The Brian Lamb School of Communication has a new clinical professor who sees the world through his video camera.
Doug Osman, a first-year Purdue professor, has brought his 25 years of experience as a narrative and documentary filmmaker to Purdue through the classroom as well as his current documentary production projects.
Currently, Osman is working on a series of documentaries about North Carolina’s Green Swamp, a unique ecosystem in Brunswick County that is the home of many exotic species such as the Venus flytrap. This county is also home to Wilmington, N.C., which is experiencing some of the area’s largest growth.
While this growth has been an economic benefit to the area, Osman’s films depict how the Green Swamp has suffered ecologically as a result of the development.
Companies such as International Paper, one of the world’s largest paper producers, have been logging the swamp’s plant life and draining its waters , diminishing the Green Swamp to only 10 percent of what it once was, according to Osman.
“There are laws on the books [to protect the Green Swamp], but there is really no way to enforce them,” Osman said as he discussed one of the reasons for making this film.
Osman believes the Green Swamp is an example for other places around the world to see that if we don’t save our ecosystems, they will be lost.
“My goal is that the documentary is strong enough to circulate around the country,” Osman said.
With this goal, Osman hopes the film is seen by as many people as possible to spread the great concern for the Green Swamp around the country and possibly internationally through film festivals and television networks such as Home Box Office (HBO).
While Osman notes that one of the biggest challenges for documentary filmmakers is finding their own funding for projects, this project displaying the Green Swamp in North Carolina is largely supported by Nature Conservancy, an organization that owns the heart of the Green Swamp.
The documentary series will be comprised of several short films for schools around the country to show students releases
this fall and a longer, more “in-your-face” kind of documentary that Osman hopes to complete within the next two years.
Osman’s interest in this project comes from his roots in biology and environmentalism as a child growing up in rural Troy, Mich. His also believes his time as a Boy Scout also adds to his interest in the field now as a filmmaker.
Osman’s childhood interests in environmentalism, however, could not prepare him for the uncomfortable situations nature produced while filming his documentaries in the Green Swamp that includes species ranging from alligators and snakes to ticks and other exotic insects.
“I have met a few alligators but no snakes yet,” Osman said.
Beyond Osman’s “Green Swamp” films and several other documentary projects that he has in the works, Osman says the other half of his life is spent teaching.
Prior to coming to Purdue this year, Osman taught in North Carolina in addition to his documentary work.
Now, Osman spends much of his time teaching four communication courses on campus, including television production, video journalism, and the television documentary. Osman also plans to teach a Maymester course focusing on producing documentary films surrounding Lafayette’s Celery Bog in 2012 and a Maymester course along with Professor Tom Turpin of Purdue’s entomology department in Indonesia exploring environmental issues in 2013.
Osman also finds time to promote environmental causes beyond his documentary films and classes. He sold Venus flytraps and other species seedlings during Purdue’s annual Spring Fest to raise money for the local Lilly Nature Center that supports the Celery Bog.
Although Osman already brings much to Purdue’s campus as a professor and filmmaker, he says that Purdue and the university’s reputation is what brought him to campus.
“The place you work as a documentary filmmaker gives you much more visibility of your work,” Osman said. He also said he is already seeing how a Purdue background improves the visibility of his films through “Green Swamp.” Both Osman and the Nature Conservancy are excited to see what impact the films will have toward saving the Green Swamp.
Written by Jackie Gross
Senior, Mass Communication