An enlightening exploration with Celine Cousteau

Documentary filmmaker and conservationist Celine Cousteau speaks with senior psychology major Laura Semenkewitz, center, and Jade Metzler, a junior studying biology, right.

April 2, 2013

By Frank Radosevich II

As a documentary filmmaker and conservationist, Celine Cousteau has swum off the coast of Antarctica and traipsed through the jungles of the Amazon. But few realize her career as a storyteller also includes editing video clips on a computer or spending hours planning out a five-second shot.

The daughter of Jean-Michel Cousteau and granddaughter of Jacques Yves Cousteau, the legendary ocean explorers and filmmakers, Cousteau came to Bradley to show students life behind and in front of the camera.

“There is always more than one part to the story,” said Cousteau, who has worked as field producer, on-camera presenter and photographer for numerous documentaries and television shows. “It’s a great field but I want to show more of the other side.”

She spoke on campus as part of the Women in Science lecture series, a series of talks, organized by Bradley's Women's Studies Program, that examine the continued barriers female scientists face while recognizing the success of those who have overcome them. Cousteau, however, does not consider herself a scientist.

Rather, she said, her mission is to serve as an interpreter between scientists and the general public, helping translate and explain scientific research in a clear and meaningful way.

“What scientists and researchers are doing in their field right now is completely relevant,” she said. “My job is to help explain what they’re doing and why it’s important.”

That was a message that resonated with Jade Metzler, a junior biology major. She said more people are needed to bridge the gap between scientist and the public.

“She’s definitely a trailblazer. I grew up watching her grandfather’s documentaries so I think it’s nice to show that women can do this,” Metzler said. “Women can be explorers. It doesn’t have to be a man, we can do the exact same things.”

During her talk, Cousteau gave students a glimpse into working on documentary films and urged them to apply what they study to daily life. With a degree in psychology and a master's in intercultural relations, Cousteau said her career path wasn’t geared toward ocean exploration. She said students should remain open when it comes to weighing their career options.

“It’s important for students to see that having one degree does not put them in a category,” she said. “They can take their knowledge and apply it to other areas and work across disciplines.”

One student still weighing his options was senior Sam Shafer, a television arts major and biology minor, who talked with Cousteau about the challenges and benefits of filming on location. He said he was inspired by Cousteau’s aim to tell old stories in new ways that change how people think and act.

“She shoots to tell the story that isn’t being told,” Shafer said. “She’s trying to make it more relatable, taking it to their homes.”