Save the Bay: Filmmaker Alexa Caravia

Alexa Caravia is one of the eminently talented Miami creatives who contributed to Oolite Arts’ Save the Bay campaign. Their PSA is one of the several shorts from the initiative highlighting how locals can do their part to preserve the water quality of Biscayne Bay.

Now through Wednesday, August 11, you can rewatch their short and others (just scroll to the bottom of 👉 this page) and vote for your favorite. The winner will be announced on Friday, August 13, when they’ll receive an honorary People’s Choice Award along with a $1,000 prize.

Read on for our full Q&A with Caravia. More info on Oolite Arts’ Save the Bay campaign and a roundup of The New Tropic’s interviews with participating filmmakers can be found right here.

Name and pronouns:

Alexa Caravia (she/her)

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your creative practices, and your ties to Miami-Dade?

I’m a filmmaker and I was born in Miami. What I appreciate most about being a filmmaker is that this art form provides endless opportunities to really dive into a wide range of topics. By encouraging us to learn, film inspires us to act. It’s a powerful medium. 

I received an MFA in Cinematography from NYU Tisch School of the Arts Asia in 2010 and since then I’ve shot a variety of films, documentaries, and commercials on location around the world. These experiences have expanded my mind, my heart, and my purpose. At best, films encourage us to judge less, listen more, and be more empathetic to one another and our environment. 

As a filmmaker, it’s a real gift when your values align with the work you’re producing, and this PSA contest provided me with that opportunity. Working as the video producer for The New Tropic previously also gave me this opportunity to connect with people and issues that are important to our local community. 

I work as a director, producer, and cinematographer, and I’m a firm believer that it’s not the tools you use to make the film, but the point of view from which you tell the story that solidifies its impact. 

Here’s a link to my bio in case you’d like to learn more: www.alexacaravia.com

What’s your personal connection to Biscayne Bay? Do you have any personal formative memories that took place there?

I was born in Miami and grew up loving everything about the sea. I even wanted to be a marine biologist when I was growing up (but my grandmother told me I was going to “die of hunger” if I chose that profession, so… I became an artist instead :D). 

Biscayne Bay is a gift; looking out at the bay brings me an unbelievable amount of peace every day. But under the surface, Biscayne Bay is in chaos. Last summer, the chaos reached my doorstep, when thousands of dead fish bubbled up to the surface and washed up onto the shores of the bay. It’s impossible to enjoy the peace and recreation the bay offers without addressing the chaos it’s experiencing. Ignoring this heartbreaking and imminent threat won’t make it go away; it will only exacerbate the chaos. 

So I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about the issues plaguing the bay and the invitation to use my platform as a filmmaker to spread awareness and encourage other Miamians — myself included — to do whatever we can to save the bay. She saves me on a daily basis, so it’s really the least I can do.

For me, the call to Save Biscayne Bay represents an opportunity for us to expand our consciousness and work collectively to create a more habitable city for one another as well as the wildlife that makes living here so extraordinary.

What can you share with us about your PSA? What were the driving concepts or ideas that informed it?

In Video Letter, a retired marine biologist reflects on a once-thriving ecosystem in decline. I wanted to explore this piece from the lens of an expert. I wanted the message to come from someone who has spent their career studying plant and marine life in Biscayne Bay. My PSA is a love letter to the bay, a visual account of its changing state, and a call to action. It’s a visit to the past and an invitation to create a brighter future. 

I made this PSA for anyone who can relate to the desire of wanting the work they do in this world to have meaning, of wanting to leave the world better than they found it, and of wanting to inspire younger generations to connect with a world that stretches beyond and beneath the concrete walls of the city. Its purpose, in essence, is to inspire audiences to reflect on their responsibility to the bay by making the magnitude of our impact on this vibrant and complex ecosystem visible. I hope this video emphasizes what an awesome responsibility it is to care for the bay, because caring for the bay is ultimately caring for our city and for ourselves. 

It’s for anyone that’s ever loved Miami and has seen it change but still remains optimistic that we can make a difference. 

How do you think art can help inspire folks and shape conversations around pressing issues like climate change?

At best, I think art encourages us to empathize with one another. It has the power to bridge gaps and connect us more deeply to each other and the world around us. From there, a space for conversation is created. In my PSA, I wanted the viewer to see that life underwater is sustained similarly to life above water. Just like us, marine creatures need food and oxygen to survive. And I wanted to show that we’re directly connected to their supply. It’s a crucial and powerful responsibility. 

When it comes to environmental issues that require our immediate attention like climate change, I think the most important thing to remember is that we can’t shame people into action. Instead, we can use our tools as filmmakers to build awareness, engage, educate and offer solutions. But most importantly, we need to lead by example in real life. Take a walk with a friend, pick up a stranger’s dog’s poop, and take one for the bay; you might just encourage them to do the same.

What do you hope viewers take away from your PSA or how they might be inspired by it?

I hope my PSA will inspire viewers to reflect on their connection to the bay. I don’t think anyone wants to be complicit in the death of entire ecosystems and marine life populations, but it’s easy for us to ignore what we don’t see. So I think the more awareness we bring to the issue — especially from a place of compassion for our environment rather than a place of criticism for inaction — is the strongest way to bring about real change.

Whether in the short or long term, what are the most immediate steps people can take to help Save the Bay?

I think internalizing the mantra “what happens on land, ends up in the bay” is a good place to start. Think about it this way: whatever’s in the grass, ends up in the bay. I think internalizing this mantra makes us more aware of our environment and encourages us to rethink how we treat the land. Actions as simple as picking up a stranger’s water bottle, a floating plastic bag, and yes, even your neighbor’s dog’s poop, can make a real difference. I don’t think we can change other people, but we can lead by example and inspire others to follow our lead.