An Interview with Jordan Osmond from Happen Films.
Let’s face it. The earth is melting, multinational corporations are polluting our water, oil is life and we should just pack our bags and wait for a SpaceX shuttle to take us to a new planet. Maybe polluting the air with carbon dioxide on earth isn’t such a bad idea; it’s preparing us for the atmosphere on Mars.
Although it may seem bleak and it might feel like there is no way that we could slip our planet out of the grips of environmental and economic destruction, it is far from the truth. And a little documentary film crew is showing you why.
Happen Films is a documentary production company, created by Jordan and Antoinette, that aims to showcase and demonstrate inspiring solutions to the multiple global crises we’re facing today. They have inspired over 5.5 million people on YouTube alone and they haven’t even released their second feature documentary yet. The team have produced a number of short films, feature-lengthth documentary in 2016 called A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity and they’re now releasing their second feature film: Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future.
Living the Change explores solutions to the global crises we face today – solutions any one of us can be part of – through the inspiring stories of people pioneering change in their own lives and in their communities in order to live in a sustainable and regenerative way.
I caught up with Jordan while the final pieces of the film where being finalised. We talked about his passion for documentaries, one of the best moments in his life, philosophy, a positive global financial crisis and how to influence people without making them feel guilty.
Living the Change is released online on March 10th – visit www.livingthechangefilm.com/ for more info.
How’s everything going for the new film premiere?
Still working on the film actually. It’s come down to the wire. We’re working with the sound mixer at the moment doing the finishing touches and finalising the colour grading ready for Friday.
What were you like as a kid, were you always thinking about the environment?
I always loved being in nature but didn’t have any awareness around issues like global warming. It wasn’t until I was around 15–16, when I got into watching documentaries. I watched Bowling for Columbine by Michael Moore in high school and have been addicted ever since. I loved the impact that documentaries were having on me.
What documentary had a big impact on you to start creating your own films?
One that had a big impact on me was Food Inc. That inspired me to do something of my own. I got a pretty cheap camera and just taught myself how to use it by watching YouTube videos.
How did you raise funds for this film?
In the beginning of 2016, as we were starting this project, we ran a crowdfunding campaign. We only raised around $4500 but it was enough to get us started. Since then we’ve been living off donations from our Patreon account and from YouTube video advertising.
What gear are you using?
Living the Change is filmed on a Canon 5D Mk II and I had a friend with a drone. If I had to shoot it on my phone I would. It’s more about knowing how to use your gear than getting the most expensive equipment. I think a lot of beginner filmmakers get discouraged because they see all this new gear come out and think, “I need to have this camera to tell this story”. I still fantasise about shooting on a RED but you can’t let that hold you back from telling a story you want to tell.
What was going through your head at the premiere of A Simpler Way? What is the feeling like when you release a new video?
It was probably one of the best moments of my life, haha. Just hearing the applause after putting so much effort into it made it all worth it. And all the amazing comments people make about our short films, too. People really seem to find value in what we’re doing and that’s what encourages us to keep making films. Knowing that, through making these films, we’re making a positive difference in the world.
Do you feel like you and individuals alone are going to make a difference in the world?
The main focus of this film is ‘solutions’. It’s terrifying to read all the latest headlines about environmental, political and economic instability. The issues are so big that it makes you feel helpless. Without offering a solution, no one is going to change and we will continue to destroy the earth because ‘what else can we do?’. The solutions are different all over the world so showing these people solving some of the issues around them and sharing that with other people will hopefully give them the courage and inspiration to try something themselves.
How do these solutions and the people in your new film help to solve the bigger issues? Is a group of people in a tiny community really going to change the mainstream?
That’s definitely a good point and it has been raised before. Like, ‘It’s Monsanto poisoning the planet’, ‘It’s Nestle who are draining the water from communities’, ‘It’s the big companies and governments who are causing all of this destruction’. So, what can an individual actually do? My response is that governmental and corporate change definitely needs to be part of the solution. But I think the change will be driven at the grass-roots level. Governments and politicians don’t tend to stick their neck out on controversial issues because they’re focused on the next election cycle. However, politicians want to service what the public want and represent the public’s interests. And the same with business. So if people want organic food that is grown locally or the community wants sustainable energy, then businesses and governments will react to this. I remember reading on The Onion an article titled:
I think individual action makes all the difference; it’s where the drive for change is going to come from.
Do think that we need to wait until our generation steps into politics and power before any major changes will happen? Are the Baby Boomers to blame?
I think for our generation there’s a greater general awareness that something’s wrong with the direction the world is headlining in. We are coming out of school and into a world that is quite different compared to the world our parents experienced. We are definitely more knowledgeable because of the internet – it has never been easier to share this information. But I think the drive for change is happening at all ages, not just young people. At all of our film screenings there are a mix of generations in the crowd, including retirees who are out of their corporate job, have had time to think about the world around them and maybe realise that it isn’t in such a good place.
In the film, we visit a woman who was 79 when we visited and she had more energy than me. She is so busy creating local resilient groups and always at meetings about creating change in the community. It’s just so inspiring. I think that, even though our generation perhaps has a more general awareness, the push for change isn’t limited to one generation.
How do we influence people who don’t care, without turning them away? How do we reach people who don’t want to know?
I think the best way to get those people thinking is to live the example of what you want to portray. Live your ethics as much as you can. By being an example, people will start to notice it. For example, if you’re out getting coffee and you pull out your keepcup instead of accepting the single-use take-away cup, they might think ‘Oh yeah, I didn’t even think about doing that.’ Without making anyone feel guilty, you’re just starting the conversation.
I think if you come at anything too aggressively you’re going to turn people off. For example, whenever we show a film with regenerative agriculture or with cattle involved, there will be a few hardcore vegans in the room being abusive. I know that they don’t represent vegans in general but they’re quite vocal, so people generalise. And it doesn’t help their view, it actually turns me off. I don’t want to learn more about your views and attitudes, because you just called me an idiot.
What’s your philosophy in life? What will 80-year-old Jordan be most proud of?
If I imagine myself in my old age, looking back, thinking about what I did with my life, I hope that I’ll be one of the many people involved in making this transition. There are people from all walks of life making incredible change and I hope that by using my skills and passion in telling stories that I can play my little part in making this transition happen. But I definitely want to strike the balance of telling other people’s stories and doing it myself.
Some of the Inspiring individuals in the new film:
What is going to cause a massive shift and change in the world? Could a global crisis actually be a good thing in the long run?
I think a lot of people that are in charge of all of these oil companies and the people looking at risk assessment are fully aware that there is going to be an end to oil drilling. Though, I think they’re just going to keep drilling until the oil runs out. While the money is still flowing, they’re are not going to stop’ they’ll make all the money they can and then call it quits.
I think crash will have to happen. I think that for a lot of people it’s not going to be a voluntary decision to shift to cleaner energy and sustainable solutions. Similar to when someone goes on a health kick after they have a heart attack; they start eating better and exercising. They’ve realised that they need to do something and change. I think a similar thing will happen to the economy and environment. I just hope that it happens soon enough that the world doesn’t heat up too much.
Will Living the Change be available on Netflix, Stan or iTunes?
The first documentary we did we released for free. But with this one we’re going to try and get distribution from online streaming services to reach a wider audience and hopefully make enough money to fund the next project.
Next project? Do you have more projects already planned?
We’re actually planning on shooting 3 short films while we’re in Melbourne for the screening in March. We’ll be heading back to short films for a while, which I’m really excited about. I love the process of making feature films but it’s a huge effort and the payoff is a lot longer. We have been working on this for over 8 months now and to not have any return or feedback is quite hard. I love the immediacy of short films and they’re really accessible compared to feature length films.
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