It is my joy to share with you today some new direction for Sust Enable: The Metamentary.
If you are wondering “what has Sust Enable been up to lately?,” I appreciate your curiosity! The Sust Enable project has evolved through many phases, just like any growing organism. It has been in a dormant period lately, as we had to honestly assess our capacity as an all-volunteer, micro-budget endeavor. Sust Enable is about to emerge from a dormant phase, but it is certainly not dead, or even ailing. It has merely been thoughtfully evolving, same as ever.
The film’s main mission has always been to try to embody sustainability as effectively as possible at all levels of the film’s creation, and thus to serve as an educational model and empowerment tool. This film is going to try to live up to its working title of “metamentary” by going “beyond” traditional cinema structures and devices (building on, not hating on, I’d like to note!) and innovating a more sophisticated, holistic model of filmmaking, film style, and storytelling–as justified, of course, by our film’s expansive, slippery subject matter. In this effort to embody sustainability as best we can, at times, the Sust Enable project has:
- adopted a radically inclusive collective production structure;
- held Community Feedback Sessions which morphed into Sustainability Jams, where people shared practical sustainable lifestyle skills and shared their perspectives on what sustainability means;
- employed online collaborative devices to maintain collaboration between all volunteer stakeholders;
- and we have gone through many different visions of what the film would look like.
And in this ongoing process, I have sheared away a lot of what Sust Enable is not, and discovered amazing insight into what Sust Enable is.
Sust Enable is a very special project. As its Director, I have recognized that for me to hold the complex vision for what Sust Enable needs to be, my ambitious artistic standards exceed my drive and abilities as Producer. One thing I have learned is that I need an experienced, highly creative production team to bring this project to life.
Being as our model thus far has been reliant on solely volunteer labor, this has not been entirely feasible. I am extremely grateful to the many fresh, talented young people who have given their time to Sust Enable over the past two years–you have contributed greatly to what Sust Enable will become! But this model, a necessity borne out of not having much money, only works to a limited extent.
We have, like any independent film, struggled with fundraising, but this is not in small part due to the fact that Sust Enable is so forward-thinking. Grant makers want you to model your success after the success of other films like yours. They want crisp numbers, “big names,” equity, and deliverables–while we want to cinematically explore the nature of today’s sustainability discourse. The difference is: we of Sust Enable, modeling our wisdom about sustainability, trust the significance of the process to lead us to important new ground; we don’t require a concrete picture of what that will look like, past it being an evolution. I have spent two years writing and editing and writing and editing all about Sust Enable–a process which has given me notable grant-writing skills, but still no grant-writing success. Our major source of support has come from individual people, who care about issues of sustainability, who want more than anything to see a sustainable world actualized in our lifetimes, but who struggle to find decent insight and research into the meaning of sustainability. Now, “sustainability” is a tool to market to us. But it is also much, much more.
People’s hearts know this. More than once, I’ve had someone say to me, “what’s the big deal about the meaning of sustainability? It’s real simple. Sustainability is just ________.” And after just a couple gently probing questions from me, they invariably end up saying something along the lines of, “Hmm… Uh… I guess I don’t know, I guess it’s more complicated than all that, huh…” And, more often than not, they drop a donation into the Sust Enable jar.
This is how Sust Enable has survived so far–along with thousands of dollars of personal contributions that I have both struggled for, and been blessed enough, to be able to manifest. All of this is shared for the sake of transparency–we have tried a lot different methods for embodying sustainability, with mixed success. Everything up to now has been a necessary evolution, but Sust Enable is an idea that is too big, too inclusive, too avant garde, too important for a local production. Sust Enable has a LOT to offer to our emerging world. It is time for our world to jump in!
This weekend, I presented about evolving consciousness through social/ecological crises, the past 10 years in evolving cinema narratives and styles, and Sust Enable at the Evolver Convergence, the first ever of its kind, held here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Evolver network is a broad range of people who all share the belief that human consciousness is currently evolving. This simple point is shared by all types of people: spiritual practitioners, holistic healers, psychedelic journeyers, philosophers, community organizers, artists, etc. I have spent a fair bit of time reading about the nature of consciousness in academic literature, and I share the belief that consciousness is evolving: humanity is facing (and causing) survival stresses that we must adaptively respond to–and, since we are living things, nothing quite motivates us like survival! This is an unprecedented point in human history and the way we think about things must change, or we will perish.
My presentation was well-received, including by some prominent published authors and editors, co-founders of the Evolver network, who attended. I had the internal sense of “these people get it!” which is in contrast to my struggles to obtain grants, to explain the film to other film producers, etc. The attendees at the Evolver Convergence not only saw what I was going for artistically, they hungrily wanted to see it happen. Many folks offered to volunteer for the project. Others wanted to join the mailing list. Others insinuated about supporting financially.
This has breathed fresh life into Sust Enable for me. Some people really want to see this project happen. It is the fans of the Facebook page. It is the donors. It is many folks I haven’t met yet. It is the interviewees. It is the people who see what is coming, and who want the tools to think about the problems we will have to face. I have noticed over the years that the more willing I am to let go of attachment to certain aspects of how I envision the project, the more potential opens up, and the more I feel I am being a conduit for a fantastic, timely idea that is more significant than I am. I have let go of producing the film. I have let go of it needing to be based in Pittsburgh. I have let go of it even needing to be about my story. I have let go of it needing to be a feature-length, theatrically-released film.
The one thing that remains, the very heart of the Sust Enable project, is having deep conversations with people about how we define sustainability.
Even before cameras are rolling or crew is in place, this can happen. This is what I am putting front-and-center in my life, starting right now. I will not worry about funding, I will not worry about crew, I will not worry about what the film will look like. What remains is the research, is the interviewees, is the people like you who care to talk and care to listen. All I will do is engage everyone in discussion about what sustainability means. I will do this through writing articles, publishing interviews, giving presentations at conferences, and continually engaging people–until those days in the near future when I am having conversations with people that are so right for this project, so aligned with its mission and so equipped with the talent, tools, money, networks, etc. to support the project, that everything coalesces into a working system.
My energy is focused on just talking to people about how they define sustainability. Because, even before the film, this is the kind of dialog that will transform our world.
From this important seed, everything grander will blossom.
Stay tuned for fresh new developments…! Thanks for your support!