Andrew Older | Provided

Local River Forest eighth grader Andrew Older has taken his passion for fishing and turned it into the subject of his video submission for the One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest — where he has been awarded their Honorable Mention Award. 

The 13-year-old Roosevelt Middle Schooler created a three-minute film, “Invasive Fish in the Des Plaines River,” to explain how the invasive goby fish and Asian carp came to the river and how they are crowding out native species. Andrew included illustrations and maps to explain how the invasive species were introduced: the goby fish were introduced from Eastern Europe via ballast water from international ships traveling through the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes, while the Asian carp traveled up the Mississippi river from southern waters where they are used to control algal blooms, a rapid increase in the density of algae in the water. 

“Through this film festival, I hope to share my concern for native fish and their ecology that is threatened by invasive species,” Andrew said in his contest entry. 

An avid fisherman, Andrew, who has a passion for being outdoors, has been an active member of Roosevelt’s fishing club and has participated on the Trout Team. After learning about the contest through Roosevelt science teacher Cory Kadlec, Andrew gave thought to what different topics he could focus on. After learning about the goby fish in the fishing club, Andrew knew he had found the subject for his film. 

“I have always thought about invasive species as happening in places around the world but I never had it up close where I could really see the effect it has,” Andrew said. “I wanted to learn more about how it affected all the other species, the environment, and what it could mean for the ecosystem in that area.” 

Andrew set out to learn more about fish in Thatcher Woods, his local go-to fishing spot, and submitted his film back in March. 

In his video, Andrew also provides information on different ways people can help control the population, which include participating in fishing events aimed at catching goby and carp and eating more carp, because as he mentioned in the video, who doesn’t like a fish taco. Andrew also included information on different foundations, including the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Forest Preserve Foundation, to where people can donate towards the cause. 

“By raising awareness about invasive species and taking steps to prevent their growth, we are making sure that the next generation are going to have fun memories of catching native fish,” Andrew said in the video. 

Founded in 2013, the filmmakers contest was originally a national contest but has expanded internationally for the first time in 2023. This year, they received 403 submissions from around the world from youth ages eight to 25 years old. 

The contest accepts submissions for animated or stop-motion films and the films were judged by a jury of 32 experts in sustainability and film. 

Out of 403 submissions from 45 countries and 37 U.S. states, Andrew was awarded Honorable Mention alongside 11 other filmmakers. 

“I was really excited,” Andrew said. “And I was excited to hear about how many submissions there were. I was really proud of myself.” 

Caroline Older, Andrew’s mom, who helped Andrew keep organized through the production of the film, said she was very excited and proud of her child. 

“This is a great way to get kids feeling like they can make a difference,” Older said. “It gives them a much broader audience than if they were just to post on YouTube by themselves. The platform allows the students’ voices to be heard in different countries, that is really exciting.” 

For Andrew, being able to combine his passions with the contest was a lot of fun and he is open to pursuing other projects like the filmmaking contest, he said.

Through his work for the film contest, Andrew was put in contact with local organization Deep Roots Project, which educates locals on how to grow their own vegetables in raised beds to promote a more equitable and sustainable food system, and he is filming their garden throughout the summer. 

While Andrew is honored about the praise his film received, he believes anyone, regardless of their age, can be an advocate. 

“It is really easy to put your voice out there and spread the word about the environment,” Andrew said. “I think anyone can do it.”

Andrew’s film, along with the other contest winners, will be showcased Sunday, Sept. 17, during this year’s Global Awards Celebration held at the Gene Siskel Film Center on State Street in Chicago. The event, which is free to the public, begins at 11:30 a.m. and can be streamed online.

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