Montana State University

Provost lecture series kicks off Oct. 24 with Aig’s observations on film and society

October 10, 2017 -- MSU News Service

Dennis Aig, filmmaker and director of MSU’s acclaimed MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking, will speak about media and film’s role in society at the first MSU Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series event of the academic year, set for Oct. 24 at the Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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Dennis Aig has stories. In more than 30 years as a filmmaker, the Montana State University film professor has been involved in scores of films, large and small and long and short; and during that time, he has amassed an astounding number of stories, observations and insights about filmmaking and the place of media in modern society.

He will share some of those stories in “Never Just a Movie: Hearts, Minds and Media,” the first of this year’s MSU Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series lectures, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 in the Museum of the Rockies’ Hager Auditorium. Aig’s lecture will be followed by a reception.

Aig is known as an academic as well as an award-winning filmmaker with a long list of credits to his resume, including producing and/or directing both documentary and dramatic productions for the Walt Disney Company, National Geographic, PBS, Lifetime, the National Science Foundation, NASA and other companies, organizations and agencies.

Recently, he has received recognition as producer of the documentaries “Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story” and “Unbranded,” which Aig jokes was “’Lonesome Dove’ without cows.” Both feature-length documentaries were directed by Philip Baribeau, a former student of Aig’s in the MSU School of Film and Photography, which is in the College of Arts and Architecture. Aig has won many awards for his work including a CINE Golden Eagle, 17 Tellys, four regional Emmys and a Gold Hugo.

Aig said that the common theme with nearly all of his films is that they are good stories that combine the pursuit of intellectual ideas with human emotion.

“One of the things that filmmaking allows someone to do is wed emotion and ideas together,” Aig said. “That is what I’ve tried to do my entire career.”

Aig said that is particularly true in science communications, which is a branch of filmmaking quite familiar to him. He heads MSU’s prestigious MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking program, which he helped found. Aig is a frequent science documentary filmmaker who was executive producer of the MSU-based WildFIRE PIRE series of podcasts. He also produced and directed “A Shout Across Time,” which visually explained Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as part of MSU’s Celebrating Einstein project in 2013.

Aig said the magical dance of ideas and emotion is famously evidenced in some of the great feature films. An example is “A River Runs Through It,” a celebration of family and fishing, in which Aig was involved. He and his students made “Shadow Casting,” a documentary about the making of the now-iconic film. Aig was similarly involved with “The Horse Whisperer.” Both films were Robert Redford projects.

Through the decades there have been many technological shifts in his field. Aig said societal shifts have also impacted filmmaking and storytelling, which have a more important place in most people’s lives than ever before.

“Media impact has become a subject of discussion across the spectrum of political belief and activism,” Aig said. He said his talk will look at how media has evolved in the last 30 years in the contexts of information, science communication, digital media, television and, “of course, entertainment.”

“When each person carries his or her world on a device in a pocket, purse or backpack, everyone’s thought and belief processes undergo a fundamental and often perplexing transformation,” he said. He said how those words, images and narratives assert such a powerful influence on our lives will be the focus of his lecture.

“It used to be you had to make a decision to watch film. Today in the course of an email you will be exposed to video in one form or another. It has a kind of progressive impact on us. It’s important to understand how this stuff works.”

Dennis Aig, 406-994-6216, daig@montana.edu

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