By Alia Wilson

In recognition of Earth Day and all that the holiday celebrates, UC Santa Cruz alumnus Kennan Ward is premiering his first feature-length documentary film, “Making Tracks.”

The film takes a look at grizzly bear cubs growing up in the wild. Out of six years of footage, it was clear for him to see that the story of the cubs stole the spotlight.

Ward gears the film toward the youth in all of us, and what he considers the underutilized market of women 18 to 25 years of age.

He explains that the media tends to reach out to men of that age group who are interested in the environment.

Ward aims to close the gaps within the environmental field through his presentation of video, photos, and music in the documentary.

“I actually reject that kind of [gender] branding,” Ward said. “[The movie] is not more feminine, but more real, more natural. Young cubs fuel the movie.”

Nearly six months of post-production work led to the finished product, and Ward felt most comfortable premiering it in Santa Cruz, home to his alma mater.

“If we have any changes we need to make here, my friends tell me right away,” Ward said with a chuckle. “We kind of like to give Santa Cruz the first of everything we do.”

The UCSC Recreation Department will present the third annual Earth Day benefit, which has sold out every year. Proceeds support both the Conservation Alliance and the UCSC Recreation Program.

Ward’s wife and production partner, Karen, explained that working with both groups enables them to give back to the environment and the community that inspires the pair to do their work.

Because of various organizations, they are able to get funding and recruit the necessary manpower to preserve, capture, and conserve important environmental areas.

“Through Conservation Alliance, outdoor businesses are giving back to nature,” Karen Ward said. “REI, Patagonia – a lot of those manufacturers are looking to protect wild areas.”

Half of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Wilderness Orientation program that introduces and reunites UCSC freshman with the outdoors. Most of these students have never been camping until the program. The other half of the money goes toward developing grassroots organizations that wouldn’t get funding otherwise.

To remain close to the university and the community, the Wards hire interns to work with them on projects. The Wards introduce the students to the world of environmental activism.

Taking time off from film school in Los Angeles, Matt Widmann decided to take on the internship in Fall quarter and now is the co-post production supervisor for “Making Tracks.”

Working mainly with effects, sound, color correction and music, he noted the story of the cubs unveiling while reviewing the film.

“As we were going through the footage, the film took its form,” Widmann said. “It didn’t start out about the cubs, but we started seeing a more touching and educational focus.”

Exhausted from months of editing, Widmann is still pleased with the documentary, and hopes that it will turn out well at the premiere.

_The event will be held on Friday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz. Advance tickets are $11 for students and for seniors, $14 for the general public. On the day of the show tickets will be $16 at the door. Advance tickets will be sold through the UCSC Box Office at 459-2159. Trailer for the film can be found at _