International Studies & Programs


A Journey from Science at MSU to Climate Activist in Hollywood

Ivan Orlic's studies launched him on a journey that led to him becoming a Hollywood film producer

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Published: Sunday, 15 May 2022 Author: CLACS

Ivan Orlic left his home in Peru in 2001 to pursue studies in the biophysical sciences at Michigan State University as a student in Lyman Briggs College. His studies launched him on an unconventional journey that eventually led to him becoming a Hollywood film producer. However, the latest film he has produced, the climate change documentary Eating Our Way to Extinction (narrated by Kate Winslet and directed by Ludo and Otto Brockway) integrated Ivan’s interests in science with his passion for storytelling.



A Background in Science

Publication 1
Peruvian anchoveta as a telecoupled fisheries system (Andrew K. Corkon, William W. Tavlor. Jianguo Lin and Ivan Orlic)

Ivan fondly remembers his undergraduate years as a student in Lyman Briggs. “I was obsessed with fitting as much into my schedule as I could,” he recalls. Although he could have graduated in 3 years, Ivan decided to stay 4 years in order to take additional electives and gain as expansive an education as possible.  

Two of those electives, oceanography and marine biology, propelled him into a master’s study at the University of South Florida, where he was involved in redesigning the ecosystem health assessment protocols for local estuaries. MSU professor of Fisheries and Wildlife Dr. Bill Taylor then recruited Ivan back to East Lansing to pursue an additional master’s degree.

Publication 2
International Governance of the Peruvian Anchoveta (Ivan Orlic and Rebecca M. Berngartt)

“I embraced the MSU spirit of interdisciplinary approaches to problems and worked on my thesis [to take] a broad look at the Peruvian anchovy fishery industry,” Ivan explains, a topic on which he had experience and expertise thanks to his father’s successful anchovy fishmeal company. Based on his studies, Ivan turned his MSU master's thesis into the first publication with specific recommendations that helped to shape Peruvian government policies to prevent overfishing, relieve pressure on the anchovy fishery and reduce pollution, all while increasing the industry’s profitability. The American Fisheries Society then invited Ivan to participate in another college textbook as an author on the subject. Ivan further published on the topic in Ecology and Society.

Publication 3
Innovation, Leadership, and Management of the Peruvian Anchoveta Fishery: Approaching Sustainability (Ivan Orlic)


Ivan has maintained an additional connection to MSU: he and his family have worked with MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine to coordinate their annual medical mission to Peru, which provides a week of free medical attention to towns around his country every year since its inception in 2008. Over 12,000 patients have received care, and over $1,000,000 in medicines and medical supplies have been provided free to those rural communities.


The Switch to Storytelling


Despite Ivan’s success in fisheries oceanography and feeling that the life of a scientist was well suited for many of his friends and peers, he did not feel that it was right for him. So, he switched careers, first studying business at the London School of Economics, followed by improv at the The Second City Conservatory and film production at UCLA.  “I get a lot of reactions when I tell people about having studied so much and in such different fields, but that's what drives me: curiosity and a desire to learn” explains Ivan.

After graduating from UCLA, Ivan launched Seine Pictures, a film company he named after the nets used by his father’s company for anchovy fishing in Peru (“seine nets” used in “purse seiner” fishing vessels). The first film Seine Pictures produced was the result of Ivan finding a script that made him laugh out loud, a “boy-meets-girl” comedy called Murder of a Cat.

Soon after he purchased the script, Ivan was contacted by a couple who were also interested in making the film a reality: MSU alum Sam Raimi, a very accomplished film director whose latest project is Marvel’s Dr Strange 2: Universe of Madness, and his at-the-time wife Gillian Greene, a film director and producer in her own right, partnered with Ivan to make the film. Thanks to the collaboration with Raimi, “my career was jump started,” Ivan explains. “We were able to have a great cast and eventually premiere at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.”



Why Tell Stories


Ivan argues that entertainment plays a very important role in society because telling stories helps connect us to one another. “When we hear the same story or watch the same film, we are connected to each other in a new way that we weren’t before,” he states. He also believes that through stories we gain more empathy and understanding, through characters who are different from us. “I do believe that storytelling overall can drive or at least catalyze social change.” This is particularly important for Ivan at a time of increasing polarization in the US and across the world. “A great story can just open a crack in the door to being more open minded,” he asserts.



Pelé: Birth of a Legend

The Raimi’s introduced Ivan to Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, founders of Imagine Entertainment, one of the most accomplished film companies in Hollywood, and Ivan later partnered with Imagine Entertainment to produce the first fiction film based on the Brazilian football legend Pelé. A “great perk of having [made the movie] is that my football idol, as well as my family’s idol and the idol of so many people, is [now] a friend”. Notably, Ivan interviewed for this article from his home, with an autographed picture of Pele’s famous backflip kick goal for Santos FC in the background.  

When the film was first screened for Pelé, Ivan watched Pelé while the soccer icon watched the film. “In certain parts, I noticed he had become emotional,” recalls Ivan. The producer asked Pelé what had moved him so much. Pelé responded that watching his life and family depicted on screen was the closest the football player had “ever gotten to seeing his father again.” “What a gift to be able to give to someone who gave so much to all of us,” reflects Ivan. “Of course it wasn’t just me, hundreds of people worked on this film,” Ivan adds.  

Signed picture of Pele's famous back flip kick goal
Famous back flip kick goal signed "For Ivan with friendship, Pelé" 


Expanding Seine Pictures


After Pelé, Ivan produced the European film trilogy Intrigo (starring Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley and released by Lionsgate in 2020) and the comedy The Space Between (starring Golden Globe and Emmy award winner Kelsey Grammer and released by Paramount Studios in 2021).

In partnership with producer Glenn Basner’s FilmNation, Ivan also made the not yet publicly released documentary, Larry Flynt for President, which premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and won both the Jury and Audience Awards at the 2021 Mammoth Falls Film Festival.

When the pandemic hit, health regulations made it more challenging to produce live action films. More importantly, the extensive problems caused by the pandemic, coupled with the newfound time to reflect engendered by quarantine, caused Ivan to experience an awakening and invigorated sense of activism. The film producer decided to try his hand at more socially oriented films. “I felt strongly that we had to address really important issues,” he says. The first issue Ivan had chosen to address was free speech (in Larry Flynt for President), and the next would be sustainability.



Eating Our Way to Extinction


The second activist documentary with which Ivan is involved, Eating Our Way to Extinction, is narrated by Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy winner Kate Winslet and was released in 2021. The film focuses on climate change, and how the animal protein industry is a major contributor to the crisis. Eating Our Way to Extinction highlights how our own individual choices can add up to make a significant collective impact, even if they feel like they are too small to matter.  “I learned that four out of five trees cut in the Amazon in the last five years were just to make room for more cows so that we can eat them” Ivan revealed, adding that this “is among so many facts in the film that blew my mind.”

Ivan explains that his science background at MSU helped enrich the film. “I had the opportunity to work with [the directors] during the edits to shape how the story is told.” Ivan also helped produce complementary materials to further mobilize people who watch the film. The website directs viewers to ways they can learn more about the facts presented in the film. An accompanying book also takes a deeper dive into the science behind the documentary. Other materials on the film’s website include an adult vegan cookbook, a kids book of recipes, and an app that can help track what users are eating. The film, which is now available on Amazon Prime, was recently featured in a wide reaching social media promotional campaign for Earth Day 2022 that included posts from such figures as Sir Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, and Leonardo Di Caprio, among others.



Next Steps


The next big topic Ivan has chosen to undertake is democracy and security in Taiwan. He partnered with talented filmmaker Vanessa Hope (whose prior film, All Eyes and Ears, also premiered at Tribeca, in 2015) and with Ted Hope, his “hero in producing” and the most Sundance-Jury-Prize-winning producer in the festival’s history, for the upcoming documentary film Invisible Nation, which is currently in post-production. And for his next documentary, Ivan is partnering with multi-Emmy award-winning Chicago-based filmmaker Barbara E. Allen, who has dedicated her career to telling stories related to social justice issues, on a project that will address the history of race in America.

Ivan is also interested in telling stories about Peru and Latin America, of which he thinks “there are so many… that are untold”. “Maybe it is a story about Peruvian food, which is objectively one of the best cuisines,” Ivan says, only partially joking.

For Ivan, the earliest stages of his film career were motivated by his passion for football, comedy and stories, and his ambition to establish a place for his company in the international film industry. Now he believes he is positioned to tell additional stories on themes he cares about. “I feel like I´m on a more solid footing, as we keep having more projects. I can start bringing more of my own suggestions into the industry that might gain traction.” To keep up with this MSU alumn’s current and future work, visit or follow him on Instagram as @iorlic and his company as @seinepictures