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NESCom professor helps uncover hidden world in documentary

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Mayan Blue Mayan Blue

BANGOR - Educators wear a number of different hats these days - teacher, mentor, advisor and counselor. One professor at the New England School of Communications in Bangor can also add role model to that list. Todd Eastman spent the past several years working on the documentary 'Mayan Blue,' a film about an underwater city in Guatemala. 

"It was written up in an article in a diving magazine and just forgotten about. So we met with the guy that discovered it and it just kind of took off from there," said Eastman.

This video production professor put his passion for photography and diving to the test while making the film. But Eastman quickly realized keeping the camera steady underwater was no easy task.

"I'm a steadicam operator and a diver, so I thought, I can do it. I can keep a steady shot.' Nope, not at all," said Eastman. "It's a skill set you have to keep doing, so we had divers that were very experienced in underwater camera movement. And yeah, there was something definitely down there."

Eastman's focus throughout the film centered on lighting and making sure each and every image of this murky hidden world was clearly visible to viewers.

"We were coming onto lake Atitlan after an algae bloom so the water was green. A lot of times the camera would accentuate the green, so it would look worse than it actually was - and nothing looks worse on the big screen than green water. It repulses the viewer," he said. "As director of photography, I was responsible for whatever image was thrown up on screen. So I had to make some adjustments."

And those tweaks paid off. 'Mayan Blue' won the 2013 Best Cinematography and Best Documentary at the Geneva Film Festival as well as the Audience Choice Award at this year's Savannah Film Festival.

"I had high hopes we'd win Best Documentary at the Savannah Film Festival. There was a lot of buzz about it, then Best Documentary came up and the award went to another film. Then the last award of the night was Audience Choice and when Mayan Blue' was announced as the winner out of all the films at the festival, I was surprised," Eastman said.

He admits making Mayan Blue' was difficult, but the project has been well worth the reward in the end.

"When you're shooting in Central America, you have to know your equipment so well that if something goes wrong you're able to adapt to it, and I learned I have an ability to solve problems in situations that sometimes you don't know which end is up," he said.

And Eastman hopes to pass on that problem solving ability to each student in his classroom.

"In a school environment sometimes we're giving them little recipes for success. But can you do your job in less than ideal conditions? That's the kind of thing I want to pass on, that that problem solving ability not only makes the end result look good, it also helps you get more jobs."


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