Encouraging students to explore and connect with the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the variety of ecosystems throughout northeast Michigan has resulted in a long-term partnership with the Thunder Bay International Film Festival and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMI GLSI). For the past three years, the sanctuary and NEMI GLSI have hosted the Thunder Bay International Film Festival Student Competition with a different theme each year.

This year’s theme was “Sanctuaries Are,” with eight entries submitted from Alpena, Onaway, Scottville and Stockbridge students. The first place winner was Jack MacDonald, a senior at Alpena High School (watch Jack’s film here). He won both first place and the people’s choice award as well. Stockbridge students Kelly Cool, Jillian Cadieux, and Lauren Morris won second place (watch their film here) and Thunder Bay Junior High student Colt Gray won third place (watch Colt’s film here).

MacDonald, who hopes to pursue a career in filmmaking, starred in his own film along with his dog. Holly. His goal was to show people all the natural areas to explore in the Alpena area which make up his “sanctuary.” This year the first place prize was a “Go Pro Hero 5 Black” donated by the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

If you know of any students who are interested in filmmaking, this is a great way to try out their skills and talents. Workshops often are held at the beginning of the competition to help students learn from local professionals and hone their technical abilities before they start on their film entries. Chosen by this year’s student filmmakers, the theme for 2019 is “#ExplorationIs.” To learn more about next year’s competition guidelines, visit #ExplorationIs