Lights, camera, action

November 18, 2013 admin

Something everyone should want to see more of at infrastructure conferences are short films about projects and assets — if for nothing else, to break up some of the PowerPoint monotony. However, these films can be much more than a means to change the pace of an event. I saw a few of these at the CG-LA North American Infrastructure Leadership Forum in Denver last year, and at the time there was discussion about the value the medium can lend to communicating a project.

CG-LA Infrastructure has built on this idea of film and infrastructure. At its fifth annual North American Infrastructure Leadership Forum, held in Washington D.C., Oct 28-31, CG-LA Infrastructure introduced a full-fledged film festival: CG-LA’s inaugural Infrastructure Short Film Expo, which is supported by Johns Hopkins University, the American Council on Renewable Energy and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Infrastructure projects and assets are particularly well-suited for film because they typically cover a large swatch of geography — explaining the who, what, where, why and when can be made easier by incorporating visuals. Consider rail and canal systems, or transmission lines and pipelines that span hundreds and thousands of miles. Even the “smaller” assets are quite substantial, such as ports, airports and bridges as well as complex multi-modal projects with rail, road, port and airport. Infrastructure projects also involve an array of public and private interests that film can quickly show simply by panning across the landscape the piece of infrastructure will inhabit.

In other words, film can quickly communicate the scale of a project, its use and impact on a community or region as well as its history and future.

“If Daniel Hudson Burnham, the great architect/planner and urban visionary, were alive today, he would use short videos like these to present his big plans,” says professor Michael Anikeeff, chair of the Real Estate Program and chair of the Edward St. John Real Estate Department, Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University.

At the CG-LA forum, attendees could view 65 short films that were first previewed at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. The finalist films for the three categories — Strategic Projects, Cities/Olympics, Leadership — are available at the CG-LA Infrastructure website.

The finalist’s sessions were held at the U.S. Senate Visitors Center, and the winners were picked by a panel comprising Steven Johnson from AECOM, David Schultz from DART, Michael Pompay from MMFX Technologies Co. and Brian Pallasch from ASCE.

“The debate was energetic and combative, focusing on our lost tradition of building iconic infrastructure — ‘infrastructure that means something, and that says something,’” CG-LA notes.

A few of my favorite films were Learning from Blackpool — a film about a beachfront town in England that remade its waterfront to stop rising tides from washing away the community’s draw as a destination — and Elders: Crenshaw/LAX Community Film Series — a short story about the return of the street car to Los Angeles. And the sheer engineering scale of the Panama Canal expansion project on display in Panama Canal Expansion Program Update — August 2013, was awe-inspiring.

CG-LA will host a second Infrastructure Short Film Expo in New York City in February. Anyone who would like to submit a film can do so by sending to CG-LA using to

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DrewWebsiteDrew Campbell is senior editor of Institutional Investing in Infrastructure.

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