Tribeca Film Fellows Create Riverkeeper Short

Last fall, six Tribeca Film Fellows® alumni were commissioned to create a short documentary film for Riverkeeper, NY’s Clean Water Advocate, in celebration of its 50th anniversary. The film, KEEPING ON, explores how and why the watchdog organization was founded, many of its incredible accomplishments, and the steps necessary to preserve the integrity of the Hudson River. Success stories featured include Riverkeeper’s 1984 move to hold Exxon accountable for stealing fresh water from the Hudson to sell in Aruba and its more recent efforts to ban fracking in New York State.

The fellows behind KEEPING ON include:

Sarah Alli (Emerson College, 2016) – Director/Producer                 

Alejandra Araujo (NYU, 2015) – Cinematography      

Stephanie Cherng (SUNY Purchase, 2019) – Editor                      

Jacquelyn Gutierrez (CUNY College of Technology, 2020) – Producer

Laura Moya (NYU, 2015) – Sound                    

Frisly Soberanis (Brooklyn College) – Cinematography

I talked with Jacquelyn Gutierrez, one of the producers on the film, about what it was like to work with Riverkeeper to create this short documentary. What were some of your responsibilities as a producer of KEEPING ON?

Jacquelyn: As a producer on KEEPING ON, I had a different position than I’m used to because I’m normally operating a camera. I took on a role that was out of my comfort zone but I thought I tackled it effectively. My new role entailed a lot of research. I made sure I was up to date on any events that occurred on the Hudson River. For example, at one point during preproduction there was a big spill in the river and within a couple of days, a community meeting was being held. I had to figure out exactly what happened so I could understand what might be heavily discussed at the community meeting. In addition, I was regularly communicating with the Riverkeeper staff and partners. [Tribeca Film Fellow] Sarah Ali and I together tackled a variety of the shooting elements such as coordinating locations, equipment, and scheduling.

What are some of the most surprising things you learned about the Hudson River/ conservation while making the film?

One of the simplest yet surprising facts I learned is that when it rains you really should try and conserve as much water as possible. By waiting to shower or do laundry, you cut the amount of water being used. This then allows the system to handle and reduce the risk of sewer overflows. 

One of the biggest and scariest places I learned about was Indian Point. Indian Point is a nuclear power plant located in New York. Indian Point releases toxic radioactivity on the banks of the Hudson River and slaughters millions of aquatic organisms every year. That’s a huge factor in why our river is so polluted. While Riverkeeper is helping us all take a step forward, this nuclear plan is taking us two steps back. 

What was your favorite part of being on this team and shooting this film?

The knowledge that the Fellows and I gained through this entire process was incredibly worthwhile. Most of us were brought up in New York City and we’re more familiar with a lot of the social issues that come with city life. The issues involving the Hudson River are just as important and we don’t realize how much effort is going into pushing back against the pollution of our waterways.

This was one of the most powerful shoots I’ve been on and I was glad I got to reunite with other Tribeca Film Fellows to accomplish this. 

What does the future of KEEPING ON hold? Who would you want to see the film?

KEEPING ON first and foremost needs to be seen by city folks. Again, I wasn’t as concerned with our water system before this, instead I was more concerned about why I have to keep paying more to ride the subway when my train doesn’t arrive on time and we have crowded platforms. KEEPING ON reveals something much larger that affects all New Yorkers and more. As a result, everyone needs to be informed. We need to talk to our parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues about this. 

Tribeca Film Institute is excited to say KEEPING ON will preview at the Riverkeeper Fishermen’s Ball honoring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ralph Lauren on May 18th.  Stay tuned here and on TFI’s social media for updates on when you can watch the film in its entirety on our website. @TribecaFilmIns