'container' => 'false' ) ); ?>
Book a Free Video Consult

Blog: Feature Documentary Films

#TBT: Why Sundance’s Maddening “A Woman Captured” is a Fiction Film in Documentary Clothing

“A Woman Captured” is an engrossing, maddening film. It bills itself as a story about modern-day slavery, following 52-year-old Marish who finds herself trapped in contemporary Hungary serving a vile master named Eta. (The film premiered at Sundance 2018).

Visually, the film reflects Marish’s small world via unwavering extreme close ups. It’s enamoring, because her visage, like that of an old-world gypsy, is haggard and telegenic. The result is intimate and raw.

 

Sundance premiere A Woman Captured

In fact, film critics fell under its spell. The Hollywood Reporter calls it, “more than promising as a debut.” Variety calls it “shiveringly effective.”

Initially at least, I’m on board for the ride. Marish’s quest is believable, which she announces early on: to escape from her situation, get her own place, and reunite with her 16 year-old daughter.

Where this film breaks down is the accumulating sense that Hungarian filmmaker Bernadett Tuz-Ritter is withholding vital information. After all, some 69 minutes pass before we see anybody besides Marish! Throughout Act 2, I have an increasingly strong sense that I’m being manipulated.

There’s no back story forthcoming. As a result, the early rush of being immersed in Marish’s suffering is subsumed by a realization that everybody—Tuz-Ritter, Marish, and Eta—all have a lot more facts than I do.

We’re deep in Act 3, minutes before the over-the-top conclusion, before we learn bits and pieces about how Marish arrived in her current situation. This is way too late.

Sundance premiere A Woman Captured

What about Marish’s relationships? Is she estranged from her husband and children? If so, why? And for how long? And did this precede her descent into “modern-day slavery?” …Come again, does Marish really have 5 adult children nearby?!

Alternatively, perhaps this film is actually an experiment, testing my own expectations for more backstory and exposition? Is the joke is on me? Is this a postmodern work of art? Is it a fiction film in documentary clothing?

A third possibility is that Marish is actually suffering from some sort gargantuan lack of confidence that entraps her at an emotional level. How else can you really explain that she’s simply unable to walk down the street to seek help from one of her children, or a work colleague, or a social service organization?

If this is the case, wouldn’t have Tuz-Ritter tried let us in on this gradually during Act 2? Some sort of revelation that Marish’s health or choices have played a role in her current situation?

Cue Act 3. When Marish calls the “institution” where her daughter is staying, she gets through to the director easily and talks with him at length. She obviously has a pre-existing relationship with him. What is this institution? Where is the daughter? What’s the backstory there?

Most important, the conclusion is an emotional house of mirrors. Tuz-Ritter builds up Marish’s reunion with her daughter as the emotional peak of the film. But for this to matter, I need to understand what circumstances caused their separation. But the explanation is insufficient and I’m frustrated.

After the film, I talk with several Sundance filmgoers around me. Most of them love the film. They want to discuss modern-day slavery and how horrible it is.

But for me, “A Woman Captured” has the trappings of a film—an interesting character, an underlying quest, a structure and a resolution of sorts—but ultimately, it is manipulative gibberish.

Without exploring in greater depth why Marish’s family doesn’t help her escape, then the film isn’t honest or authentic.

The Hollywood Reporter piece called “A Woman Captured” “more conspiratorial than observational.” I suppose that’s spot on. And it raises a vital question: at what threshold of conspiracy does a documentary film cease to be a documentary film?

For more Los Angeles documentary film production, click here.

 

 

New Dorst MediaWorks Site … And a Higher Goal

I’m excited about my company’s new website, which is live this week!

It was high time to define Dorst MediaWorks’ mission statement to reflect what we’ve been doing for 14 years: video production for international development.

“Dorst MediaWorks’ goal is to help make the world a more just and equal place. We make videos for international development organizations that show how international development programs transform lives. This gives greater voice to the world’s poor and strengthens the entities that work with them.”

The website features four main sections: feature documentary films, videos for international development organizations, a bio page, and a blog.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 3.35.23 PM

Patrick Calder of the Design Foundry did the design work.

On Dorst MediaWorks’ portfolio of videos for international development organizations, you can skip around and see 30+ films from 15+ countries. Or you can filter by topic (education, health, small business, etc) or location (Azerbaijan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, etc). You can even click around on a world map to see where I’ve produced for clients ranging from USAID to Catholic Relief Services to the World Bank.

It was a blast looking back at the blog posts I started doing nine years ago around my experience making my first feature documentary film Volcanic Sprint, with Dan Evans. This new version of the blog lets you jump into categories, like the 57 posts tagged “Field Production,” or 54 tagged “Travel,” or cycling, equipment, or my latest doc, Jobs for G.I.s.

I like how the site is visually rich. The slideshow on the front page contains stills from my work. The pictures, films, and blogs — so many great memories of working in some challenging, interesting places with amazing people.

It’s an honor to be doing this work, amplifying the efforts of international development organizations, and ultimately improving the quality of life of the people they work with.

JOBS for G.I.s: Joint Service Achievement Medal

IMG_6023I’m honored to have received a Joint Service Achievement Medal” for “Outstanding “Achievement” for my recent documentary film, JOBS for G.I.s.

The honor was a complete surprise. Given by former Air Force officer, Aneika Solomon, who is one of the five transitioning service members we follow in the film, the award reads: “Director Stephen Dorst distinguished himself by outstanding craftsmanship as Director and Producer, Z-Channel Films, Washington D.C. by creating the documentary film, G.I. JOBS. While in collaboration with DirecTV and working alongside Producer and Director Doug Gritzmacher, Director Dorst’s keen perspective was instrumental in capturing and melding the stories of five veterans from the services of the Army, Air Force, Navy and the Marines.”

IMG_6020Aneika, like the other four people we follow, was brave to share her story with us. I hope this films helps all of us to pay more attention to this transition out of the service, which is such a critical juncture in the lives of millions of people. Too often, I think, people figure they do their part by clapping for the military at a baseball game or supporting Congressional increases in defense budget spending. But that doesn’t cut it.

We have to do a better job of making the transition work for more people. We need to target resources better for education, workforce training, and other support. If you own a company, you can help out by keeping an open mind and trying to interview former military for every position, not just the ones they’re stereotyped in. If you know somebody that served overseas, try to learn more about Iraq and Afghanistan so you can better appreciate what they went through.

At the policy level, we should all encourage the DOD to share more information with veteran service organizations (VSOs) at the city level. Too often, these VSOs want to help, but don’t find out about veterans in need until they’re already jobless, homeless, or worse.

When you empower veterans, you strengthen communities.

Doug and I went to Los Angeles six times during 2015 to film JOBS for G.I.s. Working with Doug as a two-man documentary film crew was a big pleasure: he’s super talented, with a great sense for story, and a strong eye. But we couldn’t have done it without the support of many organizations that are doing great work day in and day out:
Reboot
Vet Hunters
Salvation Army Haven
JVS Los Angeles
USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR)
National Veterans Foundation
Weingart Center
Veterans in Film and TV
Silhouettes for Vets
New Directions 
Goodwill Veterans Employment Program
Operation PAVE (Paralyzed Veterans of America)
LA County Dept of Military and Vet Affairs 
Got Your 6

Doug and I are on the lookout for our next documentary topic. If you know of a great, inspiring story, let us know. If you are an Executive Producer-type, interested in funding great stories, reach out. We are always looking to expand our team.

 

 

JOBS for G.I.s Now on DirecTV

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 6.34.43 PMA year ago today, Doug Gritzmacher and I flew to Los Angeles to start pre-production on a documentary that we pre-sold to DirecTV. The idea: since 9/11, more than 2 million people have left the military. How are they doing re-integrating into civilian life?

Our challenge: make the feature documentary film in nine months, soup to nuts! This was our first documentary film under the banner of our new company, Z-Channel Films.

That first whirlwind week we met with as many people as we could who were working on veterans affairs in Los Angeles. (We set the film there because the city has more veterans than any city in the nation; more homeless veterans; a Navy vet as a Mayor; and the city is the headquarters of DirecTV, so they liked that it was a “local” story.)

Over the subsequent six months, we returned to Los Angeles seven times. We followed a lot of transitioning service members, and ultimately settled on five, at least one from each branch.

Kudos to DirecTV, which gave us great latitude to tell the story we wanted to tell!

When JOBS FOR G.I.s premiered on DirecTV’s Audience Channel around Veterans Day in early November, I was elated. Mad props to my filmmaking partner, Doug Gritzmacher, who was a delight to work with. He does it all, from directing and shooting to editing and color correction. I hope we make many more documentaries together!

Long form is a grind. You don’t make much money. When you do it the way we prefer — more observational documentary — it takes time. And you’re not necessarily sure where the story is going or when it’s going to wrap up.

But that’s documentary. Thanks to Doreen, Aneika, Andy, Christian, and Alex who let us into their lives. Respect to the thousands of providers in the city of angels who are helping service members transition out. And thanks to our patriots who serve in our stead.

Making this film gave me a renewed appreciation for what you do.

Volcanic Sprint on iTunes tomorrow!

Volc Sprint crew

Seven years ago last month, with both legs dangling out of an old African military helicopter, I trained my film camera down at small dots of racers during the world’s most extreme running race. The participants in the Mt. Cameroon Race of Hope still had 25 miles and 10,000 vertical feet to go to reach the roof of West Africa. We screamed up the main drag from Molyko Stadium, spitting up red dirt above thatched-roof huts to Upper Farms with its thousands of joyous fans.

It was my first time directing a documentary. I had no cash. So I put everything on credit cards, hired a knowledgeable DP to head up filming, and then Dan Evans left Washington, DC to fly to Buea, Cameroon. Little did I know that it would go on to do well in film festivals, get distribution around the world, and remain to this day the only documentary that chronicles this extreme running race.

If you like documentary films or running, or appreciate projects that are really a wing-and-a-prayer, then spread the word about Volcanic Sprint.

Tomorrow, Volcanic Sprint goes live online, with its premiere on iTunes!

If you like documentary films or running, or appreciate projects that are really a wing-and-a-prayer, then spread the word about Volcanic Sprint. How can you help? Share the FB post that accompanies this blog post. Rate Volcanic Sprint on IMDB (we don’t have many ratings, and a few boneheads gave us 1 out of 10 ratings, so you can help counteract that . . . if you want!).

Watch the trailer here:

Check out the Volcanic Sprint website, where US endurance running legend Scott Jurek says: “Insurmountable challenges, true courage, a triumph of the human spirit. Inspiration for runner and non-runner alike!” US marathon record-holder Deena Kastor says, “This movie captures the competitiveness, danger, and heroism of the world’s most difficult marathon.” And 2009 NYC marathon champion Meb Keflezighi calls Volcanic Sprint “A wonderful movie that is uplifting and inspirational!”

 

Shattered Sky on Hulu, iTunes & Amazon!

I’m thrilled that Shattered Sky is newly available to watch on Hulu! If you have Hulu, it’s free. Just click here. Let me know what you think! The film is also available for purchase or rental on iTunes and Amazon. And if you need a social-issue break from video games, check it out on Playstation!

Thanks to the big Facebook community for spreading the word. December was the best month for downloads yet. Thanks!

Shattered Sky tells the story of how America led to solve the biggest environmental crisis the world had ever seen. It challenges us all to do the same on climate change today. If you want, pass it on — tell a friend or two about my movie — hopefully more of us can have a can-do spirit about solving climate change.

Repairing the Shattered Sky

I wanted to share a great follow-up to my Bloomberg article last week. Policy Innovations, a publication of the Carnegie Council, ran a Q&A with me entitled Repairing the Shattered Sky. Editor Evan O’Neil asked some tough questions. I call climate negotiations “medieval trade fairs” and US politicians “cowards.” I hope you have a chance to read it!

It was good fun, particularly thinking about the film and the issues it raises through Carnegie’s lens: ethics. China came up a lot. The moral and practical responsibility of Americans to act on climate change came up as well. Hope you can read it!

Kickstarter, Bloomberg, and the Care2 petition

Pretty excited today. An article I wrote got picked up by Bloomberg. It’s in Bloomberg’s Sustainability blog, “The Grid.” It’s about my experience interviewing Jim Rogers — the CEO of America’s largest coal utility — for Shattered Sky. About the lessons of the ozone issue, through the eyes of America’s most powerful coal executive.

Today is also the second day of the Shattered Sky Kickstarter campaign. It’s been an incredible response, with $9,200 given, by 54 backers in the first day. It’s not easy launching a project to raise $35,000, but it sures allays some fears when you raise 25% in the first 24 hours. If I reach my Kickstarter goal, Shattered Sky’s distribution will be great: festivals, promotion around the PBS TV distribution, and Facebook contests and other initiatives to accompany grassroots events. Here’s my first Kickstarter update.

I’m also encouraged by the progress on the petition, which I’m conducting with Shattered Sky’s advocacy partner, Care2. More than 4,400 people have now signed it, demanding that candidates Obama and Romney pay more attention to climate and energy issues in their election runs.

 

Sign the Petition! Obama & Romney . . .

I launched a petition today calling on our Presidential candidates to talk early and often about their plans for a fair national energy policy and solutions for climate change. This year is a critical presidential election and an important time in history. Will we see big money and bad politics? Or can we inspire progress on climate and energy? My movie, Shattered Sky, which is premiering on PBS in September, tells the story of how America led the world to a solution on the ozone crisis. Let’s remind our candidates about that success story. Solving big environmental issues is not a partisan issue.

Care2 is Shattered Sky‘s advocacy partner, working together to restore a can-do attitude on energy and climate solutions. Care2 has almost 20 million members, and is the nation’s largest online community empowering people to lead a healthy and green lifestyle while taking action on important causes.

So, take a minute and sign the petition . . . Obama & Romney: What’s Your Plan to Solve Energy & Climate Change?

U.S. State Department Screening

It was a great way to celebrate Independence Day: a screening of Shattered Sky at the U.S. State Department on Tuesday. It was an honor, given the history of the institution and the role its employees played during the ozone crisis.

George C. Marshall auditorium welcomed us: the “Marshall” in “Marshall Plan.” Dan Evans and I fielded a bevy of smart and challenging questions following the show: about climate policy, the interplay between regulation and technology, the importance of citizen action.

In 1985, 20 countries signed the Vienna Convention to set up a framework for negotiating international regulations of ozone-depleting substances like CFCs. Chief U.S. Negotiator Richard Benedick (who is in our film) must have walked these State Department halls and had lively debates with his team. How would they set the tone for global cooperation on a future global treaty?

Less than two years later, following the discovery of the ozone hole, Benedick and the EPA’s Lee Thomas led the American presence at the important signing of the Montreal Protocol, where 24 countries formally committed to phasing out 50 percent of CFCs. Subsequently, the Montreal Protocol got updated seven times, and more than 190 countries eventually signed it. And they all phased out 100% of CFCs.

For me, that’s the main lesson on climate. You don’t have to get it 100% right at first. Gather up the main players, take an important first step. Then update the plan together. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We’re coming up on the 25th anniversary this September. Hopefully, more of us will take notice that in 1987, America led the world to a global solution on the ozone crisis.

Will we will all take inspiration to take smart action on climate? Only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

 

Perspectives on 500,000

Less than three months to go until the nationwide public TV premiere of Shattered Sky.

I’m excited about the chance to make a difference. I’m hoping enough people get wind of the film and get inspired that our country led the world during the ozone crisis. Then we can all look at the challenges posed by climate change through a new lens — why not work together? Why not set aside short-term differences? Why not unite to lead the world on renewable energy? How can this NOT be a good strategy for jobs and the economy — the rest of the world licensing our clean-tech inventions for the next century?

If Ronald Reagan’s cabinet thought that strong action on the global ozone treaty was a good thing, why can’t our politicians today find a way to work together on the issues that affect our economy and environment?

Maybe we as citizens aren’t doing enough to work together.

I aim to change that. And passing 500,000 fans on Facebook this past week reminded me that there are a lot of people out there who share this vision. Working toward the September public TV release and campaign launch, I know we can really make a difference together!

 

Shattered Sky: A Whirlwind of Good

Since the March 22 premiere of Shattered Sky at the DC Environmental Film Festival, it’s been a whirlwind of good: NY Times coverage and lots of contacts with festivals, colleges, and activists who want to play the film.

Most importantly, our Shattered Sky team is growing, and setting a solid foundation for a campaign to make a huge impact on the issues come September – the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, the international ozone treaty.

The New York Times article quoted me well: “Shattered Sky is not about the science. It’s about what a responsible leader does when there’s a good chance the science is right. It’s important to remember that the first draft of the ozone treaty wasn’t perfect. It was a first step. It showed the world that America was committed to lead — and that made all the difference.”

The festival was super. Expertly run, our screening was super packed. We had Sunshine Mendez moderating, with Rolling Stone editor Jeff Goodell joining Dan Evans and me on stage for the panel afterwards.

We had a private reception at the nearby Hotel Rouge following the panel, with about 100 people. National Wildlife Federation CEO Larry Schweiger talked about the educational partnership with Shattered Sky.

I’m personally really excited about this, and will write more as it continues to take shape. The outreach will focus primarily on high school and college. It will be national. It will be a combined science and civics curriculum. And it will focus on the positive message that America led the world to a solution on the ozone crisis during the Reagan Administration—and we can do it again on energy and climate.

If you’re on Facebook, you can see the photos of the film, the vibe, and the party.

It’s been a crazy month, but has exceeded all my expectations. Thanks to everybody for all you’re doing to get our campaign going. You know who you are!

Respects, Dr. Rowland

I was all set to write something today about how we just got our 400,000th fan on the Shattered Sky FB page, before our film festival premiere later this month, when a friend sent the Washington Post obit for Dr. Sherwood Rowland, chemist and Nobel laureate, who passed away over the weekend.

When I first met Dr. Rowland in 2007, he was already 33 years removed from the defining discovery of his career — that chlorofluorocarbons contribute to ozone depletion.

I remember how nervous I was before our interview at UC Irvine. Here was one of the most renowned atmospheric chemists in history. What if he and his doctoral student Mario Molina (co-Nobel Laureate) had never made the discovery? What if the ozone hole had kept growing? Would skin cancer be a much more serious threat today? Would crops and fisheries be suffering? What about our health and environment today if Rowland and Molina simply hadn’t done the work?

I recall how tall he was and how my hand disappeared in his as we greeted each other. Something from his bio jumped to my mind, and I mentioned it: that he’d been named the MVP in the AAU Chicago city basketball championship game in 1949. Dr. Rowland smiled and relayed some stories. Our interview got off to a good start.

The enclosed photo is a screen shot from a 2009 interview for Shattered Sky, my new documentary that compares the ozone crisis with climate change. I literally couldn’t have made the film without Dr. Rowland, who gave Dan Evans and me full access to his archives, going back four decades.

Dr. Rowland was the rare scientist in the 1970s who spoke forcefully for political action. He set a strong example that a scientist’s role didn’t end at the laboratory door, which paved the way for other strong scientists to speak out, including some in our film.

As Shattered Sky premieres later this month (and we announce an exciting nationwide educational partnership), a new generation will learn not only about Dr. Rowland’s discovery, but also about America’s success in solving the ozone crisis. My hope is that the story inspires us all to take action on climate change, because it’s the smart and right thing to do now for our energy, economy, and environment.

Respects, Dr. Rowland.

 

Jane Goodall LIVE

 

Today was the second time I filmed Dr. Jane Goodall recently for an upcoming movie, and each time she has taken me off guard (in a good way) with an extraordinarily gentle spirit, iron resolve, and tendency to break into impromptu primate calls.
Dr. Goodall is 77 years old. She moves lightly; the years exert no visible weight on her. She talks in a whisper, not out of reserve or infirmity, but from the quiet confidence of somebody accustomed to her own authority and eloquence. People listen.
This morning, Dr. Goodall speaks with the crew at the International Space StationCommander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa join in. I film her side of it. The astronauts are inspired by Dr. Goodall’s life-long conservation mission. She finds common ground, learning about their science and their thoughts about the Earth from their perch.

In orbit, the world’s most accomplished astronauts are zipping at more than 17,000 miles per hour, chatting with the only person who’s ever been accepted into chimpanzee society. As I type this, Jeff Orlowski is putting the final touches on Jane Goodall: Live, which is playing one night only, September 27, in 500 cinemas around the country.

Afterwards, Dr. Goodall and I discuss Roots and Shoots, a youth-oriented program of the Jane Goodall Institute that is in 100+ countries and all 50 states. It’s her passion; it’s visceral how intent she is on getting the next generation to care. She leans in: “I bet you need a chimp hug,” she says. I mutter something far less poignant than how David Graybeard might have responded. She utters a chimp call, and tenderly squeezes. I smile.

 

Shattered Sky – Can We Do the Same on Climate and Energy?

Been super busy, in a good way, in post-production for Shattered Sky. New feature indie doc from my co-director Dan Evans and me. Compares ozone issue to the current climate/energy crisis. Amazing similarities between the two: invisible compound was found to be wreaking devastating effects on the environment; all countries were at risk; changing course meant massive global economic implications; finding a solution was incredibly tough . . . except in the case of the ozone issue, the US took responsibility, owned up to the issue, led the world to a solution. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked. Can we do the same today on climate and energy?

Nilles: Coal and Energy Choice

So, today Dan Evans and I interviewed Bruce Nilles for our film on climate change, Shattered Sky. Nilles is the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign Director. He’s pretty focused on ending coal consumption as we know it, and he’s not alone. I asked Nilles if there’s such a thing as clean coal. And, in no uncertain terms, he said the exact same thing that Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy said (who I interviewed a few weeks ago): NO. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is in the study phase, and is at least 10-15 years away as a commercial enterprise. Of course, Nilles emphasized that CCS coal would cost twice as much, and be more expensive as solar and wind. Rogers thoughts that CCS is a good investment. Nilles railed against the production of coal — which includes mountaintop removal, ash ponds, and a certain amount of deaths per year. Rogers didn’t talk much about that.

But we’re in a democracy, right? If we don’t want this anymore, we can change it? “We don’t have choice,” said Nilles. He’s right. Try calling up your monopoly utility company and requesting a second or third option for your electricity. For the approximately 25 states that derive 50% or more of their electricity from coal burning, citizens don’t have much of a choice. Ultimately, is today’s energy debate about providing us with more of a choice? When we find out more, what do we demand? I vote clean. And I suspect, with the right incentives, Rogers’ Duke Energy might invest to help us get there. Possible?

Lovins: No Regrets Action!

Interviewed Hunter Lovins today for our climate change documentary Shattered Sky. Who is not jazzed and encouraged after talking with Lovins?! She advocates action toward clean energy and reducing CO2 emissions, not because it is the right thing to do per se, but because there’s a compelling business case. She cited case after case where companies saved wads of cash by instituting various energy-efficiency practices. Energy efficiency could “reduce energy demand and carbon emissions by 50 %” she said. Inspirational.

Becker: From Climate Weirding to Executive Solutions

So, with co-producer Dan Evans, I interviewed Bill Becker today for our documentary Shattered Sky. So, should we be calling this crisis “climate change” or “global warming” I asked Becker. I don’t much care what we call it anymore, let’s just do something about it, he responded, before deciding on “climate weirding.” This, because there won’t be uniform warming, but unpredictable extremes – droughts, extra rain, possible feedback, etc. On his blog at Yale, John Waldman says Hunter Lovins coined the term; but when I interviewed Lovins, she said she got the term from “a friend.” So who invented it? Or more importantly, is it useful?

Becker is low-key, avuncular, and comprehensive in approach. During the last few years, he talked with hundreds of policy people, scientists, and other experts on what to do on three interrelated challenges: climate, energy, and national security. The conclusions of his Presidential Climate Action Project are in large part being integrated into early-stage Obama Administration initiatives, a credit to Becker and the work of his collaborators.

Carbon Age Over Tandoori Chicken

So, I’m eating lunch at my favorite local Indian place with my friend Eric Roston today. Roston’s the author of The Carbon Age, a brilliant, definitive book about carbon as a structural element in life and civilization. So, over some tasty Tandoori Chicken, the conversation fortunately veers away from molecular composition and astrophysics to something I can at least talk about: ethics. Roston makes the point that the climate issue is the perfect moral quandary: any actions you and I take to try to arrest the build-up of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere will have little to no impact during our lives. We simply won’t see it, since CO2 emissions have atmospheric lifetimes of 100-150 years, and sometimes a lot more.

Are our political and economic systems equipped to handle long-term, complex, moral issues? So far, no.

Check out this nice blog post, with a video of Roston on the Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Roston holds his own pretty well. Funny!

Google 2030: How’d a Tech Company One-Up the Gov’t?

Google’s Energy team put out a strategy in October called “Google 2030,” which makes a strong case for smart investments in clean energy. Like most everything Google does, it is smart, thorough, and transparent — they’ve improved it quite a bit with public comments in the past six months (why can’t the federal government work this way?). It targets some aggressive but realistic goals, which not only help address climate change, but reduce pollution and get us well on our way to using renewable energy at scale. Some highlights: it aims to reduce fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 88%; reduce vehicle oil consumption by 44%; reduce dependence on imported oil (currently 10 million barrels per day) by 37%; reduce electricity-sector CO2 emissions by 95%; reduce personal vehicle sector CO2 emissions by 44%; reduce US CO2 emissions overall by 49% (41% from today’s CO2 emission level).

Does everyone have an agenda? Sure. Google’s is to have cheaper, sustainable energy in the long run so their massive server farms don’t become a PR nightmare in CA during the next generation. Oh, and it might help their bottom line. And Google knows that utilities are essentially monopolies, so we need government intervention in making the move toward cleaner alternatives. Is the US federal government up to the task?

What’s one way forward? Read Google’s HOW TO.

Bob Watson and the IPCC

Interviewed Bob Watson today for Shattered Sky. In my opinion, if you have to pick one person in the world today who contributed most to science informing international policy, it’s Watson. Start with the nascent international science assessments around the ozone crisis in the mid-1980s. Those were organized by Watson and Dan Albritton, from NOAA. Until then, country-level science assessments competed with each other, and often contradicted each other, undermining the authority of science and essentially making it less of an input into policy. Watson wrangled together the best scientists in the world, who coalesced into a convincing, unified voice preceding the 1988 Montreal Protocol, the landmark international treaty that phased out the chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer.

Soon thereafter, in 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its first assessment on global warming. So, 20 years later, we’re up to the 4th IPCC report, which included more than 2,500 scientific expert reviewers, more than 800 contributing authors, and more than 450 lead authors — from more than 130 countries.

So, for the first time in history, we have a truly global consensus in scientific opinion. Some complain that because there are so many participants and it takes so many years to reach consensus, that the IPCC may actually be too conservative. But, I say, better to err on this side than overstate climate change.

Wrapped Another 13 interviews

Finished another 13 interviews for Shattered Sky, our film that parallels the ozone issue with climate change, with a mind to advance progress on climate. Taking a week break, then back interviewing Bill Reilly, Lee Thomas, Bob Watson.

Volcanic Sprint Plays Houston’s Real Films

Great time today in sweltering Houston, where a pocket of film-lovers and runners came to a showing of Volcanic Sprint organized by Real Films. The Aurora Theater, an inspired second act for a 1920s church, is intimate, with a wood-paneled ceiling and walls. The Q&A goes an hour, with people interested in Cameroon’s situation almost as much as the particulars of the race. And with Saint Arnold Brewing Company a sponsor, the night is complete. Jeff Mills and his wife Barbara are founders of Real Films (and principals of Houston’s own IO Communications). Not only did they put on a classy event, but they made me feel right at home — if only for a day in Houston.

Jackson Hole Film Fest Rocks!


I have to admit that this film festival is killer! Not only did the programmers get some amazing films here, but all the organizers are relentlessly nice, and have created a very low-key atmosphere for us to just hang out and meet each other. In between watching amazing documentaries like “Class C” and “Man on Wire,” I hobnobbed with a lot of very inspiring people — including a sizable DC contingent. Here, from left, are Virginia Williams, producer of Frontrunner; Karim Chrobog, director of War Child; Brian Liu, director of Disarm (which won its category in the 2006 Jackson Hole Film Fest); and yours truly. Cool festival.

Mt. Cameroon Race 2008

This is a little photo montage of the 2008 Mt Cameroon Race that we had on loop before yesterday’s showing of Volcanic Sprint at the Boulder Theater:

Boulder Theater & One World Running

Two showings of Volcanic Sprint today at the Boulder Theater. A shade over 200 people came out, and the Q&A’s were awesome — a credit to Boulder’s running community, some of whom even signed up to run the Mt. Cameroon Race next year! Craig Mintzlaff wrangled up a half dozen sponsors; and Danny Abshire, head of Newton Running came to both showings, and said some kind things about the film. We collected dozens of pairs of near-new running shoes for Michael Sandrock’s nonprofit One World Running. Good show Boulder!

Boulder Theater !


Outside Boulder’s historic theater, on the left with the guys that made it happen: mover and shaker Craig Mintzlaff, principal of Endurance Sports Marketing; Justin Perkins, the glue that kept us all together; and Michael Aisner, eclipse chaser, US Cycling Hall-of-Famer, and great all-around guy.

Hitting the streets


Free day today to enjoy Boulder and try to drum up interest in Volcanic Sprint, which is playing tomorrow at the Boulder Theater. So I fill a backpack full of flyers and try to spy running-types; Boulder is overflowing from the Creek Festival to the ever-vibrant
Pearl Street Mall. I spend the day hobnobbing and talking to people about the film.

Bolder Boulder – Volcanic Sprint

So I arrived yesterday in Boulder, Colorado, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities. Precipitous mountains hem in a kelly-green valley; smart growth has yielded wide pedestrian walkways, and bikes outnumber cars in some areas. Oh . . and the people are all apparently required to be super nice.

I did an interview for Bret Saunders on KCBO’s Morning Show. Local journalist Ryan Thorburn wrote an article on Volcanic Sprint that came out in the local Daily Camera . Volcanic Sprint is playing at the classic Boulder Theater here on Sunday. The occasion? Bolder Boulder
is one of the largest road races in the country, and this Memorial Day weekend is going to be a blast!

Dibusse on Volcanic Sprint

My favorite Cameroonian blogger covers Volcanic Sprint: Mount Cameroon Race: “Volcanic Sprint” Now Available on DVD. Other media coverage: Cameroon: The Race – Down Memory Lane from the Buea Post on February 21; Cameroon: Epoch Making Innovations from the Cameroon Tribune on February 19; L’ascension du Mont Cameroun vue par Steve Dorst from the February 15th edition of Le Messager.

Some bloggers covered the film as well. Thanks, and I enjoyed reading your blogs! blogmyruns, Albert Caruana, Constintine Njeru, 21st Century Mom, Complete Running, Rick Gaston, <a href='http://journeytoendurance.blogspot.com/2008/02/volcanic-spirit.html
‘>Brian Hawkinson, and Ian “Vanilla”.

Atop Mt Cameroon

Spending so much time with Volcanic Sprint had bred a familiarity that ultimately made the mountain race seem pretty accessible to me. Wow, was I in for a shock! The Mt. Cameroon trail basically goes straight up, through rainforest, savannah, and curling around a 2000 lava flow that reformed the mountain and lengthened the race. The ascent is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and just getting my air above 12,000 feet was tough. I can’t imagine for a moment running. The descent was the most painful thing I’ve attempted in a long time. That runners go from summit to base in a little more than an hour is — and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here — one of the most impressive athletic feats I’ve ever witnessed.

Check out this clip we recorded from the summit!

2008 Race – Photojournalist!

I decide to cover as much of the race as possible taking photos. The race starts at 7am at Molyko stadium, and I streak out with the runners to rejoin Hans, my moto driver. We have about 28 minutes to document the 4.5 miles of ascending road until the lead pack hits the trailhead at Upper Farms. Buea’s denizens line the race route in droves. The rising sun is soft, the light refracting over smoky hills. The rounded mountain peak is barely visible.

I run, walk, hike, and snap photos along the way. The rainforest is never-ending. It takes the best runners about 35 minutes to traverse the rainforest segment before they confront the even steeper slopes of the savannah. It take me 1 hour 45 minutes. Eventually, I make it to about 7,000 feet, to a little hut between hut 1 and hut 2, then run most of the descent to Upper Farms. I arrive only moments before Sarah Etonge. Then literally thousands of us accompany her down, children, mothers, cars honking, flags waving, and me mounted backwards on an idling motorcycle knowing my privilege to chronicle the Queen’s final race.

The Eyes of Children

Almost as soon as I finished Volcanic Sprint last year, I imagined having a public viewing where we shot in — in Buea, Cameroon. It would need to be free and in the open air. I pictured it showing in the dirt in-field where the Mt. Cameroon Race begins and end, at Molyko Stadium.

Tonight, it happens, and the Buea Post Weekender edition publicizes it well. Moki, Dan, and I say a few words on stage, then Volcanic Sprint plays. As many as two or three thousand people attend, stretching back beyond the track to packed stadium bleachers. I sit crossed-legged in the dirt and watch them watching, blue light flickering on childrens’ expectant faces. Buea’s children: watching their neighbors, their heros, dance upon the big screen.

Where Are They Now?

It’s Saturday, the day before the race. Call time is pre-dawn. It’s a familiar ride in the bed of the pickup up Buea’s main drag, which traverses Mt. Cameroon’s southern slopes. The Queen of the Mountain is just as electric and personable as the day we left her in 2006, when Buea Town unveiled a statue in her honor. She’ll run the race for the final time this year, and hopes the Cameroon Athletic Federation will help her secure a job afterwards. She is, after all, 40 years old.

Max informs us he’s not running the race as a way to honor his father, John Ekema who died last month. The tall, dried raffia palms rattle as Max pulls them off his father’s grave, only 15 feet behind Max’s shack. A fading plastic wreath reads “RIP John Ekema,” beside a torn pink plastic sandal (“my father’s favorite shoes”). The site’s volcanic stones are strewn with an offering of feathers and spent red shotgun shells. The late Ekema, besides being the first winner of the Mt Cameroon Race and a subsistence farmer, was an avid hunter.

Volcanic Sprint Press Screening in Douala

Every time I’m in Douala, I’m amazed it functions, what with the cramped streets overflowing with kinetic traffic, pedestrians, and commerce claiming every patch of level earth. Since my last visit two years ago, the Chinese moto manufacturer Sanili has taken over. Maybe it’s the jet lag, but that 1990 song by Sinead O’Conner, Black Boys on Mopeds, cycles repeatedly in my head.

The press screening for Volcanic Sprint takes place at the French Cultural Center. I meet Jean-Marie Mollo Olinga, one of Cameroon’s most notable film critics, who wrote about our film’s premier in Yaounde yesterday. Following the film, Unit Producer Moki Charles joins Dan and I on stage. Soon, the journalists are debating among themselves about the merits and subtleties of our film. . . Next stop, Buea.

Houston Chronicle Covers Volcanic Sprint

In <a href='http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=2008_4513616
‘>”Marathon a rugged climb / Film documents race up volcanic mountain in Africa,” Houston Chronicle journalist Roberta MacInnis writes about the Mt. Cameroon Race, Volcanic Sprint, and our shoe donation.

Mt Cameroon Race of Hope 2008

Off to Buea, Cameroon today for the 2008 Mt Cameroon Race. San Francisco to Atlanta to Paris to Douala. The trip is packed: Friday the Cameroon premier of Volcanic Sprint, at the French Cultural Center in Douala. Saturday, we’ll film Sarah, Max, Walters, and others for some DVD special features. Saturday night is the open-air projection of Volcanic Sprint at Molyko Stadium — free for the whole town. Sunday is the race, where we’ve again hired four cameramen. After the race, I’m participating in the shoe donation — 400 pairs to the top 100 finishers in each of the four categories: men, women, youth, and masters. Monday, we’ll do some more follow-up stories, and then say good-bye to Buea.

Always a Statesman

At Stanford. Interviewed George Shultz today for the independent documentary I’m producing, SHATTERED SKY. I was really hoping to link some of the lessons of the fight to save the ozone to today’s climate challenge, and Shultz didn’t disappoint. We focused on his days as Secretary of State under Reagan, and what a key role statecraft played in forging a US consensus to do something about the emerging ozone hole.

Boulder viewing party

In Boulder Colorado today for a viewing party for VOLCANIC SPRINT at the house of Michael Ainsley. He assembled about 15 of his friends and acquaintances that he thought could offer feedback on our emerging distribution strategy. Elite runners, a famous photographer, TV people, race organizers, executives, and sports entrepreneurs — a great mix.

American Public Television Worldwide

Today, we firmed up an international distribution deal with American Public Television Worldwide for Volcanic Sprint. We’re looking forward to seeing which countries they can license it in.

Encountering Cincinnati’s First Citizen

Friday in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine is a flurry of life, as documentary research leads me to politicians, ex-con weightlifters, millionaire arts patrons, and a cabal of partying idealists. First, friend and co-producer, Joe Brinker and I meet Bill Baum, principal of Urban Sites. Baum’s been developing property for a quarter century in Over-the-Rhine, through all the bad times, and is leading the charge during this new phase of activity. His speciality: preserving the historically significant facades while renovating the outdated, cramped tenaments into modern, spacious lofts. Coming from DC, I’m amazed at the low cost of these condos, especially since downtown is just a few minutes away by foot. Baum is soft-spoken, straightforward. Later, I would talk to Jeanne Golliher, Director of the Cincinnati Development Fund, who says that “there is a special place for Baum in heaven”; and that his renovations in Over-the-Rhine “are setting the standard.”

Joe and I take several hours to walk around Over-the-Rhine and meet people: do they think things are changing for the better here? Somehow I’m soon engaged in a benchpress competition with Ken at Lord’s Gym. Orlando, who’s the volunteer, explains the mission of the gym, that it’s an outreach of the nearby Lutheran Church. Across the street, Washington Park is a big green space that, if it were cleaned up a bit, could rival the best that Boston or DC have to offer. But there are at least 20 or 30 people drinking out of paper bags, just sitting around — and barely a stone’s throw from a school! On one side is Music Hall, which is absolutely stunning. Later, I would watch a documentary, Music Hall: Cincinnati Finds Its Voice, which gives a great history of the arts in the life of Cincinnati.

After some famous Cincinnati chili for lunch, we meet Reverend Damon Lynch of The New Prospect Baptist Church. Lynch figured prominently in Cincinnati’s 2001 riots. Many people paint him as an apologist for the riots, and to some degree they are right. But I see him as an advocate for the poorest of the poor. Maybe one of the most vocal they have. Lynch’s quote that sticks with me: “There’s a difference between economic development and community economic development.” As this project continues, I’ll need to get a better handle on Lynch’s perspective. Is it the same as that of Over-the-Rhine’s 80% African-American population?

Joe and I race up to the Kroger Building, downtown, to meet with Vice-Mayor Jim Tarbell. “Cincinnati’s First Citizen” as some people refer to him, have a love affair with this throwback of a councilman: he rides a scooter around the city; owns a bar; has an infectious smile; is a keen historian; loves his city. I acquire bits of the Tarbell legend throughout the day: he squatted in a St. Paul’s Cathedral to save it from the wrecking ball, he formed the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce back when there wasn’t any commerce, he dresses up in top hat and tails for Opening Day, in hommage to the hometown Reds. Why can’t all councilpeople be like this, I wonder? From an upper story overlooking the exquisite architecture of Over-the-Rhine, we attend Class Tarbell: History 101. And after two hours of historical vignettes and charming asides, I feel energized . . . and realize: I’m going to make this documentary.

Sign up for Dorst Mediaworks’ Email Newsletter

Email Collection