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SOI educator Q&A with Sira Chayer

Sira Chayer is one of SOI’s incredible videographers! She has been capturing videos of every SOI Arctic expedition since 2012, and last winter she documented her first SOI Antarctic expedition. We’re excited to see the incredible work she does this summer alongside fellow videographer Pascale Otis!


How did you make the switch from studying biology to becoming a videographer?

It may seems strange to switch from biology to videography, but it wasn’t for me at all. In fact, when I studied biology in university, it was to later become a scientific journalist. I wanted to communicate sciences. So after having completed a bachelor in biology, I did two more years in Université de Montréal to get a certificate in journalism. I then started working as a journalist, photographer and videographer for different news media, where I have been working mostly with general issues rather than specialized ones. But my interest for biological sciences slowly led me to take part in projects related to sciences and the environment. As a freelancer now, I can choose the projects I want to be involved with and I can even develop my own video projects related to the topics I like the most, biological sciences, the environment and social sciences.



A minke whale that followed the ship during the Antarctic 2014 expedition

What are some of your favourite memories from SOI expeditions?

Every single day of an SOI expedition is unique and memorable. Life changing moments and epiphanies are not rare during an SOI journey. The experience is so rich and intense that I would have hundreds of memories to share. But what comes first to my mind, what moves me the most about those trips, is the inner growth experienced by everybody on the ship during this two weeks journey. It is truly the most beautiful thing to observe. The students and the staff always come out of this experience changed and energized, ready to follow their dreams more than ever. It’s the north and the people from the north that brought us this feeling of well-being. The breathtaking sceneries, flora and fauna of the polar regions open our eyes and our heart in a very special way. I remember a minky whale swimming and dancing around the ship for two hours. I remember our arrival to Uummannaq in Greenland, the most beautiful village I have ever seen, built at the foot of an immense heart-shape mountain, where we could literally feel the love and warmth of the place and its inhabitants. I remember the excitement of seing a polar bear for the first time. I remember the pure and untouched beauty of the poles which often look like unreal spectacles and which have the power to bring out the best of ourselves, like if the absolute beauty of the north could transform our soul forever. A feeling that is decupled when shared altogether.


Any tips for students interested in videography?

My advice for students interested in videography would be to go for it! With the internet and social media phenomenon right now, the need for videos of all kinds is increasing. So you will definitely find career possibilities in that field. We are in an era of mass communication and videos and photos are great tools of communication today. An image is worth a thousand words after all. 

Think about what kind of video production you would like to do. It could be adventure or wildlife films, documentary films, corporate videos, journalism reports or even fiction movies. Videos can be included in a multimedia project for the web, it can be for an ipad application or for the big screen of movie theaters. In all cases, I suggest you to watch a lot of videos and films to inspire yourself, taking notes of what works, what you like and don’t like. 

Sira filming penguins at Bailey Head during the Antarctic 2014 expedition

Sira filming penguins at Bailey Head during the Antarctic 2014 expedition

Now that good video gear is accessible at fairly low costs, I also recommend that you save money to buy your own video equipment as soon as possible to start your own little projects. The best way to learn videography is by trials and errors, by practicing and by hands-on experiences. You should also get a good video editing program, like Final Cut Pro X, to start editing your own videos. Knowing how to edit a video will change the way you will film afterward. 

Finally, depending on the type of video production you are interested in, it would be good to go study in that field, like in cinema production, documentary film production, or journalism, to have a strong background, to create contacts and get better job opportunities. It is good to learn by ourselves, but it is very good to learn from professionals as well. 


Tell me about your recent studies in herbal medicine?

I recently started studying in herbal medicine in order to become an herbalist. I wish to become a guide for people’s physical, mental and spiritual health. It is not something to be accomplished overnight of course! So slowly, but surely, I am now moving toward that goal, while keeping working in the video production field. I will never cease to produce videos, since it’s a passion for me and a way to express myself. But I felt the need to do something else in my life and career. Some recent food sensitivity issues led me to discover the wonderful world of plants, including our daily food, and their healing properties. I truly believe that they way of treating many modern illnesses would be to go back to traditional medicine and ancestral ways of healing. Studying botany and the realm of plants and their powerful properties brings me back to my studies in biology. Everything seems to be connected now, which is great!


What are you looking forward the most about this expedition?

I am looking forward to meet with new inspiring young students, to get to learn from them as it’s been the case during every past expeditions. I can’t wait to learn more again this year about the inuit culture and to visit villages and places I have never been yet. This year, the itinerary planned by the SOI team will bring us quite far north, up to Sirmilik National Park, which is quite exciting! I am really looking forward to visiting that region and to bring back great images of the place. Every trip to the north with Students on Ice feels like a real privilege to me, it’s like having the chance to add another stone, a precious stone I should say, to the inukshuk of my life experiences.

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