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Science, science everywhere, nor any drop to drink: film as the gateway to making scientists serve society better through engineering
33 backers pledged $15,325 to help bring this project to life.

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Cotton, Burgers & Water tells us the story of a Pakistani cotton farmer and a researcher based in the US. Our two protagonists are from two different parts of the world and their surroundings are quite different and yet they are bound by a common theme - cotton and water. The researcher conducts research on water on a region where cotton is grown by the farmer that uses water. Both protagonists can learn a lot from each other and yet are not yet engaging because of the traditional and isolated way scientific community works where the research does not reach the end users (in this case the farmer). Each protagonist will tell his own story of struggles everyday. We will show their significant actions on the screen. The characters will be filmed on a reality TV approach using parallel story telling.

Our main character is Professor Faisal Hossain from the University of Washington. He is living in the United States and doing his research work on. Currently he is conducting research to solve the declining stock of groundwater in populated parts of Asia. This research uses two new satellites called GRACE (Gravity Recovery for Climate Experiment) and GPM (Global Precipitation Measurement) Mission that have been shown to provide insights on how much water we have left underground when combined with a few other satellites. With the launch of such new satellites on TV, we will introduce the groundwater research connected with Professor Hossain. Here we also plan to introduce his problem with some more technical details. This will set the tone of the movie at the very beginning and viewers will get a clear idea on the topic. After introducing the characters and establishing two different locations, we will start to follow them in their settings and try to capture their key moments in a documentary style. 

With a parallel narrative storyline, our two characters will be introduced. We will see them on their real locations where each of them encounters and experiences different challenges. The viewers will discover that these characters do not know each other but somehow they are connected. Slowly we will reveal their hidden bonds. We will start the journey with the story of Professor Hossain and his research. He is trying to come up with a solution for managing the declining groundwater stock that is negatively impacting the livelihood of farmers who grow cotton. We will follow him on his daily routine and film his important activities at work. His passion to work and unique perspective to the world will be featured.

The key message of this movie will be to show that sometimes the traditional work carried out by scientists is not enough and that the scientific community has to go beyond their comfort zone to make the work serve society better. We will follow the researcher towards his voyage that leads to the solutions of his problem. On the other hand (in parallel mode), we will show a real-life Pakistani cotton farmer who is living a very stressful life with declining water stocks. He is always worried about his crops because of the unpredictable weather conditions and mismanagement. His cotton crop is very sensitive to water; it has to be irrigated in a certain manner that requires early information on the availability of water - an information that is fundamentally missing among farmers using traditional methods. Ironically, this information can be easily provided by the researcher and connected to the farmer, unbeknown to the researcher.

The core idea evolves around these two main characters to create a unique experience customized for the viewers. Gradually their story will be unfolded in a way that the audiences are always engaged with the movie and not bored. As the story continues, we go further deep into their lives and reveal the inner leanings from their experiences. Their connection through the “Cotton” and “Water” will be revealed gradually, while we will introduce “Burgers” as the main barrier between them. At the end, we will see that Professor Hossain has a solution, which suggests that a missing bridge between the real people and the scientific world could be the ultimate answer. Based on his research he is now planning to approach the real people from remote locations which is directly connected with his research. Also, there is a good cotton harvest in Punjab this year. Our Pakistani cotton farmer is now receiving the latest research updates from around the world via PCRWR (Pakistan Council for Research on Water Resources). He is very excited to learn that it is now possible to forecast the ground water stock using GRACE satellite to know what will be available in future. The story will conclude with the understanding that science and engineering should be blended properly in order to create the right impact for millions of people. Scientists should see beyond the usual scientific horizon, get out of their comfort zone and think about engaging endusers to devise solutions based on the answers we have from our real-life quests.

Risks and challenges

This is going to be our 3rd movie project. We have worked in the region (Pakistan, Bangladesh and US) since the year 2000 based on research projects we conduct and are therefore intimately familiar with the local bureaucracy, organizations and how to move around. There is no such major risk (because this is a reality tv style documentary) other than the prevailing political conditions in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our on-site footage for Pakistan will be in Punjab that has a stable political environment. Also, in the past, we have managed to work under the most severe economic and political conditions in Bangladesh (March 2013) to create our first movie docu-drama RISING TIDE. We have MOUs set up with several Pakistan and Bangladesh Govt agencies and University of Washington to streamline the approval process to shoot in overseas location. In fact, a high level government delegation from South Asia is visiting University of Washington (SASWE Research group of Faisal Hossain) this November to finalize a lot of details. One agency staff from Pakistan is already embedded at UW and engaged in research on GRACE. He (Naveed Iqbal) has already identified the Pakistani farmer who we will follow in reality tv format. Our 2nd movie "BAY OF HOPE" has been shortlisted for screening at the 8th Eco Film Festival in Kualalumpur this October (2015). BAY OF HOPE was produced at a cost of only 4000 USD which demonstrates our strong commitment to financial accountability and making every single dollar go as far as possible.

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- (30 days)