European Business: When did you realize that you wanted to devote your life to the protection of the environment? How much influence did the careers of your father and grandfather have on your decision?
Céline Cousteau: It was a progression and an accumulation of different moments, there was no one turning point where I decided to be a socio-environmental advocate.
My upbringing certainly had an impact, especially watching my mother working as an expedition photographer and traveling the world, always coming back with these incredible photos. She and my grandmother were great role models. My grandmother was actually on more expeditions than anyone else, but most people don’t know that because she was never in front of the camera. Their influence was always there but nothing was forced upon me. I always had a real curiosity for human behaviour, so I started studying psychology and then got a masters in Intercultural Management. Eventually when my father produced a series of ocean documentaries, I offered to do the logistics. That’s when I started to work in filmmaking and realized that storytelling has the power to shift human consciousness. Waking up every day and doing something with purpose is very rewarding and it’s something that motivates me.
European Business: What are the positive sides of carrying the famous last name Cousteau? When is it more of a curse?
Céline Cousteau: There are positive and negative sides, just like anything else in life. It is positive that the name Cousteau stands for something when I introduce myself. It has integrity and that is a beautiful thing to be associated with.
On the negative side of things, people always have certain assumptions when they meet me. They assume they know what I do and who I am. That’s normal human behaviour, but it does get a bit tiring. Especially when I still get introduced as the “granddaughter of”. I am over 40 now and I think I have done my fair share to be more than that.
European Business: Dissolving glaciers, polluted oceans, endangered species and tribes threatened by extinction: Your work shows the beauty of our planet and how close we are to losing it. Are you sometimes desperate when you see how things are developing? What gives you hope?
Céline Cousteau: I sometimes get desperate seeing ignorance and apathy and that people don’t care. I don’t understand how someone can know what is going on and not care. If it doesn’t affect them directly, it certainly affects someone they know or it will affect their children and grandchildren. I really have a hard time with apathy.
The lack of knowledge is not a reason not to act, it is a reason to educate yourself more. I am aware that our society is overrun with unnecessary information, so the real and important content has problems to filter through. We as activists need to tailor our messages so they can be heard and understood. People are so drawn towards negative messages, but we need to get away from that and focus on the positive and meaningful content.
The lack of knowledge is not a reason not to act, it is a reason to educate yourself more. Céline Cousteau
I am hopeful when I see people coming together, building a sense of community, sharing stories of hope and taking action in whatever way they can. When people get involved, it nourishes their spirit. It gives me hope that we can effect positive change.
I meet a lot of people that are creating positive change and even though the wider world sometimes can’t see them because they don’t have a platform, I know that they exist and that’s re-energizing every single time.
European Business: The Céline Cousteau Film Fellowship encourages and supports young filmmakers to produce meaningful and sustainable films. What power does video content have in our modern-day world and what is the main objective of the fellowship?
Céline Cousteau: Video can be a powerful instrument, but it is not easy to make a film visible nowadays. In our modern world we are constantly using different forms of media like TV, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Streaming content, etc. With all this choice it is natural for people to gravitate towards content they already know. New and different stories might get lost between funny cat videos and do-it-yourself-clips.
Video can be a powerful instrument, but it is not easy to make a film visible nowadays. Céline Cousteau
The fellowship is an opportunity for young aspiring filmmakers to make a cause focused film under our guidance. Video can be a powerful instrument, but it is not always easy to make a film visible nowadays. In our modern world we are constantly using different forms of media like TV, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Streaming content, et cetera. With all this choice it is natural for people to gravitate towards content they already know. Cause focused stories might get lost between funny cat videos and do-it-yourself-clips.
As filmmakers we must be thoughtful and clever, and take our content to where people are in order for it to matter. All these different platforms are a challenge, but they are also there for us to deliver our content easily and quickly all over the world. Of course, the higher paying jobs are in the feature film industry and that is where most young people gravitate. But we want to inspire future storytellers and activists to take part in a positive story. They can learn and attach their names to the legacy of storytelling - our goal is to support them in this attempt. The film fellowship doesn’t need me to be present in order to exist. My grandfather’s and father’s work has been very dependent on their physical presence. My hope is that I can pass on a legacy to other storytellers so they can continue telling cause focused stories beyond my own existence.