TERRA: The Nature of our World, a site that makes available free downloads of science and natural history films, won a Webby in the category of best student on-line film and video. The New York Times has called the Webbys the "Oscars of the Internet." TERRA producers will pick up the award in ceremonies to be held June 4 in New York City.
TERRA was one of 8,000 entries from 60 countries and all 50 states considered for the Webby awards, founded in 1996.
"The Webby is an acknowledgement to the student-faculty community that built TERRA that their work is as good and as competitive as any site of its type in the world," said Ronald Tobias, a Montana State University film professor who is the director of the university's master's degree program in science and natural history filmmaking.
"The program has committed itself to the idea that the future is on the web, and the Webby acknowledges that the program has created a site that is indeed indicative of the quality of our mission."
Tobias said that the TERRA site was launched in November 2005 "on a wing and a prayer" to provide an outlet for "honest, creative and truthful programming about the environment." Since then, more than 2.5 million films have been downloaded from the site, making it one of the largest Internet sites of its kind in the world. About 15,000 people a day download programs from the site. Much of the programming is provided by students in MSU's graduate program for science and natural history filmmaking.
"TERRA was produced by the goodwill, creative talent and dedication of a small group of graduate students and faculty in the graduate program for science and natural history filmmaking at MSU," said Tobias, a co-founder of the site. "TERRA is proof that you can be a worldwide presence on a shoestring budget and a lot of commitment."
Eric Bendick, co-founder of the site and a graduate student in the film program, said TERRA's success proves that there is incredible potential for developing a new model for media "where innovation, creativity, discovery and good relationships are the rule and not the exception."
"It has been an amazingly rewarding ride from the start and I hope the journey is just beginning," said Bendick, who will be attending the awards ceremony. "We are extremely thankful for the support of the entire TERRA and MSU community in this joint effort - our accomplishment is really their accomplishment because without them there would truly be no us."
Eric Bendick (406) 994-6227, firstname.lastname@example.org