Sometimes we make a short film simply because we’ve fallen under the spell of a story and we can’t help but share it.
In recent years, we’ve made two short documentaries about human beings tested by natural forces beyond their control. Both stories inspired us, but in entirely different ways.
Home or High Water (2019)
We had a client in mind when we first thought about interviewing Elizabeth Rush. Her book, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, had recently been published, and she’d be coming to Portland to promote it.
Our client works with partners to restore and protect the Tualatin River Watershed, just west of Portland. We wanted to ask Elizabeth about other landscape-scale efforts around American that are trying to address climate change and prevent catastrophic flooding.
Soon our conversation roamed beyond local issues to her book. Elizabeth described teaching on Staten Island when Hurricane Sandy hit and visiting native communities in the Louisiana bayou whose land is literally drowning.
The result is a 12-minute film, HOME OR HIGH WATER, that explores the impacts that sea level rise is having on American coastal communities and the costly, self-defeating regulations that threaten the livelihood of millions of people along our shores.
We hoped our film would raise awareness about policy changes that could save billions of dollars and protect many of those vulnerable communities. And we’re pleased to report that schools, organizers and fundraisers from Rhode Island to California are now using our short doc as a teaching tool alongside Elizabeth’s book.
This Place Called Nuka (2017)
If you’re patient, and lucky, and stay open to change, the story you’re working on leads you to a better one.
THIS PLACE CALLED NUKA was like that. We’d been interviewing Jeff Erickson about his life and work in Seward, Alaska, when an hour into our conversation he digressed. He explained that twenty years ago he and his girlfriend had dropped out of college in Sitka, saved up money, and hired a boat to take them (and 30,000 pounds of supplies) to homestead in the wilderness at the end of the Kenai Peninsula, seventy miles across a massive ice sheet to the nearest town.
Somehow Jeff hadn’t brought this up in the two days that we’d been hanging out. He and Angela had lived out there for seven years. Now, on camera, he was telling us about how they spent their time, and how they narrowly survived.
It was all we could do to stay quiet and not interrupt. But cameras were rolling. And we knew immediately: This is our film subject, not the one that had brought us to Alaska.
That footage, when Jeff told us his story for the first time, fills much of the second half of the film. All those interview clips in the kitchen.