The future of our food system determines the future of mankind.
Interview with Writer/Director Matt Wechsler
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
There have been so many documentaries on food and agriculture that take the doom and gloom approach, yet very little has changed. In fact, I would argue it has gotten worse - The Ogalala Aquifer, which feeds 8 states in the heartland, has roughly 20 years of water left, potash and phosphate reserves are dwindling, a potential dust bowl is looming, farmland prices have dropped across the board and farmer suicides are at an all-time high. At the same time, over 400 million acres of farmland will change hands in the next two decades, meaning we have an opportunity to inspire a new generation of farmers to grow the right way. That is why we made this film – to inspire a new generation of farmers and instill lasting change in our food system.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
While the nation grapples with immigration, healthcare, poverty and climate change, people forget about the one topic that connects them all – food. We have an opportunity to fix several problems within the United States by changing our farm policies. As an audience member, you can participate in this food renaissance through your purchasing power, by getting to know local farmers, by growing your own food or simply by signing a petition. We all have a stake in fixing this.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
The universal theme that I feel is most prominent in this film is the theme that appears to be most prominent in politics right now – our government appears to value corporations over people. That is not right and the entrepreneurs featured in our film share the common theme that it is unacceptable to think that way.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Oh my, the film changed quite a bit over the course of three years. When we started, we just wanted to cover a bunch of short stories that pertained to sustainable farming. But along the way we found great characters, and with their personal stories came empathy – the very quality that makes us human. Professor Emeritus John Ikerd remarks in the film that “sustainability is ultimately an ethical issue.” We can debate in courts all we want, but fixing our food system is going to take more than research and technology – it will require empathy for one another.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback has been unreal – dozens of emails from people who want to start a farm, plant a garden, eat healthier food or just be part of the good food movement. Several farmers have written to say this is the inspiration they needed to keep doing what they do. We are ecstatic that our film really is inspiring people to move forward and focus on bettering the food system. And yes, there has been some hate mail, but very little.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Not really - 99% of the feedback has been incredibly positive and a small amount has been slanderous in nature (likely people who support industrial agriculture). We expected some pushback on two major topics – One is the vegan vs. ethical omnivore debate. The film looks at animal agriculture from an environmental standpoint, and thus sees the role of ruminant animals as the keepers of our grasslands in the greater ecosystem.
A vegan or vegetarian would not necessarily agree with that, which creates a major divide between groups that advocate for better farming policies. I would like to see the two groups come together on this, so we have a unified voice.
The other push back is regarding sustainable food as being “for the wealthy”. While that is the case in the United States, it is not the case across the rest of the world. Over 80% of farms across the world are less than 2 hectares in size and biodiversity (aka fancy upscale produce and ancient grains) is commonplace. It is expensive to eat that food in the United States because of our government policies. That is exactly what the film seeks to fix.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
The mainstream media has very little interest in covering problems with our food system these days, despite the fact that e.coli breakouts and other serious health risks caused by food are widespread. The media looks at problems in a very linear fashion – fixing healthcare requires comprehensive healthcare reform. I would argue that is not entirely true since healthcare costs are only expected to rise due to chronic illnesses caused by poor diets. Perhaps changing our farming policies would reduce chronic illnesses, thus making healthcare more affordable to the masses. Now why isn’t the media covering that? Our film suggests that adding one more crop to a two crop system would reduce chemical inputs by up to 95% - the very same chemicals that apparently cause cancer. This is what the media should be discussing.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Honestly, we need the mainstream media to talk about this. Up until the 1960s, agriculture was always one of the first questions asked during presidential debates, but that question has been absent from political conversations for the past 20 years. With the farm bill being renegotiated in 2019, I was really hoping the presidential candidates would talk about farm policies during the past election cycle, yet it was never discussed. The irony is we all eat, so it’s an issue that affects all Americans.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
The goal has always been to inspire people to stand up and demand change in our food system. We are running out of resources and commodity prices are falling. This is not a partisan issue – this is one of those issues where progressives and libertarians agree. Ultimately, I would like to see reform to the farm bill that sets into motion a fundamental change in how we produce food in America.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Can we reduce chronic illnesses like diabetes and obesity by changing the farm bill? Or would a National Food Policy reduce government healthcare expenses?
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We are currently working on a feature documentary called Right to Harm about the health effects of factory farming on rural America, and the inspiring citizens who fight for justice in their communities. The film is set to premiere in 2018.
Interview: March 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
The future of our food system determines the future of mankind.
Length: 92 minutes
Director: Matt Wechsler
Producer: Annie Speicher
Writer: Matt Wechsler
About the writer, director and producer:
Matt Wechsler is an award winning documentarian, food activist and urban gardener from Chicago who recently won the Accolade Global Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Annie Speicher is a creative storyteller, filmmaker and sustainable food advocate. An expert producer, director, sound recordist and Hoosier at heart, Annie brings a boundless love for humanity to every production.
Key cast: Marty Travis, Rick Bayless, Mark Bittman, Greg Wade, Bill & Nicolette Niman, John Ikerd
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
Funders: Journalists to spread the word and funders for our next film
Made in association with: Preferred Content
Where can I see it in the next month?
Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and VHX. Coming to iTunes, Google Play and Vudu by the end of April