Nick Neumann (SFWS 2008), Documentary Filmmaker

With a duffel bag of camera equipment and a one-way ticket to Rio de Janeiro, budding documentary filmmaker Nick Neumann (SFWS 2008) and two travel companions will “embark on an epic journey around the world” in June called “Breaking Borders”. Part film project and part travel adventure, the team will chronicle the trip for their webtv series, and explore social, political, and human interest story ideas along the way. 

Nick is joined by photographer and fellow alum Walker Dawson (SFWS 2008) and writer Chris Moreno (SFWS 2009). First stop:  the World Cup in Rio de Janiero, accommodations supplied by a local documentary filmmaker discovered though AirBnB.

The trip is the latest in a series of adventures by Neumann that began during a post-high school “gap year.”  Following six month of working and saving money, Nick traveled through India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Cambodia — always with camera in hand.

When he returned home, Nick began studies at Occidental College, majoring in Diplomacy and World Affairs and minoring in film. He graduated from college last spring following a four-month study abroad program to Tanzania that focused on wildlife conservation and political ecology. 

The Africa program, sponsored by the School of International Training, included 24 students from colleges around the country. The first night in Tanzania was spent in tents on a wildlife preserve, watchperson standing by. Following orientation and Swahili language instruction, students conducted intensive studies in different regions of the country, ending with a month-long independent study.  For Nick, an examination of water access and management was the clear choice.

“In peaceful Tanzania the greatest cause of poverty is the lack of access to water,” noted Nick. “Water ties the community, agriculture, and wildlife together in a complex and increasingly fragile web — an issue I wanted to explore.”

Nick set out for the Katuma River which runs through Katavi National park near the border with the Congo and eight hours from the nearest paved road.  Once a perennial river, drought conditions combined with population increases and unregulated
rice irrigation by small farmers has strained supplies.  Nick talked to local farmers, interviewed water district managers, and saw first-hand the impact of dwindling water supplies on human and wildlife populations.  His study of the problems and possible solutions culminated in the short film, Katuma: River of Contradiction.

With his next project just around the corner, Nick reflected fondly on his time at San Francisco Waldorf School — from the third grade Covelo field trip to a high school photographic essay on homelessness.  Nature and art, so fundamental to his school experiences, continue to find expression today.

Resourceful, open-minded, and adventurous, Nick sees travel as a way to keep exploring social, political, and environmental issues.  “It’s about putting yourself out there,” he said.  “It’s about being open to new people and new experiences, and wanting to keep learning.”

Visit Nick’s blog: wearebreakingborders.com