Production Has Begun

Longtime readers will recall that oh, a year or so ago, it was mentioned that my friend and videographer, Dan Trout, and I were working on a documentary film about the food community here in Athens, Ohio.

I am pleased to announce that the cogitation, pre-production equipment gathering and research phase is finished and as of last week, actual filming has begun.

And, as you can see, we have a name for our production company–which I suggested as it uses both of our last names to good effect and it’s tangentially about food. Dan took my idea and turned it into a really readable, memorable and cute graphic for all of our business cards, release forms, letterhead and suchlike stuff.

Dan went out shooting b-roll footage last Wednesday and then he and I went out on Saturday to the Farmer’s Market to shoot specific images to use in the trailer for the film, which does have a working title (Simple Gifts: The Athens Food Model) and to talk with some of the people we want to interview on camera.

I was unprepared for the enthusiasm with which our project was met by pretty much every person with whom we spoke. I was sick with nervousness; I had awakened overly early in the morning and was unable to go back to sleep because I was dreading talking to people because I had the fear that no one would want to talk with us, or that they would think that the project wasn’t worthwhile.

I was so wrong–it turned out that it was just my nagging self-doubts at play in my head. From the very first farmer I spoke with (Star of Shade River Farm), everyone was unfailingly positive, and many were exceptionally enthusiastic. Even farmers who started out as somewhat suspicious warmed up when we described our project as an independently produced feature-length documentary that shows how Athens grew this amazing local food system, with the aim of showing people in other communities how they can do the same thing. Once we got it across to people that we wanted to empower other communities to look at how Athens managed it and then start a similar system in their areas, farmers were ready for us to come to their farms and talk.

They -want- us to tell their stories, not only for the sake of these stories themselves–but so that other people can make their own stories and successes elsewhere.

That meant a great deal to both Dan and I. In fact, it rather blew us both away. It was truly breathtaking.

Between getting contact information from farmers and community organizers and business owners, I took some still photographs to use in marketing and packaging. Dan tells me that much of his footage caught the same look as my photographs–which capture much of the feel we want for our film. We want it to be beautiful and uplifting–not only because Athens is a beautiful place, but also as an antidote to many of the recent food-related documentary films that are out there, which, let’s be honest, are pretty bleak.

We have a pretty full schedule of shooting set up for the next couple of weeks; our goal is to have a trailer put together and ready to present by the end of August or the beginning of September. We are taking a full year–a cycle of the seasons to complete our filming, and then begins the long, arduous editing process.

This project, which is being independently funded and produced, is going to be a long, time-consuming work, but it is work that I believe has worth in the world. Feeling the excitement of the food producers here in Athens as we described our project, seeing their faces light up as we talked, showed me that this can mean a lot not only to Dan and I, not only to Athens and to the food community here, but to viewers out there in the world. The story of our town’s food system can really make a difference in the lives of people in other small communities.

We want viewers to feel uplifted, cheered and empowered by this documentary. We want them to see that there are things they can do to change their own communities, that the power to grow a sustainable local food network lies in their own capable hands.

Not in the hands of the government, or of corporations.

But simply in the hands of ordinary citizens. Individuals who do seemingly ordinary things, but who, when working together, can build something extraordinary.


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  1. I’m reading this and feeling a kinship. Last year around this same time, me and three other friends were doing the same thing here in San Diego.
    My friend, Tootie, had an idea for a documentary that he called “Market Fresh.” It involved going to the various Farmer’s Markets here in San Diego county and interviewing and videotaping different farmers who set up booths at these Markets. Tootie’s idea is to start a tv show maybe mock-u-mentary style where each week a different Farmer’s Market is featured.
    I found that most of the farmers, restaurant-owners, etc. were quite enthusiastic to interview and wanted video time for plugs. A demo video was taped last summer, however I believed the project was shelved due to that age-old issue, “Where’s the Moolah?”
    I know there’s quite a bit of moolah out there for documentaries. You have to be patient, however. Not sure what Tootie has in mind for this project.
    However, I’m happy to see yours taking off. Please post the status of your work on my Facebook page as I would like my friend, Tootie, to see your success.
    Congratulations to you on moving ahead with your dreams

    Comment by Stefanie B. — July 26, 2011 #

  2. Barbara – you have often written and have been incredibly supportive of the markets and sources for food in and around Athens. What a great idea for doing a documentary. I think it will be a great success and would love to see it when done.

    Comment by Maureen — July 27, 2011 #

  3. Wow, that is really wonderful!!! Wishing you tons of success with the project. It sounds like a lot of work, but I bet the results are going to be incredible.

    Comment by Rebecca — July 27, 2011 #

  4. Congratulations on getting this going (and funded). Keep us posted!

    Comment by Ardene — July 28, 2011 #

  5. Congrats! This looks like a great project.

    For the “funding” part, is the project already funded? If not, are you considering using something like Kickstarter? If you did, I’d chip in, for a DVD of the final results.

    Comment by Christian Hudon — July 28, 2011 #

  6. Christian, after we’ve finished the trailer and thus have something to post, we’ll either use Kickstarter or another such funding site to raise more funds. Right now, I’m producing it with my own money, and for the filming and editing process, we’ll be okay. What we will need outside funding for is for marketing, transportation costs to film festivals and sustainability conferences. So, yeah, eventually, we will have funding options available to the public.

    Stef–We are really hoping to get this distributed through a major film company. The story is compelling enough and unless we totally bugger it up, I think that it will be picked up by someone. Basically, right now Athens is unique, but I don’t want it to be–I want it to be replicated around the country, many times over and this film can be a blueprint as to how to go about doing such a thing. A blueprint and inspiration.

    Maureen–As I said, we are hoping for actual distribution that will include limited theatrical release, streaming, DVD, and other options. That’s why we’re going to enter it into as many film festivals as we can. If nothing else, you’ll be able to get a DVD when it’s ready to be marketed.

    Rebecca–we’ve mostly done b roll footage so far, but what I’ve seen of it, is lovely. Apparently, the stills I took above are quite representative of the look that Dan is working towards in his cinematography.

    Thank you, Ardene–right now, I’m funding it myself–hopefully when it’s closer to done, we can get some other sources of funding going.

    Thanks for the encouragement, everyone!

    Comment by Barbara — July 29, 2011 #

  7. Barbara and I had been talking about doing this for a couple of years now, (and I know we’ve both hinted at it a lot on here.)

    Our hold up in getting started, and indeed producing a trailer to take to investors, (and yes, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo were on my list of places to go,) was that I didn’t have the gear I needed to make this look the way I wanted.

    I had considered renting the gear, (like a normal company would,) but the problem with that is our subject matter.

    We’re working around the schedules of farmers, food artisans, (“Value-Added Reseller” sounds too bloody corporate for my palate, these folks are artists who are passionate about what they do,) and restaurants, So, we’re expecting a LOT of last minute cancellations, reschedulings, shufflings, etc. and that’s just not conducive to the micromanaged schedules that rental puts on a normal production.

    My goal from the get-go was to do this in such a way that we weren’t limited on where we could put it once it was done. So if, (when,) we get a distributor, and they say “can you give this to us as X?” it’s just a matter of minor tuning and tweaking for output.

    Streaming on Hulu and the like? Sure. It was digital from the get-go!

    Download from iTunes or Amazon? Sure!

    DVD and BLUray? Check.

    Printed to film for theatrical distribution? Got that covered too…

    About the only thing I don’t have covered out of the gate is 3D and IMAX.

    I had picked out the gear I wanted to use for this project, but we lacked funding.

    Well, back in September, I decided to go back into business for myself, bit the bullet, and invested in new production gear. What I wanted to shoot the documentary is exactly what I got for creating marketing material for small businesses, non-profits, etc.

    So, here we are.

    We’ve got the gear in place. Transportation is a short trip out a country road or two, (most of those locations within a stones throw of someplace Barbara or I lived at some point.)

    Crew consists essentially of Barbara and me. I want to keep this production small and intimate. I want to keep our production “Footprint” low as not to invade these folks lives: Camera, tripod, wireless lapel microphone, and one or two lights if needed.

    The more specialized technicians you bring, the more of an artifice you generate. The more foreign gear you pile into a persons home or business, the less at ease they are going to be. I want them relaxed, so they’re just having a conversation that a camera happens to be filming. These are brilliant, talented, passionate folks, and I want to portray them in as genuine a way as I can.

    So, now that I have the gear, (which was a considerable bite out of my retirement, but so very worth it,) our overhead is fairly low. Just a little blue car full of gear, Barbara’s words, my lens, and these people’s incredible story.

    Truth be told, this project is a dream. The story we’re uncovering in our little town is the type of thing that a seasoned documentarian would travel halfway around the world for, and it’s right here in our own back yard. The people we’re talking to for this project are people we know. We’ve broken bread with them. We eat at their restaurants and many of them we’ve fed, (as patrons of the places Barbara worked and I currently work.)

    I’m fast coming to look at this documentary as a PART of the local food community. The people in it are people that want to share their passions with others. I saw it Sunday on the farm tours, and have seen it at the Farmers Market, the 30 Mile Meal events, our local restaurants. They want to spread the word, and my contribution is to provide a channel for that.

    And that is a incredibly exciting, intimidating, and humbling feeling.

    I’ve rambled enough…Thanks!

    Comment by Dan — August 2, 2011 #

  8. It has been very exciting to see you and Dan out and about. Let me know if you would like to get together about some of the ACEnet, Rural Action, CFI, 30 Mile Meal and Food We Love activities over the next half year. At some point we might also be able to help you with funding issues for distribution. We have some USDA funded projects that the film would be compatible with.

    Comment by Leslie — August 9, 2011 #

  9. Thank you, Leslie!

    Right now, Dan is working on a project for COAD that has a deadline of next week. After that is finished, shooting will resume, so I’ll be contacting various folk within the next few days (when he gets back to me with dates and availabilities) to set up the next round of shooting.

    You will be one of the folks we want to interview next, and yes, we’d like to talk with you about the schedules of events in the coming year.

    Once shooting is done, which we expect to take about a year, we will be doing editing for however many months that takes, and putting in the finishing touches, titles, soundtrack and voice-overs–all the stuff that turns a mass of footage into a film. Once that is done, we will start dealing with funding for distribution, and will be very happy with any help you can give us in that regard.

    We plan on getting the finished work “out there” in as many venues as possible–including international film festivals–we really want this documentary to get out in the world and do some good, because we both very much believe that what is happening in Athens need not be unique–it can and should be replicated elsewhere.

    Comment by Barbara — August 10, 2011 #

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