A documentary about feeding humanity in an uncertain age. Over 2 billion people on earth eat insects for protein. Following the rise and dramatic fall of edible insect start-ups in America, this film exposes America’s disconnect with food as climate catastrophe, uncovering daily habits individuals can alter to fix the broken food system, one meal at a time.
Interview with Director Johanna B Kelly
Main photo: Crickets on Hot Dog at Susie's Dogs in Youngstown Ohio
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thanks, after learning that Western diets and industrialized agriculture are essentially the biggest culprit in global warming and the leading cause of death and illness in America I realized we really need to start talking about these issues in a global way. Everyone loves to sit and watch a doc on Amazon or Netflix, so why not start the conversation there? We’re fishing fish to feed farmed fish that are supposed to be replacing the wild fish to solve the overfishing problem! Essentially there’s a whole host of oxymoronic behaviour going on in this industrialized food complex that just needs to stop, but only when people are informed can they make intelligent decisions. So as a film lover and filmmaker I couldn’t think of a better way to get people to listen to what I had to say!
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
It’s a great journey and features never before seen technology and concepts around food. We started out documenting some people’s insect rearing or cricket bar companies and ended up following their lives through really intense ups and downs, with laugh out loud moments followed by absolute tearjerker scenes. Life is pretty crazy and we captured a couple of really interesting characters lives by chance as we followed them around just trying to learn about the industry.
Also to become more informed on how your personal daily eating habits are affecting your environment and all the new (and old) technologies and farming techniques that go into feeding the world. To become empowered to help the environment through your own diet - as Westerners we’ve become really disconnected with our food and it’s showing up in all kinds of negative ways, from the obesity and diabetes epidemics to the hypoxic dead zones in our oceans and ultimately this is a result of ignorance, a lack of education and demoralization. So you may just want to learn more and discover uplifting ideas on how we can combat these overwhelming issues in a positive way - it’s actually a pretty funny movie.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
We’ve had a lot of great feedback about our film and we believe it’s because people love films on food. Eating is universal - it’s the one thing absolutely every human does and that really creates a sense of community in audiences. But in the West we really need to start respecting our food more and being mindful of what it takes to get it to our table, the energy, the water, the land, the carbon footprint of getting it to the supermarket or deli and then into our restaurant or fridges and be grateful for the plentiful ways we’ve been living because it’s very unsustainable which means it’s not going to last. By the time I’m a Grandma, we’re going to be looking at a very different food landscape.
What we choose to eat has a huge impact on the planet but if giving up red meat seems too big a sacrifice, try Meat-free-Mondays. Consider buying less at the grocery store so you’re throwing out less at the end of the week, and before you decide to order in, see what you can make with what’s in your fridge already. The average American consumer wastes 10 times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia, up 50% from Americans in the 1970s which means there was once a time when we wasted far less so we can get back there again. Demand dictates supply so the power really is with the people, despite what modern media may have you believing.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Wow - just immensely. As I mentioned, we set out to learn about the edible insect industry which lead us to learn about the wider food industry and why a change is necessary as we watched lives and businesses build then unravel due to climate change and environmental tragedies. We were halfway through editing our film when the ending happened and we had to race out to film it and then even as we’re filming, things were changing right before our lenses which totally dictated the direction our film had to go.
It was an incredibly organic process. From the get go we were led by our noses, each interview subject leading us on to the next, triggering a flurry of internet research and investigation, off the record phone calls to obtain inside info we then couldn’t use and had to find other ways to tell those off limits stories. It’s been quite an adventure and an ever evolving story.
And then we had to condense 2 years worth of shooting into 84 minutes! Filmmaking really is a process that requires careful culling and constructing of characters, story lines and narrative arc even in the documentary form. We utilize a 3 act structure and I think it works well to succinctly deliver the emotional arc some of our favourite characters go through over the course of the couple of years we spent with them to deliver a fulfilling experience for the audience.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Really positive stuff to be honest. We’ve been honored with an Award of Excellence by the Impact DOCS Awards and nominated for Best Film and Best Documentary in the Milano Int. Film Festival Awards (announced in May) and the film was so popular at Santa Barbara Film Fest that we had an extra screening added. It’s been humbling to have audience members come up to us after screenings and thank us for making such an ‘important film’. Even if we only touch a few people, there’s just no telling how far their enthusiasm can spread. And that really was our whole goal for making the film so the feedback has, surprisingly for us, ended up being the most inspiring part of our journey yet.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Not so far! We’ve only had it screened a few times so I’m sure some surprises are on their way, but thus far it’s been really uplifting to hear audiences really get what we’re saying and invite us to speak at their schools (which we love doing), or telling us that they weren’t willing to try eating bugs at the beginning of the film - we hand out samples to all our Film Festival screenings, and then hear how they happily tried and enjoyed them afterwards. We love listening to how our film has inspired them to make changes in their lives because we know those changes are having a very positive impact on the planet.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I hope to increase visibility for female directors and our films scope for audience, the idea is for this film to inspire audiences to change habits that are easy to change - to reduce food waste by composting or making stews out of left-overs before they spoil in your fridge, just really simple sustainable choices. If everybody starts understanding and believing in the power they most certainly have as individuals, I believe we can have a significant impact on the environment, irrespective of politics and I don’t think many people view their power that way at the moment. The idea that grocery shopping is farming by proxy - the dent we can all make through supply and demand even at the local level, in your New York deli or what we order at a restaurant is just so powerful.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Well we haven’t secured distribution yet so we’re still searching for that, we’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a bunch of festivals so far (Bentonville, Santa Barbara, Vail, Colorado Environmental, Minneapolis, Nashville) so I’d say the most critical thing we’re looking for at this stage is someone to help us with the marketing. As a micro budget indie film, it’s one area we just haven’t had the budget to invest in but the most critical area in spreading the word.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We’d love the film to be seen by millions. If each person who sees it is inspired to reduce food waste and meat eating, increase their engagement in community gardening and composting, we’d see a paradigm shift in everyday people taking control of their bodies and their planet through mindfulness essentially. We see this as a motivational film featuring pioneering concepts that stand to empower individuals to significantly improve our planet, so we sincerely hope a wide audience has the opportunity to be inspired by it.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
How can changing daily eating habits reduce global warming and feed an ever expanding population, one healthy meal at a time?
The UN warn food production must increase 70% by 2050 but warn that’s impossible, while 40% of the food produced in the USA never gets eaten and the leading cause of death is heart disease (closely followed by diabetes and both related to diet). Why?
We hope our audience can expand their consciousness around how they define what food is. We show how food systems can be more cyclical and decentralized to optimize resource usage, reduce reliance on unsustainable resources while simultaneously increasing nutritional value in your own neighborhood and kitchen. But when defining what food is, why do we consider shrimp and lobster delicacies when they were formally prison foods?
We’re so quick to dismiss insects as survivalist, last resort, and food of the “savages” but they’re the land cousins of the seafood we love and enjoy frequently, are eaten by over 2 billion people on Earth and something has got to give!
Would you like to add anything else?
Just our synopsis for those interested in the story:
Over 2 billion people on earth eat insects for protein. Following the rise and dramatic fall of edible insect start-ups in America, this film exposes America’s disconnect with food as climate catastrophe, uncovering daily habits individuals can alter to fix the broken food system, one meal at a time. From the front lines of climate-affected communities, the film converts viewers into activists, from commercial cricket farms in the rust belt to bug eating festivals keeping Austin weird and lawmakers on capitol hill, we see interviews with the UN, USDA, NRDC, Climate Foundation and TV chef Andrew Zimmern. Recent studies show a global shift to an ento/plant-based diet would reduce mortality 10% and cut up to 70% of Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2050, The Gateway Bug shares the key towards a brighter future from an intimate insider’s journey.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
My co-creator Cameron Marshad and I have a few ideas bouncing around currently, there’s another feature currently in development, this time an investigative NYC character based doc - think Tickled (which we loved by the way), a narrative feature that’s been bubbling for a couple of years now and a TV series but we can’t really discuss any of them at this point unfortunately!
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 Gateway Bug
A documentary about feeding humanity in an uncertain age.
Length: 84 mins
Director: Johanna B Kelly
Producer: Johanna B Kelly & Cameron Marshad
Writer: Johanna B Kelly & Cameron Marshad
About the writer, director and producer:
PRODUCER, WRITER, DIRECTOR BIO
NYC based Aussie Johanna B. Kelly’s credits comprise 7 feature films as Production Designer, including Like Lambs, Pitching Tents and Seclusion alongside countless commercials and music videos. The Gateway Bug (2017), is her directorial debut.
PRODUCER, WRITER, DP / EDITOR BIO New York DP / editor Cameron Marshad worked on feature film Like Lambs, High Maintenance the series and docs This Ain’t a Parade and Red Wiggler, while freelancing for HuffPost, VICE & Tribeca Digital Studios.
Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods), Kevin Bachhuber (Big Cricket Farms, Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy (USDA), Tyler Isaac (Slightly Nutty), Dr. Aruna Handa (Alimentary Initiatives), Daniella Martin (author, Edible), Pat Crowley (Chapul)
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): buyers, distributors, film festival directors and journalists.
Funders: Johanna B Kelly & Cameron Marshad (and Kickstarter)
Made in association with: Ourselves the creators.
Where can I see it in the next month?
Next month we are screening as part of the official selection for the following festivals:
Vail Film Festival, Colorado Environmental Film Festival, Minneapolis Saint-Paul Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Bentonville Film Festival and more info on tickets and the bug banquets / after parties etc can be found on our website here: