Byrd 1933: Official participant in ARTCOP21


Byrd 1933: Official participant in ARTCOP21

Climate is everyone’s business. With the screening of Byrd 1933, the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Archival Program joins the cultural movement towards a carbon neutral, clean future.

ArtCOP21 will connect hundreds of thousands of people to the climate challenge through an extensive global programme of over 290 major events;  art installations, plays, exhibitions, concerts, performances, talks, conferences, workshops, family events and screenings – plus a whole range of people power gatherings and demonstrations – taking place right across Paris and worldwide. We already have events in 34 countries, and momentum grows by the day. All these events will highlight the need for governments meeting in Paris to support strong climate action and signal the end of the fossil fuel era – making climate change a people issue, not one to be left solely to the politicians. We will #FightForTheFuture





FOR the original article by KJ Wetherholt: Publisher/Executive Editor - MIPJ: Media, Information, International Relations and Humanitarian Affairs; See here:

Byrd 1933: The Importance of Documentary Film in the History of Scientific Exploration

Posted: 10/19/2015 4:38 pm EDT Updated: 10/20/2015 1:59 am EDT

Admiral Richard E. Byrd in Antarctica during his second expedition 1933-1935. Courtesy of BPCRC.

In 1985, the Polar Research Institute at the Ohio State University made a successful bid to acquire the archives of noted polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd (for more about Admiral Byrd, please see accompanying article, "Mysteries in Ice," here). OSU and the Institute, now renamed the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the processing of the Byrd archive, which took place over a two-year period from November 1, 1992 through October 31, 1994.

Contained within the archives, which before their acquisition by Ohio State had been housed in varying locations, among them several warehouses and a barn -- environments not conducive to preservation -- were reels of acetate and nitrate film, including 28 reels containing Byrd's Discovery Lecture Film Series.

After copious analysis by a film intern from New York University, only 10 of the reels were deemed salvageable. With a generous grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, those reels were restored for the archive.

With the restoration of those remaining 10 reels, and the Byrd Center having hired filmmaker and artist Pamela Theodotou as their media specialist, in seeing what the Center had in the remaining reels from the Discovery Lecture Film Series, it became apparent to Theodotou that there was enough content to piece back together one of Admiral Byrd's most famous expeditions to Antarctica, which took place between 1933-1935.

"I only became aware of the archive films when Laura Kissel, the Byrd Center's Polar Archivist, won the grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, just after starting my work there," says Theodotou. "I knew the footage had to be extraordinary if any of it had in fact survived. I pitched several ideas depending on the content that could be salvaged. It could have been anything from a video installation piece, very concept-driven if there was no continuity to the images, or potentially a documentary feature film if we had enough of the film to continuously tell a story. We were very lucky that enough of the right reels could be saved to pursue a feature-length documentary film."

She continues:

Identifying what we were looking at was by far the most challenging aspect. Initially to the uninitiated eye it all can look like lots and lots of snow. Upon closer inspection you begin to identify the expedition members, the different planes, ships, and areas they are exploring.

It took many hours of archive research to be able to identify the more that 1000 clips and it necessitated becoming an expert in the expedition itself with all its nuances. Also knowing something about the film crews, the kinds of film they were using, told me quickly if we were in 1928 or 1933.

Byrd had numerous script concepts on paper as well and his traveling lecture transcripts that helped us group together the clips once they were identified so we had a close chronological representation of the events.

As Theodotou had been a photographer and filmmaker with films on the international film festival circuit, she was immediately fascinated by the dynamic nature of the content, as well as its history.

"From the beginning I think I had a great deal of reverence for this material. The footage from the first expedition was crafted into a film by Paramount pictures and won an Oscar for its cinematography. The sheer beauty of some of the shots these cinematographers managed in such conditions is breathtaking. As a photographer myself I am in awe that they could and did achieve such cinematic perfection at 70 below zero. Modern convenience was not available to these guys -- they were working with crank powered movie cameras and celluloid film that they could not even develop until they got back to the States several years later.

In making the film, every frame was precious so I made use of every piece. None of it is left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. It is of such a rare and special quality it should be easily available for the public to see it, thus the goal to craft it all into a feature film. Our luckiest break is that even though only 10 of the 28 reels survived, we had a lush amount of content that spanned the whole expedition and some of the footage from the first expedition survived to fill in the blanks. Some of the reels we had preserved were double copies so I thank providence that we seemed to get at least one survivor reflecting every aspect of the expedition.

Historically to have these moving images from 100 years ago will be important for generations to come, says Theodotou. "The fact we had the ability to make that footage into a film that tells the Byrd story is a huge bonus. It makes it consumable for the public. That in turn, I think, makes it a source of inspiration on many of levels, a purpose that Byrd himself knew was important.

The larger significance isn't lost on Kissel. "As the polar curator, my goal is always to make people aware of the amazing collections we have here. So the film [is important] for that same goal. "

According to David Filipi, the Director of Film and Video for the Wexner Center for the Arts, where Byrd 1933 will have its world premiere in its initial version before another is completed that will go on the international film festival circuit:

"A film project such as this speaks to the importance of film preservation and how working to restore and save such important historical documents is a critical mission. And it's always a thrill to see how powerful an effect vintage film can have audiences in the present day."

This kind of effect is something that Filipi knows well, having been with the Wexner Center's film/video department since 1994, and having been its director since 2010. His experience has included organizing retrospectives of and visits by such filmmakers as Richard Linklater, Milos Forman, Peter Bogdanovich, Pedro Costa, Philip Kaufman, Claire Denis, Olivier Assayas, Ellen Kuras, D.A. Pennebaker, Arnaud Desplechin, Gus Van Sant, Guy Maddin, Natalia Almada, Frederick Wiseman, the Quay Brothers, among others, including both established and emerging filmmakers.

Erik Pepple, who handles Media and Public Relations for the Wexner Center further emphasized the importance of film for the Wexner Center, which was named after the father of famed entrepreneur Les Wexner, Chairman and Founder of the Limited Brands, who is still a major donor.

"Film is one of the Wexner Center's primary areas of programming. We screen more than 170 films a year (everything from experimental works to international cinema to classics), often with filmmakers in attendance. We recognize film as a major art form and vehicle for expression and understanding the culture."

In terms of the partnership with the Byrd Center, also at Ohio State, says Filipi:

We've enjoyed partnering on a number of events with the Byrd Center over the years but when I heard the general details of the footage and the archival nature of the project -- first from Laura Kissel at the Byrd Center -- I became very intrigued. It's essential to share these important historical pieces with audiences and this is an inherently fascinating project that should provoke lots of conversation.

With the continued debates about climate science in the media, one can imagine that is one of the topics of conversation. A film like Byrd 1933 makes it plain that scientific research on polar and climate science has been going on for some time. More than that, film and media in general have become an important part of science, not just in terms of education and outreach, but also in terms of making a visual record of the research itself. Byrd himself was an innovator in that regard.

"Film offers audiences an often immediate and direct connection with its topics [especially] in the case of documentaries when audiences can see and hear the subjects directly, they can hopefully generate an understanding and context for issues in a manner uniquely offered by this medium," says Pepple.

"In the case of Byrd 1933, the painstakingly restored footage and use of audio and text from Byrd's archives, gives viewers a direct experience in seeing and understanding his extraordinary journey in a manner no other art form can."

Theodotou herself clearly gained an immense respect for her subject, from both her copious research as well as the hours she spent poring over and working with the film clips themselves.

Ticker tape parade for Admiral Byrd in New York City. Courtesy of BPCRC.

I have read through mountains of archive material on [Byrd] and I cant say enough about both his integrity and his tenacity. He comes from an age of gentlemen. He carried his public persona with a great deal of respect and honor.

As a genuine adventurer he was an American heroic figure, a role which he took as a public trust to uphold as an obligation and not for fame's sake. The letters you read in the archive whether they are to presidents or to school children are always heart warming, serious and genuine. I found a particular letter from a little girl especially touching.

She wrote to the Admiral to ask if he would bring her back a penguin from the Antarctic, and like so many letters from children he took the time to write back to her personally to explain that they are delicate birds and not the best of pets but that he would be sure to bring some back for her to see at the zoo.

She continues, again with warranted admiration:

All of that wrapped up into a man who never did shy away from a big idea. He fought for and raised every dollar he needed to do these massive expeditions to the Antarctic where he not only revealed a hidden world but was even able to define it for us.

Before Byrd it was widely thought that Antarctica was two separate islands, but he was able to determine it in fact was our seventh continent. What people don't realize is how the pursuit of science was a main purpose behind his expeditions.

In many of his interviews he proudly acknowledged the scientists who traveled with him who served 22 different branches of science.

In the two years Theodotou has been working on staff at the Byrd Center, her department has generated over 100 videos for education as well as documentary films.

There is also further film content from Admiral Byrd's expeditions that is in need of preservation; the Byrd Center is currently storing it in a climate controlled environment, including nine reels of nitrate film stored in their freezers with one of the largest collections of historic ice core samples in the world. That content will remain protected until the Center receives the funding to develop and/or restore it.

"In this area it is definitely the power of documentary film that brings media and science together. It has risen to an art form that I think is equal in importance to narrative film. And I can only hope that with such subject matter to work with, it might also easily be as popular as well."

The world premiere of Byrd 1933 will be held at the Wexner Center for the Arts on October 20, 2015. For further information, please see: For further information about the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, please see: For more about the film and director Pamela Theodotou, please see

Follow K.J. Wetherholt on Twitter:


Polar Research Climate Change Climate Science Film Leslie Wexner Wexner Center for the Arts Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center k.j. Wetherholt Pamela Theodotou Documentary Documentary Film National Film Preservation Foundation Film Preservation





Pam Theodotou’s “Byrd 1933” to Premiere at The Wexner Center!

September 18, 2015 · by Victoria Lavorini · in Alumni, Events. ·

Last week we featured an interview with Pam Theodotou (CCAD MFA 2013) about her passion for bringing together the art and science communities. This week, we’re excited to announce that her film, Byrd 1933, will be premiering at The Wexner Center on October 20 at 7:00 PM!

The 90-minute film is comprised of footage taken by Admiral Byrd. Byrd was a celebrated aviator who drew much attention to polar regions of the world by pioneering the technology needed to explore them.

As described by Pam –

Byrd 1933 is a found footage film. The clips were shot from 1933-1934 by Admiral Byrd on his expedition to Antarctica. He was working with Paramount Studios cameramen at the time so the images are gorgeous. Reels of these films were eventually donated to the Byrd Archive at OSU, but many of them had deteriorated. The Archive conserved what it could and I took on the project to try and craft a film from what was there. It is largely a silent film with music, but it does have clips of Byrd’s voice as well as recordings of natural sounds from Antarctica pulled from the archive that were recorded by phonograph on the expedition.”

The project could not have happened without the years of preservation and digital transferring that were required to make the film.

From the The Wexner Center’s press release –

“Through extensive archival research in Byrd’s own papers, filmmaker Pamela I. Theodotou has painstakingly cataloged film clips using the scripts for Byrd’s lectures, crafting a film that captures the expedition as a whole.”

Following the screening, a panel including Pam and researchers from Ohio State’s Byrd Polar Research Center will follow.

To find out more about the film and how it came together, please visit! And to find out more about the screening, visit


CCAD INTERVIEW: Science to Art- Art to Science


CCAD INTERVIEW: Science to Art- Art to Science

Pamela Theodotou: Bringing Science to Art & Art to Science

September 11, 2015 · by Victoria Lavorini · in Alumni. ·

Pam Theodotou (CCAD MFA 2013) is – in a word- amazing. She is a photographer, filmmaker, writer, sculptor, ceramicist, owner of the film company NYXFILM, and the Media Specialist at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. This year, Pam presented at the Ecological Science Association 100th Anniversary Conference, and in October her film, Byrd 1933, will be premiering at The Wexner Center. Next week we’ll be featuring an in-depth post on the film, but this week, find out more about Pam’s work as OSU’s Media Specialist and her passion for bringing together the art and science communities.

A few weeks ago you presented a workshop called “Breaking the Ice with STEAM: Synthesis, Innovation, and Improving Scientific Outreach through Artistic Collaboration” at the Ecological Science Association 100th Anniversary Conference in Baltimore. Could you talk about what the workshop focused on?

“The workshop is based on the premise that what scientists and artists do in their process is not all that different. In fact it is remarkably similar in discipline. There is a lot of experimentation and process involved. Also, science as a field suffers from a severe lack of outreach and communication. We see this in a lot of the disinformation and manipulation that has come about in the deniability of climate change. The workshop was created to help like-minded scientists and artists, who are realizing that they can help each other through working together, and give them opportunities and structure in which to collaborate.”

You are the Media Specialist at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at OSU. Can you describe what that occupation entails?

“As a Media Specialist I touch all aspects of media in my daily process. Sometimes it’s writing and producing films and other times it is collecting and crafting footage by scientists to provide media outlets like the BBC or Chinese National Television footage. I also try and bring concepts to our scientific groups on how to better capture media. For instance, I suggested we bring in Go Pros so that Scientists can capture better footage in the field. Now we have a program for Go Pro field kits that travel to the ends of the earth and bring back beautiful images of our planet that I get the pleasure of editing back in my studio.”

In October you’ll be teaching, “Shooting Videos and Photos Like the Pros” at the Byrd Polar Research Center. Is this geared towards artists, scientists aspiring to improve their photographic skills, or both?

“The workshop is for anyone who would like to attend, but it generally is to assist our scientists in upping their media game. It’s meant to help them use media effectively to capture what they do and to aid them in communicating their results through documentary film making, but also so that they can increase their media footprint to be attractive to grant giving organizations to further research. We welcome artists as well, because like the workshops at the ESA, we love to connect these disciplines so they can help each other. You never know where a collaboration will be fruitful. As an example I met Dr. Jana Rhea Waldman at the ESA who is doing flight research with bats. We are currently collaborating on a video and sculptural installation that will reflect her scientific work at Brown University and Iowa State. Bats look like swimmers in the air, and their graceful aerodynamics are being translated into artistic expressions of hard data in that project. We are expecting not only to generate flight patterns and air as solid sculptural forms but also interpret flight physiology of these animals into video reflecting their wing movement and patterns.”

From “China: The Open Door 1985.” Photo courtesy

From “Infared: 1996-2002.” Photo courtesy



Wexner Center for the Arts Premieres BYRD 1933



Byrd 1933: Films from the Discovery Lecture Series

Introduced by Lisa Carter, Ohio State Libraries and Pamela I. Theodotou

Tue, Oct 20, 2015 7 PM

Culled from ten reels of 35mm film found in the papers of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and recently preserved by the National Film Preservation Foundation, Byrd 1933 is a glorious cinematic record of the famed explorer’s expeditions in 1928–30 and 1933–35. This unprecedented visual diary, shot by Paramount Studios cameramen, was largely a silent film with some short studio recreations. Through extensive archival research in Byrd’s own papers, filmmaker Pamela I. Theodotou has painstakingly cataloged film clips using the scripts for Byrd’s lectures, crafting a film that captures the expedition as a whole. Byrd’s own voice and the environmental and animal sounds of Antarctica originally recorded by scientists on the expedition can be heard in the film thanks to audio found in and adapted from Ohio State’s Byrd Papers archive. A panel including Theodotou and researchers from Ohio State’s Byrd Polar Research Center follows the screening. (90 mins., video)

Cosponsored by Ohio State’s Byrd Polar Research Center.



Warriors from the Reservation:


Warriors from the Reservation:

By Bill Mayr

An MFA graduate from CCAD is helping tell the story of some of America’s least-known military veterans: Native Americans.

Pamela Theodotou (CCAD 2013) is serving as director of photography, cinematographer, and editor for the multimedia project Warriors from the Reservation, which is examining the warrior tradition and experiences of veterans from the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota.

The project will include photography exhibitions, two documentary films, and a print/digital book.

Initial filming for the project was done last summer on the Pine Ridge reservation, which sprawls across nearly 3,500 square miles of arid southwestern South Dakota. Pine Ridge was home to both the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 and violent confrontations between Native Americans and the U.S. government in the 1970s.

Warriors’ Reality

Despite ongoing challenges from and conflicts with mainstream America, Native Americans have served in American military units for 200 years — and government studies show that Native Americans serve in the military at a higher rate than other American racial groups.

Veterans who identified themselves as American Indian and Alaskan Native totaled 154,000, a 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs report said.

These veterans had the lowest median personal income among racial groups in the country, the study reported. Fewer held college degrees, and more were unemployed than veterans of other races.

Like other veterans, some tribe members suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and other problems when they return home from war zones. However, their ability to address these problems is different.

“There is an increasing amount of evidence showing that American Indian veterans have the highest rate of PTSD of any ethnic group and face significant barriers to care,” organizers of Warriors from the Reservation say on their website. “For a population already feeling the extreme burden of poverty, the effects of PTSD only add additional emotional and economic stressors to an already isolated community.”

An Artist’s Connection

Theodotou was asked to join Warriors from the Reservation by Kris Wetherholt, a film producer working on the project who is also a founder of the International Information Policy Foundation.

The topic appealed to Theodotou for several reasons.

“I have done some work with Kris in the past on veterans, so the topic is important to me,” she says. “I also am currently working on a script for a feature film about my mother’s experience as an operative for the OSS [Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor to the CIA] in Nazi-occupied Greece, so the many facets of the [Native American] war experience have made their way into my narrative fabric.”

A veteran photographer who branched into cinematography, Theodotou sought a graduate degree from CCAD in order to expand and refine her skills.

“I attended CCAD because I believe that to quest for excellence in modern filmmaking you have to have a strong understanding of technology,” she says. “Being at the college allowed me to up my game on that front.”

The Role of Editor

Capturing the story of military veterans coming from this milieu is important, Theodotou says. Her role as an editor is important as well.

“As Native Americans going into military service, they have a unique perspective from a historical and cultural standpoint, and it’s easy to get very clichéd about symbolism and simply rehash old, and mostly inaccurate, images,” she says.

“So as we document their stories and cut together a film about their perspective, we have to constantly reevaluate what we think the story is and reorient our perspective based on what we are learning. The goal is about uncovering the reality of their condition and their beliefs.”

Plans for Release

Additional filming for Warriors from the Reservation to obtain the government’s perspective will likely take place this summer at Pine Ridge and in Washington. Plans call for release of a documentary short, We Bleed Too: The Story of Tony Bush, this spring, followed by the main documentary film in late 2014.

A serious look at the issues is needed, Theodotou says.

“It’s not just about veteran issues, but also what Native Americans face as crises on a daily basis,” she says. “That is juxtaposed with the incredible and indelible spirit and hopefulness of these people, which so often gets lost in the sensationalism that dominates depictions of them.”

For more on the project, including trailers, visit its website,

All Warriors from the Reservation images in this story are © 2013 Warriors from the Reservation LLC, all rights reserved.