I produced my first documentary, Beyond Business as Usual, as a result of bureaucratic misallocation. There was year-end, unspent money in EPA’s hazardous waste division, and I proposed a documentary subtitled Meeting the Challenge of Hazardous Waste. I wrote the storyboard and script and teamed up with veteran filmmaker John Allen to produce a half hour program that went out, through a distributor, to an estimated audience of 10 million actual PBS, cable and network viewers, including a spot on a Los Angeles station, prime time. “Well, this is pretty easy,” I thought, “and fun.” So I continued to learn about scriptwriting, interviewing, and editing, and have now produced about twenty programs on sustainable technologies and designs.
After a series of programs on sustainable communities, we got a great assignment from then-VP Gore’s office, to produce an overview documentary about “smart growth,” walkable communities, and energy self-reliance. We met the two-month deadline, producing Building Livable Communities in conjunction with Gore’s staff. But to our great chagrin, when the Vice President stood on the stage at Brookings Institution and said, “I’d like to show you our little video on livable communities,” the DVD did not play. It was the early days of digital videos, and a second showing a week or so later was also stillborn. The livable communities initiative soon went to the political back burner, and needless to say, we did not take part in the production of Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Two other documentaries were especially enjoyable to produce. For Sustaining America’s Agriculture, narrated by Raymond Burr (“Perry Mason,” “Ironside”) we went to 25 or 30 of the country’s most innovative family farms, interviewing growers who made their land glow with vitality and productivity. One farmer, Paul Keene, had been encouraged by Gandhi to return to the U.S. and start farming, even though all he had in the world was a new bride, a team of horses, and a piece of Pennsylvania land. He grew his operation into the highly successful Walnut Acres, a mail-order supplier of organic food. Lewis Ashton’s farm on the Potomac River has been in the family since 1630, when King George ceded the land to his ancestors. I’ll never forget the efforts that Chris Tribble of Versatile Video put into getting the shots we needed – hanging off tractors and climbing 80-foot silo ladders for panoramic views. Putting the pieces together for that program on “High Tech and Horse Sense” was a highlight of my career.
The most recent documentary I produced is Designing a Great Neighborhood, now available online at the Netflix website and through Bullfrog Films. Our non-profit, the Sustainable Futures Society, got a large grant to be consultants on the 300-unit design of Boulder’s Holiday neighborhood. We brought in world-class experts on energy and water efficiency, lighting, landscaping, and architecture to make the neighborhood a model of sustainability and affordability. Throughout the three-year process, we filmed key steps in the neighborhood’s evolution. Master shooter Stuart Keene provided the footage and became a good friend in the process. Tragically, Stuart recently fell to his death while getting the shot for another production company. He is sorely missed!
If you’re interested, have a look at the short pieces on YouTube, Secrets of the Sun – about solar artist Peter Erskine’s work – and The Night Clyde Keester Woke Up, a whimsical piece about an average Joe who sees the light and feels the heat when an energy expert climbs out of his TV into his living room.
YouTube URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf_gFXJ3WGI
YouTube URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAvPCZ-E-N8
YouTube URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB41zoi8zTg
YouTube URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbJMEl_XXcw
TV Documentaries and Videos
- Beyond Business as Usual: Meeting the Challenge of Hazardous Waste. Distributed to cable, PBS, network stations by Modern Talking Pictures to a total audience of 10 million. Won three filmmaking awards. 1991
- Sustaining America’s Agriculture: High Tech and Horse Sense, narrated on-screen by Raymond Burr. Syndicated PBS, cable audiences. 1995
- Transportation 2000: Moving Beyond Auto America. Distributed to television by Pacific Mountain Network 1994.
- Building Connections, a 3-part, award-winning videoconference series produced by the American Institute of Architects for national audience and packaged sales. On-screen narration by Denis Hayes.
- Mega-Cities: Innovations for Urban Life, produced for the Planning Institute and Kellogg Foundation, aired on Los Angeles TV.
- The Presidio: Gateway to Sustainability, 15 minute documentary piece about the transition of San Francisco’s Presidio to a National Park. 1996
- Creating Communities That Work, produced for the Department of Energy, distributed widely to planners and city/county governments. 1996, recently updated because of continued use.
- Sustainable Design: Lessons from Nature, Produced for the National Park Service for use at the 1996 U.S. Olympics, funded by Laurance Rockefeller
- Placemakers: Bringing Back Our Neighborhoods, Half hour format, produced for syndicated airings on PBS, distributed through SECA.
- Smart Growth: Award-winning piece on good-sense development.
- Building Livable Communities, Short piece produced for then-Vice President Gore for presentations about communities. 1999.
- Raptors at Risk, Half hour format documentary about preventing power line electrocution of eagles, hawks, osprey and other birds of prey. Audubon, Fish and Wildlife Service, other funders. Shown in syndication on PBS. 1999
- A Community Within a Community: the Denver Enterprise Center, promotional 15 minute piece for DEC about some of its small business entrepreneurs. On-screen narration by NBC affiliate newscaster Bertha Lynn. 2000.
- Start at the Source, a ten-minute video about using intelligent design to prevent environmental impacts from storm water runoff, 2001.
- Secrets of the Sun, featuring solar sculptor Peter Erskine. Aired on Free Speech TV, now accessible on Youtube.com.
- The Night Clyde Keester Woke Up, a seven-minute program produced for the State of Colorado and used in presentations and seminars, now accessible on YouTube.com.
- Designing a Great Neighborhood: Behind the Scenes at the Holiday Neighborhood, a 58-minute documentary about the design process in a world-class, mixed-use development.