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Grad student Joe Brown focuses on environmental issues

While most aspiring filmmakers tend to consider themselves movie buffs, Joe Brown, a first year graduate student studying filmmaking, says he’s never been well versed in pop culture.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown's first film, "National Sacrifice Zone: Colorado and the Cost of Energy Independence," has been screened at several film festivals and now is part of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival's national tour. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

“I never even saw Home Alone,” jokes Brown, who studied philosophy and history as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado.

Then again, calling Brown an aspiring filmmaker would be ignoring the fact that his first film, National Sacrifice Zone: Colorado and the Cost of Energy Independence, has been screened at several film festivals and now is part of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival’s national tour.

“I’m really interested in the power of documentaries to address social issues,” says Brown, whose concern about oil and gas drilling in Colorado prompted him to begin exploring film.

With established success and natural leadership, Brown stands out among his classmates, according to Sheila Schroeder, assistant professor of mass communications.

“He brings a really wonderful critical understanding and questioning to the table that we don’t necessarily see from everyone,” says Schroeder. “Most students are not submitting their work to festivals, but Joe understands the importance of getting your work out to the public.”

Educating the public on environmental issues motivates Brown, who chairs the Colorado Environmental Film Festival and has been commissioned by Denver Urban Gardens to make a documentary about the benefits of growing your own food and being part of a community.

To balance film studies with what he considers more practical skills, Brown also is working toward a degree in library science. After graduation, he plans on pursuing either a doctorate in mass communications and cultural studies or a masters of fine arts in film.

But don’t expect Brown’s talent and ambition to lead to Hollywood, because both qualities stem from his belief that what makes film valuable to society is its ability to promote and effect change. And, at the end of the day, Brown wants nothing more from his film career than the opportunity to make “films about social issues and get them shown to as many people as possible with the hope they will lead to some discussion and help change something.”


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