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Published on: Conservation Story

The Value of Ecostories

By Vincent Marcucci

I believe that cultures are built by the stories we share with one another; that communities can be distinguished by the values they identify or discover in their storytelling. In the last few years, I noticed that stories of environmental and social connection are the most valuable to me.

While an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida I decided to study both film and environmental science. My environmental classes were deeply affecting the way I perceived the world around me, and my occupations with the UCF Arboretum and UCF Outdoor Adventure enveloped me in a community of naturalists and outdoor instructors. Meanwhile, my film classes were revealing my own powerful agency in developing the movies that I want to see. What kind of stories do I want to share? I struggled with this question for a while – and sometimes I still struggle – but by my sophomore year of college, I signed up for a year-long documentary filmmaking class.

Split Oak is the name of my first short documentary that I produced in college. It focuses on the construction of a toll road through Split Oak Forest, a wildlife area protected by both the Osceola and Orange County governments in the early 1990s. We follow a woman named Valerie on her journey to gather community support and courage to halt construction through this protected, biodiverse land teeming with wildlife. The forest is inhabited by both endangered and common species that were transported here to prevent their demise in other areas of Florida’s development. This conflict continues to make state headlines in 2022.

Valerie explains to Vincent the process of organizing a grassroots environmental organization in Split Oak (2019).
Valerie explains to Vincent the process of organizing a grassroots environmental organization in Split Oak (2019).

In my final years at the university, I directed and produced my largest project yet alongside a team of talented student and alumni media artists. Tales of Sunshine: Florida EcoStories is a four-part documentary series exploring the lives of a conservation biologist, a mermaid water rights activist, a fisherman, and a farmworker coalition leader. By editing these Florida portraits side by side, I seek to demonstrate a modern framework for “environmental justice” – the fair distribution of both positive and negative consequences across space, time, and species.

Conservation Biologist Ian Biazzo leads the production crew into the deep forests of Central Florida in Tales of Sunshine: Florida EcoStories (2022)
Conservation Biologist Ian Biazzo leads the production crew into the deep forests of Central Florida in Tales of Sunshine: Florida EcoStories (2022)

When I share a story, I’m communicating a truth that I have learned through my own experience or the experience of another. These truths accumulate over time, and I remember the most meaningful wisdom to me. Subconsciously, they influence how I identify myself among the bioverse and how I make daily decisions. This is why I value the process of telling stories.

Ecostories are not a new phenomenon. From indigenous storytellers to early environmental justice advocates, to today’s activists and changemakers, there is a wide network of folks who empower us with their narratives. EcoStories are my attempt to connect the dots in a whirlwind of context from economic, environmental, cultural and socio-political spheres. By documenting the life stories of Floridians on video, I hope to reach a wider audience who can relate to the power of our ecology (the largest community of all) and take part in building a just society.

Thank you for reading a piece of my story. You can follow our project’s journey on Instagram @talesofsunshinefilm and/or my own @vincent.marcucci

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