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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

‘Silent Skies’ racks up accolades

Remy Oktay ’24 and Trebor Maitin ’24 accepted two Anthem Awards for their documentary. (Photo courtesy of Remy Oktay ’24)

While planning their electric plane flyover for the 2022 fall Rivalry game, Remy Oktay ‘24, Trebor Maitin ‘24 and Zachary Fiske ‘23 did not expect the footage to be turned into an award-winning documentary.

This past weekend, the team of three attended the Colorado Environmental Film Festival to present their documentary, for which they were nominated for Best Short Film. This three-day festival provides a space and community for filmmakers and environmental enthusiasts to share their work and engage with other’s projects.

Made possible by the Beyond the Classroom Endowment, the trio showed their documentary titled “Silent Skies.” The film follows Oktay, Maitin and Fiske as they organize the first electric plane flyover for the fall 2022 Lafayette-Lehigh Rivalry football game.

The flyover of a small, 2-person electric plane over a large stadium, while exciting, also had a clear purpose.

“The goal of this is to get people to begin that acclimatization towards electric aircraft now so that in 20 to 25 years when the technology is ready, people already trust it and they’re excited to get on board,” Oktay said.

Though the students’ process of arranging the flyover was filmed, they did not anticipate the footage being transformed into a documentary. By working with outside editors and collaborating within the group, a powerful, 16-minute film was made.

“I had to do a lot of voiceovers to fill in all these gaps and explain stuff,” Oktay said of the editing process. “Zach and Trebor were awesome, we would watch through the cuts and say like, ‘oh, that doesn’t make sense.’”

The film became a way for the group to communicate its message to as wide an audience as possible after the flyover.

“This film allows people who never even heard about Lafayette College or the Laf-Lehigh rivalry to experience this really monumental event,” Maitin said.

Not only can film reach countless people, but it communicates ideas in an especially powerful way, according to Maitin.

“I’m pretty good with the written word, but that lacks something, right?” Maitin said. “We’re humans, we’re visual creatures and to see something in front of you, you’re able to engage with it a lot more.”

Oktay and Maitin had an inspiring experience at the festival. 

“You’re exposed to a whole different level of filmmaking than what you typically see on Apple TV or Netflix,” Oktay said. “You get these much more personal stories that I feel like are almost more relatable because it’s real people’s lives.” 

Shawna Crocker, founder of the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, shared a similar perspective on the effectiveness of film. 

“We decided that film was a powerful way to change behaviors and attitudes and knowledge,” Crocker said. “Using multiple senses, eyes, ears and just sitting next door to somebody in a dark room at a festival, can help to establish understanding.”

Audience member James Plagmann, a green architect, appreciated the sign of progress being made in the field of electric aviation.

“It was really great to see a concrete example of a small plane using electric power to fly,” Plagmann said. “This was really dipping the toe in the water to demonstrate, even at a small scale, that this is something that’s possible.”

The Colorado Environmental Film Festival showing and Best Short Film nomination aren’t the only accolades the film has received. “Silent Skies” has been selected to be shown at eight film festivals, as well as placed as a finalist at the Raw Science Film Festival in Los Angeles. At the Anthem Awards Ceremony in New York, the film won gold in the sustainability and climate change category and bronze in the responsible technology category.

The film will soon join the Wild and Scenic Film Festival Tour and spread the story globally.

Disclaimer: Managing Editor Trebor Maitin ’24 did not contribute writing or reporting.

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