Published: July 14, 2009
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When Dana Plays decided to document life along the Hillsborough River,
she knew the river was important. After all, it would be hard to imagine
The University of Tampa without the river.
But what started as a
fairly simple project to capture the river on video — a documentary of
32 shorts called “The Hillsborough River Runs Through It” — has turned
into something much bigger for Plays, a UT associate professor of
communication. Now, she is focusing on the river’s environmental
Her goal: educate Tampa residents about the fragile
state of the river, telling them why they should care and what they can
do about it. Plays has posted a number of videos on YouTube.com to build
awareness of the issues.
“The river is one of Tampa’s
treasures,” said Plays, who teaches film and production courses at UT.
“I am excited to do anything I can to show how important it is.”
interviewed local environmentalists like Phil Compton, the Florida
representative for the Sierra Club and part of an environmental advocacy
group called Friends of the River, and Brian Schatz, a Tampa landscape
professional who advocates the use of native plants.
also include a close-up of the old Tampa Museum of Art building being
knocked down, interviews from a tour of the river taken by Tampa city
and corporate officials, and footage showing both the urban fabric of
the river to the south and its scenic, peaceful nature to the north.
“I’ve always had an interest in rivers, so the Hillsborough River project is a natural extension of that,” she said.
work is part of a wide-ranging career for Plays, who has taught at UT
since 2005. At Occidental College in Los Angeles, she produced a video
called “River Madness” about the Los Angeles River, another waterway in
an urban setting that faces environmental issues. She has also taught at
Syracuse University, and has produced a variety of documentary films.
Her films have been showcased at the Whitney Museum of American Art and
at more than 50 international film festivals.