Update 12-3-14: Check out our latest newsletter to TSEP Supporters here.
Dear Sust Enable fans & followers,
Where to begin? It has been a strange time these past couple years, and I have not been as good about keeping y’all updated as I would have liked. I had big things in mind for Sust Enable: The Metamentary (SE:MM) as you know, and big things are still ahead–although they are not the same “big things” I originally dreamed of.
Back in February – July of 2013, my cinematographer and main creative collaborator Jon Skocik and I convened to begin editing a short “proof of concept” teaser film. This proof-of-concept would combine footage from the original Sust Enable webisode series in 2008 and footage shot with an all-volunteer crew in 2011, and would exhibit some of the story elements and recursive stylistic designs intended for the feature length documentary, SE:MM. We began this venture feeling that we had done all we could do to “tell” people about the holistically-sustainable vision for the SE:MM film, and now to move this film forward we had to “show” in film form what it is we were trying to accomplish. This tool would then be used to seek substantial funding. By this time, it had been over three years since I had begun trying to make a feature-length documentary that would explore the meaning of sustainability on all levels of the film’s creation (story, styles and real-world production).
From August – November 2013, I moved into my parents house and worked full time on seeking organizational partnerships and grant fundraising for SE:MM. Nearly every conversation I had with a potential creative partner or production house was positive–now we just needed the financing. I submitted three full-scale grant applications for thousands of dollars. For every one, I was declined.
This was the final lesson in a long trail of failed grant applications, teaching me: grant fundraising was not a viable option for SE:MM. The same pattern of high-stakes, energy-intensive, and ultimately declined grant applications was true for every time in the project’s three year history that we had sought significant financing to support the next phase of SE:MM development. With grant fundraising proving a constant dead-end, we had iteratively boot-strapped our production phases with countless hours of volunteer labor, modest cash donations from individuals, and lots of support and cooperation from in-kind partners. But that was the last straw. I had given so much of my life over to the Sust Enable project. I couldn’t afford to give any more and have nothing to show for it. I decided that I would be done with SE:MM if my full-time outreach & fundraising efforts did not produce workable results by November.
On November 21, 2013, I moved to Denver, CO and began a new life. That was it. I was done with SE:MM.
But, as many folks reminded me, there was no sense in declaring I was “done” with SE:MM entirely. It would be closing off a door to what is and was a huge part of my life. At first I avoided any thought of Sust Enable for a few months, nursing my bitter wounds. Gradually, though, I began to consider Sust Enable with fresh eyes.
The Sust Enable Project has important messages in it that I want to share with the world. What if I changed my assumptions about how I could share it? What would it mean to me to truly “release” SE:MM for me: not in the sense of releasing a film, but as though releasing a bird from closed hands? I want to share it, I want people to share in it. But it had become clear that the form I had dreamed it in–the feature-length experimental documentary–was not to come into manifestation. Did that require me to let go of all the work and effort entirely? With the resources and vision I had, how could I release the project in a way that would allow me to feel “done” in a fulfilled way?
While at first that short film was intended as a proof-of-concept exhibitng some styles, themes and scenes for the purpose of a feature “teaser” and fundraising tool–slowly, creepingly, over time, the film morphed into a standalone short film. Eventually, this became the goal of the project. Once I had finally let go of my fixation over how I wanted this project to be created and received, I was able to see how it would be possible for me to actually release it.
Today. A day I never knew would come. Today I am proud to announce:
Becoming Sustainable: a metamentary is a 25 minute, 10 second short film that has been submitted to a dozen film festivals throughout the United States and Canada. If it is selected, it will screen, and then a possible distribution deal will emerge from that. While, believe me, dear followers, I would love to share the full film freely with you all right away, I feel it’s better to allow the anticipation and buzz to build up a bit. I believe it’s worth it.
The next step for me is to email all the donors of the film. If you had donated to Sust Enable, via our crowdfunding campaign or another form, and had been promised a DVD of the film in return for your donation, I will honor those requests and send you a DVD of the short as soon as I am able.
Next, I plan to release a majority of the film’s interview content under a Creative Commons License (to the extent I am permitted to do so by the participants’ release forms). That means interview content from Sust Enable: The Metamentary will be freely available to use, recut and remix. So all the good moments and nuggets of insight won’t be lost, but will instead be liberated for people to interface with the media as they see fit.
Lastly, I plan to release a short book, with the working title, “The Metamentary Manifesto.” The Manifesto will be a passionate call-to-action of the need to commit and challenge ourselves to holistic ecological thinking in our filmmaking undertakings. The Manifesto will also provide an in-depth mapping of how the proposed and planned Sust Enable: The Metamentary film would have embodied the utmost in recursive, adaptive and ecological practices in filmmaking. I aim to time the release of this book at or shortly after the debut screenings of the film in film festivals (hopefully) across the U.S.
With this three-part release strategy–short film, raw footage, manifesto–I will feel that all the content of the Sust Enable project that I hope will better the world, awaken people’s ecological awareness, and broaden their “sustainability literacy”–will be done. Truly done. Free, released, and complete.
So then, maybe then… I can move onto other things.