Is it possible to laugh and help the planet at the same time?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Film, Sustainability, Sustainable OKC, Transition OKC | Posted on 07-06-2011

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Mark Dixon and Ben Evans shout out a resounding “Yes,” and they show you how they’re doing it in YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip, a documentary screening not once, but twice, at Oklahoma City’s deadCENTER Film Festival this week. For screening locations and times click here.

The tagline describes the film like this:

50 states. 1 year. Zero waste. Three friends on an environmental road trip across America in search of extraordinary innovators tackling humanity’s greatest crises.

That intriguing sound bite and the film’s trailer convinced me that not only did I need to see this film, but that it’d be cool to find out more about this project straight from the filmmakers. Lucky for us Okies, Dixon, one of the filmmakers, will be on hand Fri., June 10, from 4-6 p.m. at Elemental Coffee, 815 N. Hudson, in downtown Oklahoma City, to discuss the making of the film, which won the Audience Award at the Yale Environmental Film Festival. The informal Meet & Greet is organized by Transition OKC a program of Sustainable OKC. Coffee and snacks will be available to purchase from Elemental Coffee. yert

Giveaway alert.

First ten people at the Meet & Greet win a reusable YERT ChicoBag, and Dixon will also be giving away two copies of Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones.

Advance chat.

As a lead-in to the screenings and Meet & Greet, I got to do a little early Q&A with Dixon and his colleague, Ben Evans, producers and directors of the film, and am featuring part one of that email interview here. Stay tuned for more.

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Photo credit: Rich Press

Q: How did the idea for this project develop – specifically from inception (the germ of the idea) – to actual “We’re going to make this happen” implementation? And what or who do you credit – in addition to yourselves — for encouraging, supporting, making the idea reality?

Group answer.

All three of us were really starting to get worried about the state of the planet and not feeling like we were doing enough about it in our respective careers. A video road trip to explore sustainability seemed like an interesting way to educate ourselves and others about all kinds of encouraging solutions to the urgent environmental problems facing humanity, a good way to discover hidden pockets hope and inspiration and share them quickly and widely. We weren’t sure what we’d find in all the nooks and crannies of the country, but we were determined to have fun finding it.

Ben’s more personal take.

I credit my mother for instilling in me a strong sense of environmental concern and a general interest in creative solutions to repairing humanity’s relationship with the planet. When she died from cancer in 2004, it really lit a fire under me to start living my beliefs more fully and focusing my life on issues of lasting importance. I’d been an actor in New York and Los Angeles for a number of years and had started kicking around ideas for a bunch of different environmental endeavors with a creative bent. I packed up my life in New York and co-created YERT with Mark as a way to marry my love of creative entertainment and performance with my long-standing concern for environmental issues. I really wanted to stop worrying and start doing something about the problems.

Mark’s more personal take.

I was a newbie to the environmental movement and was struggling to understand where I fit into a world faced with so many troubling ecological symptoms. I quit my job in an attempt to re-direct my life and lifestyle, but it wasn’t until halfway through a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat that the idea for a national road trip documentary project dropped into my head. I quickly checked the idea with friends and family (all of whom were very supportive– particularly my parents), and that’s when Ben jumped at the opportunity to help shape the adventure in its early form. A year later, after intensive planning, preparation and a few videos under our belts, we embarked on Your Environmental Road Trip – YERT.

Q: With all the environmental films and documentaries that seem to be hitting the market almost every day, why did you decide this project was worth pursuing?

A: There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there in traditional environmental organizations and films, and many of these issues have become needlessly politicized. We wanted to cut through all that with humor, visiting with regular people on the street, and by turning ourselves into guinea pigs on the trip. Really the project is an effort to personalize these issues in a way that can reach out to people who, for whatever reason, aren’t part of the conversation yet.

Q: When did you start and end the project and how old were you when you started?

A: It’s been almost five years from the first germ of the idea to the premiere. The idea germinated in summer 2006 and we prepped for a year before leaving on the trip in July 2007. The film premiered in April 2011. At the start of the trip on July 4, 2007, Mark was 32,  Ben was 37, and Julie was 38.

Q: How did you fund your trip and the year off for traveling and exploring?

A: We basically pooled our savings and begged friends and family for contributions. Ben and Julie had been working as stage actors in New York City and Mark had been working in Silicon Valley saving for a house and grad school in California at the time, so that provided the bulk of the funding. We’re all pretty much broke at this point, but hopefully screening at great festivals like deadCENTER will help start to change that.

More insider YERT scoop to come so check back soon.

– Posted by Shauna Lawyer Struby. This post originally appeared on Thinklady.

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