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The Milton Measure

Cheney’s Film Nomination

by on Friday, October 11th, 2013

Ian Cheney, graduate of Milton Academy’s Class of 1998 and son of photography teacher Bryan Cheney, was recently nominated for a 2013 News and Documentary Emmy Award. His film, The City Dark, tells of the disappearing cosmos in urban areas. Using breathtaking images and surprising information, Ian’s film has the power to transform viewers’ opinions of light pollution.

As Bryan Cheney articulates, Ian did not immediately conceptualize an exact plot. Beginning with this idea of the cosmos vanishing in urban settings, Ian conducted thorough research on light in the modern night sky. With this newfound knowledge, Ian decided on a few, strong messages he wished the documentary to convey.

The story begins in New York City, where astronomers can only view the stars during blackouts. The scene then moves west to Sky Village, Arizona, whose night sky Bryan Cheney describes as “magical.” One of the most dazzling sights in Sky Village, he says, is the Milky Way, which is visible every night.

As stressed in the documentary, most urban areas in the United States are quite unlike Sky Village, creating what Ian refers to as a “light bubble.” This light bubble not only affects one’s perception of the galaxy but also affects the animals around it. For example, in the city of Chicago, Illinois, the flight patterns of birds are at risk. Hundreds of birds perish in this city every day due to the exhaustion caused by following the light bubble around cities.

Another issue the documentary highlights is the sad future in which children might not even see the glory of the night sky. Due to the evolution of light, from a simple flame to the now omnipresent electricity, light bubbles exist in almost every city.

Ian Cheney has always been interested in the night sky. Having spent many summers in Maine, Ian was accustomed to seeing the stars every night there. In Boston and his hometown Milton, Ian was shocked by how little of the night sky he could actually see. While attending Milton Academy, he was simply fascinated by his astronomy studies and would often visit the observatory to catch a glimpse of the stars and planets. Therefore, it is not surprising that when asked how long he had been expecting this documentary for, Bryan Cheney responds, “This had been a long time coming.”

Even though this documentary is credited towards Ian, the film is largely a family effort. Ian’s brother, Colin Cheney, as well as his father helped create this documentary. While Ian and Bryan photographed some amazing visuals in the National Park’s Death Valley, Colin helped with the overall videography of the film.

Bryan’s photography expertise came into effect most evidently in the beautiful time lapses and panoramas that the film features. Bryan discussed how precise he had to be when creating these kinds of photos. When in Death Valley, Ian and Bryan stayed up all night taking photos of the sky every 30 seconds, adjusting the settings to the exact needs of each shot. Bryan notes that these shots are one of his favorite aspects of this documentary.

If you are interested in watching this documentary or finding out a little more about the issues it addresses, visit the documentary’s website,

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Posted by on Oct 11 2013. Filed under News, Recent News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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