Heather Elder Represents
Reps Journal

Jason Lindsey's Award Winning "Mussel Grubbing" Film Celebrates the Confluence of Humanity and Science

Jason Lindsey is known for his commitment to stewardship of our planet. While this comes through much of his commercial work and clients, his personal life is filled with passion projects and volunteer work in his local community to further support this ideal. Jason and his family actively volunteer with the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy to help in the ongoing battle against invasive species. So, when the organization received a grant to produce a short film showcasing these efforts, they selected Jason because of his intimate knowledge of the topic and his impressive work as a director. 

Mussel Grubbers are the individuals who participate in harvesting the mussels in the river. While not a glamorous job, it’s imperative that these mussels be researched to ensure the viability of other flora and fauna in the region. The challenge of this project lay not only in documenting the scientific aspects of mussel surveying but in humanizing the narrative, making it compelling and relatable to a wide audience. Jason's eye for storytelling allowed for the individual’s passion and dedication to breathe life into the film. This ability to blend storytelling with cinematography not only educates but inspires audiences to connect with their natural world and become stewards of conservation efforts.

We spoke with Jason to learn more about this award winning project and how he achieved the goals of the conservancy and used his skills to create the film. 

What was the most significant challenge you faced when conceptualizing this documentary project?

The biggest challenge for me was figuring out how to humanize the story and make it engaging beyond just documenting the scientific process. I wanted to create something that would resonate with people on a personal level, something they could connect with emotionally. When I joined the Mussel Grubbers on their surveys, one individual, Nina, stood out to me immediately with her passion and energy. I spent time getting to know her and realized she would be the perfect focal point for the narrative. So sprinkling in the stories of the real individuals and the scientific aspects allowed for a more approachable film. 

The film has been widely acclaimed and featured in various festivals. What do you think contributed to its success?

I believe the film's success stems from its accessibility and relatability. Instead of focusing solely on scientific jargon, we wove a human story that resonates with audiences from all walks of life. The film's portrayal of a community-driven conservation effort made it both inspiring and approachable.

Balancing the scientific elements with the human narrative was a delicate task. While the science behind mussel surveying is crucial, I didn't want the film to feel overly technical or inaccessible. I aimed to intersperse the scientific process with personal stories and experiences, showcasing the passion, dedication, and diversity of the individuals involved. By weaving these elements together, we created a narrative that both educates and resonates emotionally.

How did you approach the filming of the actual work?

Filming underwater posed a unique set of challenges, particularly due to the murky waters of the river. Rather than viewing it as a hindrance, I embraced the mystery of the underwater world. Instead of relying solely on visuals, I focused on capturing the sensory experience of mussel grubbing—the tactile sensation of feeling for mussels with hands and feet. I wanted to convey the hands-on nature of the activity through a more immersive approach.

Beyond showcasing the work of the Mussel Grubbers, what broader message or impact do you hope the film will have on viewers?

Beyond shedding light on the vital work of the Mussel Grubbers, my hope is that the film inspires viewers to engage with their local ecosystems and consider the broader implications of environmental conservation. By highlighting the diverse individuals involved in citizen science efforts, we aim to encourage greater participation in community-driven initiatives. Ultimately, I hope the film sparks a sense of curiosity and stewardship towards our natural world, inspiring viewers to take action in their own communities.