.

When the CAVU team gets going on a project, there’s a plan in place.

Of course, there’s room for a detour or two. Because the crew is small – fewer than four people – it allows for that maneuvering.

“We are filmmakers and it’s a very different approach to filmmaking,” Smith says of CAVU’s approach. “I think we do what we do quite well. (Deputy Director) Liliana (Castillo) has a journalism background. We are pretty good listeners. The work we put out has to happen quickly as we are moving as fast as the topics we cover.”

The CAVU team continues to produce new series.

It recently released “UNEARTHED 2020: From Boom to Bust.”

There are six chapters to the video series.

“Our model has been moving pretty quick,” Smith says. “Our work is never about winning awards. This Emmy is a strange deal for me. It’s about making the product to tell an important story. If you want to reach people in Santa Fe and Albuquerque about problems around the state, film is the most compelling medium to get a message across. By talking to people and telling their stories, it makes a difference.”

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