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MSU graduate uncovers the ugly truth behind plastic in acclaimed documentary

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BOZEMAN—Bottles of honey, store bought seafood and even arctic sea ice—plastic has left its footprint on nearly every surface and food chain on the planet. The production, use and disposal of plastic is a global crisis explored in the critically acclaimed documentary “The Story of Plastic” directed by Montana State University graduate, Deia Schlosberg.

Schlosberg, a native of Upstate New York, is currently sheltering in place there with her family, said at first the project, proposed to her by the movie’s Producer, Stiv Wilson eight years ago, didn’t catch her attention right away. As time went on and plastic’s role in our environment became more of a threat, it became a no brainer; Schlosberg knew its story had to be told.

“At first I wasn’t sure if I could bring a lot of new commentary to that project,” said Schlosberg. “As time went on and international laws changed, plastic became more and more integral to fossil fuel development and it started overlapping with the work I was doing with fracking and climate impacts.”

Schlosberg’s career in film began near the end of a two-year trek through the Andes, an adventure that was featured in National Geographic’s 2009 “Adventures of the Year,” when she started researching programs that would marry her cinematography skills with her passion for shedding light on climate change issues. She settled on MSU’s filmmaking program.

After earning an MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at MSU in 2013, she directed and produced “Backyard,” which looks at the human cost of fracking, and produced Josh Fox’s “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change” and co-produced “Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock and The Reluctant Radical.”

Schlosberg is no stranger to getting her hands dirty in the name of environmental journalism. In 2016, she was arrested while filming protesters of the Keystone Pipeline in North Dakota. Fox wrote an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama calling for her release, which was signed by a variety of celebrities, including Mark Ruffalo and Neil Young.

“I was just there as a filmmaker journalist and documenting what I thought was important and got swept up into it,” said Schlosberg of the experience. “Journalism as a profession is an absolutely necessary service that we as a society have agreed to protect. It’s shining a light on something that hasn’t been seen or explored or viewed in that particular way. If people aren’t informed then they can’t responsibly make a decision about how to act.”

Currently Schlosberg is working on a docuseries that explores the concept of a universal basic income and follows 11 households through basic income trials over the past couple of years. She says working on the project during the Coronavirus has been a strange turn of events as much of the country is relying on the basic income framework that’s already in place—we are watching the premise of her docuseries unfold in real time.

“The Story of Plastic” was featured at a sold-out Bozeman Doc Series event at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture last February and it is slated for a global premiere on the Discovery Channel in celebration of Earth Day April 22, 2020.

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