In September 2020, Jessika Raisor, Ryan Powell and Lisa Kettemer collaborated for a Lifeology SciComm challenge. The challenge was to team up with other Lifeology Community Members to create a SciArt project. They pitched the idea of Journey of Thereisa and won the challenge. They used the prize money to create the full Journey of Thereisa short film—”an artistic adventure through the Atlantic ocean and a look at the journey that both scientists and a young mother whale must take.”

From Lisa Kettemer before the creation of Journey of Thereisa: “We’re hoping that Theresia will be able to take people on her journey all the way through the ocean, introduce her calf, and show viewers the stops along the way. Were looking to establish a connection to the time she’s spending in the Arctic and on the high seas – where people will never see her. Both are rapidly changing ecosystems that many people don’t know much about! At the same time we hope to show how we’re studying these super mobile animals.”

Journey of Thereisa has the following designations so far:

  • Nature & Culture – Film Festival Copenhagen, Denmark – November 21, 2021 – Official Selection
  • AniMate – Australia Animation Film Festival Sydney, Australia – Semi-Finalist
  • New York City Independent Film Festival New York City, United States – June 12, 2022 –Official Selection

Watch Journey of Thereisa now and learn more about the project in the Q&A with Jessika and Ryan below.

Q: How did the collaboration process look for this project?

JESSIKA :: Me and Ryan began our collaborative work several years ago through the Psyche Inspired program where we created another science music video. After that experience, making another media piece like that was on the back of our minds. I had already been doing contract work with Lifeology and was in the Slack group so when the September Challenge got announced we knew we had to find a scientist to work with! We eventually matched with Lisa in the group and had a couple of video calls but mostly worked out our pitch and the rest of the project through email (there was a huge time difference!) For the actual production, Lisa provided us with her research and reference images of Norway, the tracking device, data, etc. Then Ryan worked on the writing out the story and music, once we had the storyline in place I began storyboarding and eventually began animating. 

Q: Journey of Thereisa takes an artistic and story-driven approach to communicating about the science. How has this made a difference or impact on the research behind the film?

RYAN :: I always view it as the art and the science communication helping each other be as effective as they can. For example, if a piece is communicating science, then having it also hold up as good art will only help the science outreach. And vice versa, if a piece can stand as quality art, then having it based in truth and real-world scientific events, will only amplify its power. It’s always a different balance depending on the project for which to lean into more, and in this case we leaned into the art approach more given the topic and the sort of nice built-in story already there!

Be on the lookout for a Lifeology course created by Jessika, Ryan and Lisa about the science behind the film!

Q: What is your favorite part of the Journey of Thereisa product and/or what was your favorite part about the creation process?

JESSIKA :: I loved being able to experiment with a new look for my animation, I love watercolor and so to be able to make a whole film with the watercolor look was really exciting. I think it made all the scenes particularly beautiful. I also enjoyed being able to interpret the science through a more artistic lens. In my day-to-day works, I am working on nursing or general science courses, and there is room for creativity of course to make the content engaging but it still has to stay within medical accuracy. Journey of Thereisa let us take more artistic license to tell this story without being dry and literal. Like the tracking device placement and the migration map are all accurate but Theresia giving birth with bioluminescence sparkling behind her was an artistic interpretation. I’d like to think we capture the passion the scientist have and interpret it so the general audience can pick up on it as well.

Q: What’s next for Journey of Thereisa? What’s next for a Jessika+Ryan collab?

RYAN :: I’ve recently been working with Stem Advocacy Institute (SAi) where they are helping kickstart our science-inspired animated song studio! The project is called Goldilocks Zone, and so far the team consists of just Jessika and I with plans to launch in a matter of only a couple months! With the legitimacy of a small studio, we will be continuing to work with STEM educators and communicators to help them tap into the power of song and story. On top of that, we have a couple work-in-progress commissions that we can’t wait to share!