We first heard of Caroline Losneck when “Diving for Scallops,” the mesmerizing film she and Christoph Gelfand made about a Maine scallop diver, popped up on the New York Times website as part of its Op-Docs series. Source had interviewed and photographed that same diver, Jamie Sewell, in a story about the sustainability of the scallop fishery. The film was lush with ambient sound, and the way it took viewers below the surface, both figuratively and literally, reminded us of the old adage about pictures being worth a thousand words. We called Losneck up to talk about her multimedia work – she produces radio pieces for Marketplace and MPBN in radio and makes documentary installations – and learned about how she lives the hustle as a creative type.

HOW SHE DESCRIBES HERSELF: It’s complicated. She’s not purely a filmmaker. Or purely a radio producer. “I work at the intersections of documentary radio, film and installation.” But rarely alone. “I’m fortunate and honored to have found creative (and inspiring!) partners …Working alongside other artists and filmmakers allows me to take creative risks I’m not sure I’d take if I were working alone.”

REELING THEM IN: How did she and Gelfand land the coveted spot on the New York Times website? “I had been kind of watching the Op-Docs series and really admiring some of the work that was coming out of there. … They didn’t seem like they would prohibit you from taking certain risks.” So she pitched, and editors there said they liked the idea. It took six months from then to get the film finished and up on the site.

A FISH TALE: She’s done pieces for public radio’s Marketplace on the Maine shrimp fishery as well as scallops (the latter led her to Sewell, who dives for scalloƒps even though he has only one arm) and co-partnered with Gelfand on an immersive documentary installation called Fyke Tide, which debuted as part of the 2013 Camden International Film Festival. For that, she spent some time with elver fishermen. It’s loaded with gems, including the fisherman who tells her he loves the profits but prefers cod and tuna fishing to elvers “because you get to kill them, gut them out, blood and guts.” One compared the highly regulated elvers to weeds in the garden, about which his father had said he’d never pull the last one. “There will always be another one, just like the eels.”

THREE ISLANDS: Losneck’s professional biography says she grew up in Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie, has lived on three islands and “isn’t afraid to live on another.” We asked her to identify them. Vancouver Island (in British Columbia), Whidbey (in Puget Sound) and Peaks in Casco Bay. How did she land on the first? “In college there was a study-abroad program to study fisheries and forestry,” she said (her degree from Oberlin is in environmental science). “And I studied on Vancouver Island at the Huu-ay-aht First Nation Reserve.” Logging had all but destroyed the habitat of the native fisheries. “It’s not just the fishing. There is also so much cultural stuff that comes with the loss of the fisheries.”

IT’S ALL ACADEMIC: It was frustrating observing life on the reservation from outside it. “It was mostly 30 white kids in Gore-Tex coats studying with very little interaction with the reservation.” Eight of the group got a grant to stay longer and moved onto the reservation for the summer. Then Losneck stayed on for another year and a half. Was it that time studying Canadian First Nation fisheries that made her so open to Maine fish tales? Lately, she’s come to think it goes deeper, to the weekends she spent with her dad on his sailboat on Lake Erie. Back then, when they were getting up early and fishing for perch and dealing with the bait worms and her brother was annoying her, “I’d dread it.” But now she recognizes how soothing it was. “Looking back, I would die to have that opportunity again.”


SWITCHING COASTS: She came to Maine in 2000, on something of a whim. As a young person, she had started feeling isolated on the reservation; many of the tribe’s younger members had left to find work elsewhere. “As much as it was amazing, I was lonely for something.” Her brother was living on Peaks with a girlfriend, and she decided to join him. Her first job in Portland was with AmeriCorps/VISTA, working at the Maine Coalition for Food Security in the Peace and Justice Center, which at that point housed a number of nonprofits, including the Toxic Action Center. She also got to know her new city by delivering food for Federal Spice on her bicycle, “which was appropriate because I am still a bicycle commuter.”

ON NATURE’S SIDE: The outdoors lures her. “It doesn’t have to be Acadia,” she said. “It could be a walk I take into town and the sound of the leaves blowing. My outside time is when I feel the clearest. I understand that my mental health is really closely tied to being outside.” Everyone, she said, deserves that. “Whether you are rich or poor, it is an easy thing we should provide to everybody.”

MOVIE MAKING: It wasn’t until she moved to Maine that she began to explore the medium of film, taking classes from Kate Kaminski (founder of the Bluestocking Film Series) at the University of Southern Maine. One of her upcoming projects is an animated film “that involves climate change in Maine.” She’s loath to say too much about it yet. But it intrigues her the way the conversation about climate change rocks our emotional world. “We are a quick society so we have a quick answer for most things. But this is sort of an ongoing conversation that some people aren’t comfortable with, because they’re thinking, ‘When can we stop having this conversation?’ and the answer is, ‘probably never.’ ”

AMERICAN HUSTLE: None of this work sounds particularly profitable. How does she make a living? “It’s a bit of a hustle being 100 percent independent,” she said. “It is really hard. Every week is completely different. My schedule is wacky because I take jobs whenever I can.” That might mean painting houses or cleaning someone’s Airbnb rental. “I have little jobs scattered all over the place.”

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 2:43 p.m. on May 23 to clarify that Losneck studied Canadian First Nation fisheries.

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