"Why Concern ourselves so much about our beans for seed, and not be concerned at all about a new generation of men?"
FILM TO TABLE
REFLECTING ON A NEW APPROACH TO MAKING MOVIES
The sustainable food revolution that’s underway in contemporary restaurants and kitchens around the country emphasizes a creative process focused on locality. Thanks in part to the efforts of authors like Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore’s Dilemma") and Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation"), over the last fifteen years the return to locally sourced agriculture, meat and dairy has gone from the niche market mentality of expensive restaurants on the coasts to a general outlook accepted by a broad spectrum of food providers across the nation.
Revisiting this tradition is energy efficient because it cuts down on the carbon footprint of food distribution. It is healthier because produce fresh out of the ground is richer in nutrients and untainted by preservatives than processed foods. The old ways are also more economically sound -- cutting out the middleman allows food workers on both sides of the production and preparation process to be better compensated and keeps money circulating within local economies.
This movement has earned a popular name for itself: farm-to-table.
In both its production and consumption, "Walden: Life in the Woods” allows us to imagine what a film-to-table movement might look like. The project is a Colorado story told by Colorado filmmakers, shot and cut by a Colorado crew, and financed with primarily Colorado money.
Traditional filmmaking tends to be incredibly inefficient. Huge numbers of people are involved as well as vehicles with lights and equipment that consume a tremendous amount of energy. Producers think nothing of grabbing the crew’s breakfast at McDonald’s.
A film-to-table project must be approached differently. Walden Producer, Mitch Dickman, has a different way of crewing the film, opting for smaller crews, and focusing our budget on fewer yet more highly skilled individuals to shoot the project. Likewise with our connections to local food producers like Daniel Asher (the culinary director of Denver restaurants Linger and Root Down) we will plan to feed our smaller crew and cast on local sustainable meals. Conducting business in line with current environmental practices both matches the subject matter of our film and serves as an example of the way filmmaking can be part of the broader sustainability movement moving forward.
Film-to-table views the local economy as an eco-system. The marketplace is really a superstructure of linked symbiotic partnerships filling niches in a native environment similar to the biosphere. Promoting motion picture production inside one particular locality creates an economic link between those producing film and those consuming it. The state film incentive program in Colorado, from which Walden is expected to secure a 20% rebate, initiates just such a cycle when it comes to sustainable filmmaking. It provides work for local film professionals, thus helping them to stay in state and create Colorado-oriented projects. Likewise the support our project is receiving from the Denver Film Society, as its fiscal sponsor which allows us to accept deductible donations, keeps even our non-profit sponsorship locally based– continuing to feed back the eco-system.
Like farm-to-table, film-to-table asks what is the most intimate and direct narrative approach to a given story. Fruits and vegetables doused with chemicals and shipped thousands of miles from where they were grown do not taste like themselves. They become disassociated from their unique flavor and nutritional value. In film-to-table, the emphasis is not on creating a synthetic or watered-down version of the story to fit some particular commercial end. Instead we want to emphasize the specificity of a subject or a narrative examining what is unique, personal and remarkable about where it actually comes from and what it actually is. Warts and all. We allow the camera lens to bring out what is singular in the story – not to generalize it, disguise it or spoil its specificity by pretending it is from somewhere it isn’t.
With Walden we feel as though our approach to adaptation has been to dig into the deepest intentions behind Thoreau’s book and shamelessly show all sides of them. Our project does not place one aspect of Thoreau’s mind on steroids and emphasize it without its shadow sides in full dimensions. We are, for instance, fully aware that Thoreau’s squatting-plot in the woods was only a mile and a half from Concord – and that he was frequently visited by friends and strangers. We know that in his great exploration of wilderness he enjoyed the luxury of doing his laundry in town. In our script we’ve gone to great lengths to look at the hypocritical elements of attempting to “escape” one particular way of life. By showing this impulse for exactly what it is, and allowing both its negative and positive traits co-exist in our story and our characters we feel like we give our audience a deeper relationship with the multi-sided nature of Thoreau’s idea. The film does not, ultimately, name a winner between the competing strains of society and wilderness. And by keeping its audience deep in the tension of these contradictory forces without resolving them, the film serves a more nourishing and personal experience of its story.
We live in a time where national audiences seek local stories in the same way they seek local foods. Film-to-table audiences, like foodies, want to feel the spirit of a location on screen. They want to be driven deep into the idiosyncratic layers of a place and its people and their challenges when they go on the journey of the film. Colorado is one of the fastest growing states in the country with a booming tourist market and an almost insatiable national appetite for its cultural offerings and natural beauty. However, no film has yet captured the spiritual qualities that inspire this wild popularity. The deeper that we dig into the detailed persona of Colorado the more universally energized the themes become. An old Argentinian saying goes – “paint a picture of your tiny village, and you’re painting a picture of the world.”