At first glance, a group of teens yielding camera equipment and various electronics around water seems like a bad idea.  Now, incorporate the instability of standup paddleboards, whitewater rapids, and the goal of scooping up every piece of trash we float by!  “A recipe for catastrophe,” some will crow.  At First Waves, our eyes bulge and mouths water at this morsel of contrast, challenge, and adventure.

Photo: Renee Rosensteel, courtesy of The Sprout Fund

Led by Susan Howard of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, First Waves’ filmmaking instruction team has orchestrated some of Pittsburgh’s first adventure filmmaking expeditions for youth in the region.  Riverside cleanups on the urban shores of Pittsburgh’s South Side, a floating armada scouring the banks of Johnstown’s Stonycreek River, and a riparian polishing at Moraine State Park have all served as adventure classrooms for First Waves’ workshops.

Despite harsh conditions (because of them, in fact), the group is able to document challenges faced by our watersheds and provide a blueprint for community involvement and education.  Meet the filmmaking instruction team here….

Susan Howard

Susan Howard has been Director of Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media since 2007. An adjunct faculty member of Pittsburgh Filmmakers School of Film, Photography and Digital Media since 1988, she is co-author of the widely used filmmaking text, Shot By Shot: A Practical Guide to Filmmaking. A veteran film and video editor with credits ranging from public television to independent features and commercial production, she edited Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for more than ten seasons where she also directed the popular “Picture Picture” series of the show.

Molly Duerig

Molly Duerig is the Lead Instructor for Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media. She has produced multimedia pieces for various news outlets including, PublicSource. She contributed to the piece “Holly: One face of the national heroin crisis”, which won an award in the Society of Professional Journalists’ statewide competition for non-daily feature stories.  In addition to holding a dual B.A. in English and Spanish from Allegheny College, Molly is a graduate of the inaugural class of Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Filmmaking Intensive Program.

Louis Cappa

Louis Cappa is the Youth Media Operations Coordinator at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Since graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Film Studies and English Writing, Louis moonlights as a local independent media producer.  An advocate for media literacy in out-of-school time, Louis is also a member of the Sprout Fund’s Remake Learning Digital Corps. He has taught youth at Assemble Pittsburgh, Brothers and Sisters Emerging (BASE), and Boys and Girls Club of Shadyside.


Rishi Sethi is a Pittsburgh-based educator, filmmaker, and environmentalist. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he received his Master of Science in Environmental Policy from the University of Oxford. He is passionate about the capacity to affect change and spread knowledge through creative outlets such as writing, film, and technology.  In addition to collaborating with local filmmakers, Rishi teaches and works with students of all age groups at various schools, camps, and programs in the Pittsburgh area. In his free time he enjoys watching movies, playing with dogs, and eating Chipotle.

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