Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dec. 10th screening at Rocky River Nature Center -- UPDATE!! Big River added to the bill

That's a pic I snapped just outside the Rocky River Nature Center while attending their FREE four-part Bringing Nature Home Food Film Fest in October, where we shared trailers from PolyCultures and participated in after-film discussions. The festival has been extended to include PolyCultures on Thursday, December 10th from 7-9 PM!

Also, If you've seen PolyCultures, chances are you've seen or at least heard about King Corn. A couple months ago I had the good fortune to bump into and then chat with one of the filmmakers behind King Corn. This has led to the dual bill of their new project Big River alongside the freshly-released PBS cut of PolyCultures!

Rocky River Nature Center is located at 24000 Valley Parkway, between Cedar Point Road and Shepard Lane in North Olmsted. For more information, call 440-734-6660.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

NEO Premiere of v1.2 @ 17:00 2009-10-23 @ CSU: The Social Media & Sustainability Conversations

Why I Care About Social Media
As you may or may not be aware, the promotion and distribution of PolyCultures has thus far been executed with virtually no budget. The modest success we've experienced thus far has been largely affected through the use of social media (and of course the serious and virtually unpaid efforts of Tom and myself, Brad, and countless others). Specifically, we've employed: this blog, our LocalFoodCleveland group, our Facebook group, our email mailing list (are you on it? Contact Us if not), several trailers and clips on YouTube, LinkedIn profiles (as you'll see littered - er, linked throughout this post) and of course Tom's Twitter feed.

This process has sparked in me a serious interest in the use of social media to advance sustainability and civic efforts - reaching far beyond just our little local food movie. It also led to me having some very interesting conversations with Mike Gesing, an internet consultant and founder of the Northeast Ohio Citizens League. The mission of the NEOCL is to create a new regional civic space, empowering citizens to reinvent Northeast Ohio by educating and engaging them in the community decision-making process. A big piece of that is creating original video to share ideas on what is happening in NEO and what could be.

Bioneers Cleveland / River's Edge / Levin College Forum present PolyCultures v1.2

So I thought I'd unite a bunch of interests and opportunities by assembling a panel at a screening who can connect PolyCultures, social media, and the NEOCL through a conversation I can help lead.

Bioneers Cleveland will present the screening (official flyer), which will take place in Dively Auditorium at CSU's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs (1717 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH, 44115) this Friday, October 23rd at 5pm. It will be co-sponsored by the Levin College Forum and River's Edge. It's FREE. (Donations to Bioneers will be happily accepted.) We'll be premiering a 56-minute cut of PolyCultures (v1.2.0) that we recently assembled for PBS audiences (see post directly below for more info). Except I'll be showing that cut in two parts....

v1.2.2 plus George Nemeth & Marianne Eppig
The first ~27-minute screening is about the problems with conventional agriculture, ecological agriculture as an alternative to that, and a look at how that alternative is being brought to scale. Following this screening I'll lead a discussion between:

George and Marianne are both professional experts in the use of social media to communicate about civic and sustainability issues. I think they'll help the audience get a solid grounding in what we mean by the term "social media," and that can help us get into how it can be used for the betterment of urban NEO - both in terms of scaling sustainability in general as well as PolyCultures in specific.

v1.2.1 plus David DuBois & Marc Canter
Then we'll watch the other ~27-minute cut, which is about food access issues in low-income areas and solutions to that, such as City Fresh and urban gardening. Following this screening I'll lead a discussion between:

Marc and David are both in the process of applying their vast skillsets to the design of social programs that aim to improve the lives of low-income, underprivileged individuals through job creation/training. I'd like to get their thoughts on how PolyCultures, online social networks, and other social media can be used to help achieve that end.

The Team on the Fringes
NEOCL will be on hand to document the event with video - and hopefully we'll hear a bit from the Executive Director Mike about his role in the pending launch of as a "virtual commons" for the region.

We'll be honored to have the Executive Producer of PolyCultures, Brad Masi - inarguably a pioneer in the use of social media to communicate messages of sustainability and civic participation - on hand to help introduce the movie and the discussion.

Plus, the Director Tom Kondilas and I have hatched/hashed plans for me to pre-record a discussion between him and Jody Lathwell, the manager of the Tremont Farmers Market who is bringing a simultaneous PolyCultures premiere of v1.2 to Pilgrim Church. If this happens and I/we have time to edit it into a good piece, we'll have to figure out where in the program to fit it... by default let's say at the start. So that could be a pretty sweet component as well.

Connecting two faith-sponsored screenings of this new version in a Mollison/Holmgren-like way that incorporates live media with social networking - and taking a new stab at good food education in the process. In the words of Benny in Basquiat, "What more you want?"

Your Role
I really think you should join us if you can - did I mention it's FREE?! And please come prepared to participate....

After all, this whole thing ultimately comes down to the citizens.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


As you've likely noticed, TK and I have recently produced a flurry of blog content. What we haven't done for a while though is give a comprehensive update on this whole project - not since I posted The Résumé back in July! So here goes...

New Product Line - Version 1.2
We recently produced a 53:30 version of PolyCultures in hopes of being included in PBS' Independent Lens series. We're inserting 2:30 of "value added" on the edges and calling it the 56-minute cut (i.e. the length it'll be if/when it airs). This cut obviously does not have the depth of its 100-minute predecessor (v1.1), but the core messages are retained and the flow is much better - it's much more enjoyable, if I do say so myself ;-)

In the process we kicked out two other cuts that are each about 27 minutes long. The first is about urban food access issues and solutions to that, such as City Fresh and urban gardening. The second is about the problems with conventional agriculture, ecological agriculture as an alternative to that, and a look at how that alternative is being brought to scale. We think these cuts are great as an introduction to either subject and should fit well within a single class period for high schools or colleges. By the way, the movie is already being used in curriculum by such fine area schools as Case Western Reserve University, Gilmore Academy, and Padua Franciscan High School.

At present we have just home-burned DVDs of these new cuts, but we're happy to make any of them available to parties who wish to purchase a public screening license.

Public Screenings
Speaking of screenings, we've had quite a few of them recently. In fact, in the months of August, September, and October we will have had 13 screenings that were presented by Tom, Brad, and/or myself in such locations as: Des Moines, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Athens, Youngstown, Oberlin, and of course several neighborhoods around Cleveland. In addition, there have been invite-only screenings in Chicago and San Diego - the latter was at a sustainable seafood restaurant called Sea Rocket Bistro, and here are a couple pics from the event:

Check out the "Recent Screenings" section to the right for details on each of these events. And definitely check out the "Upcoming Screenings" to the right for our upcoming screenings in Cleveland and California!

Food & Environmental Film Festivals
It was an honor to be a part of the film festival at what must be the nation's largest sustainable food conference in Des Moines (see my three-part series below). And it's going to be an honor to be a part of the nation's largest environmental film festival - PolyCultures has been chosen as an official selection for the 8th Annual Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival being held in Nevada City, CA on January 15-17, 2010! I'm hoping to be able to attend that one as well... looks like a great festival.

PolyCultures was an Official Web Selection of the 2009 Blue Planet Film Fest and recently received a 2009 Accolade Film Award.

Also, there's a great food film series going on Tuesdays this month at the Rocky River Nature Center, including The Future of Food, Fresh, King Corn, and Super Size Me. Tom and I have been going out to see these (again), sell PolyCultures DVDs, and show our trailers in promotion of our upcoming December screening at the Nature Center.

Addressing Food Gaps in Urban Areas
Tom and I both live in the heart of urban Cleveland and know how difficult it is to get fresh, healthy food nearby. We recently shot some footage of an area grocery store that was abandoned, resulting in a food vacuum in that community. We've incorporated this new footage into a new 5-minute piece on food deserts.

This coincides with a presentation we recently gave to the Cleveland Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition, in conjunction with Jenita McGowan's presentation of her related research in urban neighborhoods.

It seems from several recent comments on our About the Movie page that people are really digging City Fresh as a solution in underserved neighborhoods.

Along these lines, here's an insightful essay on the topic of urban farms that happens to mention PolyCultures, recently written by Marianne Eppig for her fine blog Renovating the Rust Belt.

Here's a little treat for making it to the end of this post. I found this bizarro site while fishing for PolyCultures stuff. My favorites include "polycultures food where we live: you will not seem the show of reasons that wonder like word tried that church for potential" and "Polycultures food where we live: enrique vergara, the responsibility of the american santo works, drew to happen by road phone blue demon a art of his own." As well, I learned that "Polycultures food where we live: there are other placing prizes in the 56k." Can't argue with that reasoning.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dual Premier of the 56-Minute Cut

We here at LESS Productions have recently been throwing our all into a 53:30 version of PolyCultures in hopes of being part of PBS' Independent Lens series. We're inserting 2:30 of "value added" on the edges and calling it the 56-minute cut (i.e. the length it'll be if/when it airs). This cut obviously does not have the depth of its predecessor, but the core messages are retained and the flow is much better - it's much more enjoyable, if I do say so myself ;-)

We're going to do the Cleveland premiere of this cut in two simultaneous screenings!

Both will start around 6p on Friday, October 23rd, so please save the date. We're still nailing down some of the details. But here are the basics:

Screening #1: Tremont Farmers Market presents PolyCultures v1.2 at Pilgrim Church in Tremont

Screening #2: Bioneers presents PolyCultures v1.2 in the Dively Auditorium in CSU's Levine College of Urban Affairs in downtown Cleveland

We hope whether you've seen the 100-minute cut or not that you'll be interested in participating in the evolution of this community-integrated project. Check back here in a day or two for full details!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"In the age of Van Jones, nothing is ephemeral": Live-Blogging the 13th Annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference - Day 3

I've been getting up way too early for this thing.

Anyway, that title quote comes from a session on social media at the conference this morning, from a person whose name I'll withhold for obvious/meta reasons.

If you want some names though, here are a couple: Curt Ellis and Tom Vilsack.

Curt's (and Ian's) work has been a major inspiration for me the last couple years, and actually the title screen for PolyCultures is an homage to the title screen in King Corn. As a filmmaker and a fellow for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Curt was perhaps the person I was most hoping to meet at the conference. So I was disappointed to not see him on the roster or floating around the conference... until I sat down for an end-of-the-day lecture in the main hall and realized he literally was sitting right in front of me. He then got up to leave, and I scrambled to hand him a gratis DVD of PolyCultures and introduce myself (in that order, heh). I asked if he would mind stepping out and chatting with me for a bit, and he actually seemed happy to do so. We ended up talking for more than half an hour, mainly about strategies deployed and lessons learned with King Corn that may apply to our distribution of PolyCultures - but also fanning out into other things, like his new project Big River, which was a last-minute addition to the film festival that night (which unfortunately I wasn't able to stick around for, but that I'm excited to see and quite possibly champion). Great guy, great interaction - called Tom immediately and told him "mission accomplished."

Another late addition to the program was a speech from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack. He addressed the whole conference about what is happening at a federal level to promote the types of programs that those of us at this conference are behind. I found it informative, particularly their freshly-unveiled "Know your farmer, know your food" program. Most of all for me though - as someone who is not nearly as well-versed on issues of federal food policy as at least half the room - what I really took away from it was the sense that despite his many ties to Big Ag... this guy gets it.

Secretary Vilsack has for some time been patiently sitting on our list of people we'd like to get a copy of PolyCultures to, and I realized that this might be as good a chance as any...

So I slipped my business card into a fresh DVD as he was wrapping up and was going to approach his security detail and see if I might be able to get a moment with him, but by time I got near them it seemed he'd slipped out the back door. I darted out of the conference room looking to see if there was any chance I could see him on the street or something - and sure enough, there he was heading out through the main lobby. I ran down the stairs and across the lobby at a slow sprint - thinking, you know, it's maybe not the best of all possible ideas to run full-speed at a U.S. Cabinet member surrounded by several Secret Service agents. But I did it anyway, knowing that within seconds he would be whisked away in what I now saw was their characteristically governmental black SUV. I came up to one guy who referred me to an aide on the other side of the vehicle Secretary Vilsack had just climbed into. I approached him with my DVD/card and asked him if he would give it to the secretary - he said he'd hand it right to him. I tapped him on the shoulder in appreciation and walked away... stunned at what I'd just succeeded at doing.

Oh, and also I showed the movie yesterday. 25 people came out - which was cool, given that it was during the only on-your-own lunch (key opportunity for most in attendance) and that there wasn't even the subtitle of the film (let alone a graphic or short description) in the conference program. It was the world-premiere of the 56-minute cut, and people seemed to like it. I sold one DVD on the spot to a gentleman who suggested we convey to potential users what sections might be relevant to their interests - already on it, and now it's better prioritized. I think we lined up at least one public screening, possibly planting the seeds for several. And Chris Norman tossed me a softball to pontificate about the sustainability efforts in Cleveland I've seen since my return. It was pretty good.

Well, this is the end of my coverage of this conference at this conference. But I have a long drive home and may well add another post or two as my thoughts on this amazing experience continue to evolve...

Come See FRESH & buy a DVD!

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Tacit Knowledge": Live-Blogging the 13th Annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference - Day 2

I'm deep in the bowels of the conference at this point - and it's pretty damn cool. Since I started working on sustainable food professionally, I've been a part of three special conferences in the Cleveland area: 2008's Northeast Ohio Food Congress, 2008's Open Roads Leadership Summit, and 2009's Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit. Those each brought people from around the country to the table, but this is my first proper national conference. It's international, in fact - with more than a dozen of the 600+ hailing from Canada, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, and Nicaragua - and numerous sessions on global food issues.

It's really invigorating to interact with people from all over the country who I already have two things in common with - our interest in sustainable food and our visitor status in Iowa. It really lowers the barriers to good conversation, and it makes it easy to get to the details of what people do that otherwise I really wouldn't have known about it (with the internet being, in general, an "information junkyard" - to quote another nice piece of rhetoric from this morning's plenary, in addition to the one in the title, which pretty well describes how its tough to convey the essence of this conference). So far I've enjoyed talking with people from Chicago, central Texas, Boston, Northern California, etc. - as well getting to better know the Cleveland-area folks here. Actually one of my favorite interactions was with a Des Moines-based artist who had an exhibit at last night's Garden of Eatin' reception.

Aside from the networking and fringe benefits, I've been charting a course with the break-out sessions that is pretty interesting to me. One looked at how to map the connections between organizations operating in a region that are in many cases working with each other but in some cases not despite that fact that they might really benefit from doing so - computer software as well as cardboard/markets/post-its approaches were discussed in terms of tangible examples happening here in Iowa.

I also went to a fascinating discussion of returning to an approach to life that involves more of a sense of common ownership - of our natural resources as well as many aspects of human-developed capital. Check out for more on that.

And the food has been great!

Alright, gotta run - time to introduce and screen PolyCultures...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tom Bullock Potluck & Screening

"In the Belly of the Beast": Live-Blogging the 13th Annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference - Day 1

I'm in Iowa - "the belly of the beast," which two speakers have already called it as this three-day conference gets underway. Iowa produces more corn, more soy, and more hogs than any state in the union - the vast majority grown with "industrial" methods. And yet I'm here with 600 people who are passionate professionals connected to the sustainable food movement... giving us an opportunity to better understand what we're up against and perhaps start more dialog with that monolith, as well as enabling us to see what efforts Iowans are making to return to a state of food self-sufficiency in this wonderful growing climate. It's called "From Commodity to Community: Food Politics and Projects in the Heartland"

Why am I here? Well, I'm not entirely sure yet. Ostensibly, I'm here because PolyCultures is part of the 1st Annual CFSC Film Festival, screening tomorrow during lunch. So I'll be presenting that and leading discussion afterward - and I'm promoting the screening by handing out b-cards customized to this event to everyone I'm able to chat with here:

I'm planning to show our brand-new 56-minute, PBS-oriented cut tomorrow - which will have its Cleveland premiere on October 23rd. It's exciting having that - plus two ~27-minute spin-offs and a new YouTube video on food deserts - to roll out. It's breathing some new life into the ever-evolving project.

I'll be blogging throughout my time here, using this trip-blog as a vehicle to share the many exciting things that been happening with the movie and - as I'm finding here - that are happening in the area of sustainable food.

P.S. Here's a little photojournal of my trip from Ohio to Iowa:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PhotoJournal of Local Food Challenge at Bon Appétit's Market Café in Downtown Cleveland

Dean DeLuciano, my generous host

Screening PolyCultures

The Market's local/sustainable food iniatiatives

My compadres Karl & Patricia setting up their food & flowers produced at Blue Pike Farm in the urban neighborhood of Glenville

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Community Connections & Other Recent Happenings

One of the fun things about distributing a community-friendly movie like PolyCultures is periodically scouring the internet to see what kinds of creative ways people are using and benefiting from it. Here are some highlights from what I turned up today:

This evening there'll be a home screening of the movie in conjunction with the Chicago Permaculture Meetup Group. I'm emailing the coordinator of the event in part to ask him if the viewers would be interested in posting some reactions on this very blog post... so check back later this week.

Here's a great guest post on a fine blog Mary Holmes is doing in support of the foods grown and produced in Northeast Ohio called Bounty of the Western Reserve. In the post, Melissa Miller of Miller Livestock shares her experience of our recent amphitheater screening in Warren, OH.

She starts by saying, "It all came together pretty easily. Maybe because it was all so local. Maybe because a group of interested people were committed to making it work. Maybe this will be the beginning of a larger local food movement for our own area."

She continues, "On this evening our goal was to showcase farmers who are working hard to produce food that is raised locally and naturally and bring their products to the attention of a wider audience. Here’s what we served, free of charge before the film screening...."

And in conclusion, "So we made some connections. With other farmers, with chefs, between people we know as our customers and some we hope will become our customers in the future. Connections between people we’ve known for years or those we have recently met who were a part of the Polycultures documentary. Between the people who were present at the Amphitheatre, who are completely new to the local food movement and those who’ve been working in it as their vocation, passion, or profession.... Strengthening connections. Building community. A satisfying, successful evening."

Thanks so much to Melissa for sharing her experience. We're seeing something like this around all of our events, and it's great to have people telling the tales! I really encourage you to read the rest of this well-written, savory story.

PolyCultures was recently featured on the well-known Serious Eats site in the article "Serious Green: Movies That Go Beyond Food Inc." Food Inc. is a great documentary that focuses on the problems of the conventional food production system, and our movie really picks up where it left off - we show the solution in action in a community-integrated fashion. Fittingly, we were included in their "If You Want to See Communities Pulling Together" series. Nice exposure to find out-of-the-blue - thanks Serious Eats!

In other news, Tom's about to kick-off his cross-country tour, so check out the post right below for details on that. On Monday I gave an hour-long talk (with help from some other participants in the local food scene) to about 45 Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) freshmen about the conventional food system and the alternative we present in PolyCultures. It was confirmed last week that John Ruhl, leader of the Institute for Sustainability at CWRU, will be using the movie as a teaching aid in a sustainability course this fall. Our recent screening at Great Lakes Brewing Company went well - intermissions for discussion after plots 2 and 4 worked great, and the herb bundles provided by Christine of Pint Size Farm were fantastic.

As always, if you're interested in setting up a community screening, helping us get PolyCultures in a library near you, or using the movie in some other creative way, please let us know!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Slapping Together the Cross-Country Tour

Two weeks ago it seemed like my little "cross-country tour" might be more of a ridiculous vacation. But wholly crap!

Over the course of the last week, we have been able to schedule screenings in Milwaukee are putting one together in Denver (both will be before the end of the month) and we're working on pulling something together in Michigan and Nebraska (where I may stop between Milwaukee and Colorado and where we have very interested but busy partners) in the very near future.

I know I'm the type to get easily excited about these things, but it seems to me that telling people about the action we have seen occur after an audience has seen the movie is really motivating people to join forces with us, and quickly.

We are working to compile a better list of the actual stuff people have done after being inspired by the movie and here's a quick list off the top of my head-

People who were inspired by PolyCultures have:
1. Driven from Columbus to the Cleveland to build a straw bale greenhouse.
2. Visited Great Lakes Brewing Company's Pint Size farm, in hopes to fund a grant
3. Worked with the City of Cleveland to acquire land on which to farm and build a business
4. Organized a group of friends, family or colleagues to watch the movie
5. Joined a CSA
6. Pushed to get healthier food where they work
7. Started a garden in their own yards

OK, that was without stopping. Please, let me know if you've been inspired to do something as a result of seeing the movie - or if you know someone who is susceptible to theatrical persuasion!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Great Lakes Brewing Company Screening, Tuesday August 4th 8pm! Tell Your Friends!

Many of you Clevelanders have been asking us since the film fest when and where there's going to be another screening of PolyCultures. We have a big one coming up with the Great Lakes Brewing Co. It'll be Tuesday, August 4th at their Tasting Room in the plant where they brew the beer in Ohio City. For just $5 you'll get to see the movie, socialize, and walk away with some fresh herbs from their Pint Size Farm , which was featured in the movie (picture above is from Pint Size Farm late last year). There will also be lots of beer - delicious beer - on tap at the cash bar. We'll be starting up around 8:00 pm and will have some time interspersed for discussion. This is a great chance to support one of the largest supporters of local food in the Cleveland restaurant scene - so please join us! Here's the Great Lakes' page on the event where you'll want to RSVP - space is limited, so we recommend making a reservation soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

PolyCultures @ Studio 35 in Columbus!
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Distribution-to-Date (aka the Résumé)

Here's the current "résumé" for PolyCultures - so if you're thinking of licensing or buying a copy, you can get a sense of how it fits in with the projects you've got going on... or may want to start.

For example, you might consider setting up a community screening, with a borrowed digital projector and a portable screen. Or you might encourage your public library to purchase a copy of the DVD for circulation in your community.

There are all kinds of possibilities, and with our increasing body of knowledge on how the movie is being used, we can help you tailor our product to the people you wish to educate and entertain.

Please shoot us an email if we can help in any way.

Hometown Debut
PolyCultures: Food Where We Live officially premiered at the 33rd Annual Cleveland International Film Festival in March, where the number of screenings was doubled to accommodate audience demand - an estimated 1000 saw it there. The debut was widely covered by the local press, highlighted by favorable reviews in Cleveland's daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer, and its alternative newsweekly, Cleveland Scene.

Regional & National Appeal
Beyond Cleveland we, the filmmakers, believe PolyCultures will have greatest impact in the Great Lakes Region due to similar economic conditions many cities in these areas face. As well, areas throughout this region have a similar growing season, which of course has a big impact on people's relationship with locally-produced food. To that end, we have screenings scheduled at an independent theater in Columbus, Ohio and an amphitheater in Warren, OH.

We intend to line up several more large screenings of this nature, regionally and beyond. Like media-darling Food Inc., this documentary has a lot to say about our national food system - but it goes beyond that by highlighting everyday individuals whose inspirational work is similar to that being done by local heroes in many, many locations.

Web 2.0 Distribution
LESS wants to make the movie available to as wide an audience as possible - equally important is enabling people's experience with it to be highly interactive. We created and routinely update the Official PolyCultures Blog, which - in addition to frequent posts where we solicit viewer feedback - has links to practically everything that's been written about the movie so far, so potential viewers can access unbiased opinions about whether the movie is worth their valuable time. On the blog we've embedded YouTube videos, including the movie's two trailers and two clips directly from it, as well as a promotional video we put together on-the-fly for our DVD release party at the Greenhouse Tavern in June.

We have interactive groups anyone can join on Facebook and, and we frequently post updates about the movie on Twitter. We've garnered coverage in dozens of blogs (for example, this fresh post on Food & Design). And we're using a versioning system that's adapted from software development (the present release is v1.01), which we intend to employ as we make updated and spin-off versions of the project available. Like the movement that it profiles, PolyCultures continues to grow and evolve.

Community Engagement
The filmmakers have been very engaged with the local community thus far and intend to continue interacting with viewers as the movie is distributed nationally. We were featured in the "Local Heroes" series at the Cleveland Film Fest and made personal introductions with Q & A sessions following each of the four presentations. The highlight of these sessions was a panel discussion moderated by the host of a local PBS show, who had interviewed us earlier that month on Applause. Also, the director and writer each appeared at the Picture Start filmmaking panels at Cleveland State University in conjunction with the film fest.

Plots from the movie have been shown at the 2009 Leadership Summit, Oberlin College, the Lakewood Public Library, and the City Fresh Monday monthly get-together - all of which have been great opportunities to share our educational mission with the broader community.

Support from Environmentally-Responsible Organizations
In addition to caring strongly about social progress, the filmmakers are dedicated to using the movie to encourage people to reduce their impact on the environment in a variety of creative ways. This message has been acknowledged by the documentary's inclusion in the "It's Easy Being Green" series at the Cleveland Film Fest. There we were sponsored by such environmentally-friendly companies as: Whole Foods Market, Great Lakes Brewing Company, and Snowville Creamery.

Entrepreneurs For Sustainability (E4S) held a local food event with more than 300 attendees in February, which featured excerpts from PolyCultures about businesses who are actively favoring sustainably-raised ingredients.

LESS also teamed up with the Greenhouse Tavern, which recently became the first operation in Ohio to be certified by the Green Restaurant Association, to throw a party on the 40th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River burning. This unique event symbolized how far our city and the U.S. have come due to the improved regulation that infamous day inspired.

LESS Productions itself operates in a re-purposed warehouse loft with elements of passive solar heating. We practice resource conservation, composting and indoor gardening, recycling, and - of course - sustainable sourcing of ingredients for our employees' meals.

Tasty Alliances
The filmmakers believe that social and environmental change can taste great too. At our DVD release party, Chef Jonathon Sawyer, (who previously cooked for Iron Chef and local hero Michael Symon) concocted delicious hors d'œuvres that featured locally-produced ingredients.

The movie's writer and director participated in a Whole Foods Market cooking demo, where they contributed original recipes (kohlrabi-bok choi stirfry and bacon-beet-grapefruit-granola ice cream) that related to clips from the movie and showed the audience how to prepare them at home.

Chef Doug Katz's Fire Food & Drink sponsored the movie at the Cleveland Film Fest, as well as the Great Lakes Brewing Company, which is turning out exceptional fare at their brewpub - both restaurants prominently feature Ohio-produced ingredients.

Public Use of PolyCultures
In addition to the screenings already mentioned, LESS is in discussions with dozens of other organizations about how they'd like to use PolyCultures to further their educational missions. These organizations are of many stripes, including: non-profits, public libraries, universities and colleges, high schools, businesses, and conferences.

We're applying to dozens of film festivals, specifically targeting those that feature environmental and socially-progressive documentaries, in order to better spread the seeds of PolyCultures. We're considering online distribution of one or more of the seven plots, as well as perhaps local or national broadcast of an hour-long cut.

In Conclusion
Overall, we've explored numerous ways of engaging our potential audience, mainly in Cleveland thus far and to some extent in the broader region. Our intention is now to take a similar approach throughout the nation - but we can only do so through collaboration with like-minded individuals and organizations in each location. We hope the interactive spirit of this project inspires you to join us in this effort!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Last Monday we held our DVD release party at the Greenhouse Tavern. We certainly didn't make any money relative to what we put into the event. But I think we can say it was a big success as a party, because the locally-sourced food, live music, and drinks were great - and, most importantly, our 90 guests all seemed to have a good time. We also spread the word of the movie being available on DVD quite widely throughout Greater Cleveland. Thanks again to all those who helped with that:
Plain Dealer
Cool Cleveland
Cleveland Magazine
2009: Year of the River
Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition
Open Roads Institute
Crown Point Ecology Center
Lakewood Earth & Food (LEAF)
Brewed Fresh Daily
cleveland foodie
Transient Hobo
Renovating the Rust Belt
Real NEO
...and numerous individuals in our network

Big ups to xe la, Ryann Guitar Anderson, and Jordan & Dan Dreyer for their musical and graphic design contributions... plus of course Tom's family for helping at the door.

Here's a little photojournal of the event and all that went into it:

Promoting in Coventry.

Promoting at E4S meeting @ Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Promoting at Cleveland Executive Fellowship meeting on local food.


Party people!

Jordan Dreyer, our New York City graphics designer, who created the DVD packaging and party poster with his brother Dan.

My brother came from Pittsburgh for this dealy!

TK gives it up for Biggie at the afterparty!
Notice the 1000+ DVDs in the background... gee, what to do next?
Swing for the fences like Barry.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Greenhouse Tavern Hosts the PolyCultures DVD Release Party!

Starting at 6pm on Monday, June 22nd
2038 E. 4th St. in downtown Cleveland

$40 covers a DVD, two drinks, gratuity & tax
Free hors d'œuvres until 8pm

A Unique Collaboration
The freshly opened, highly-acclaimed Greenhouse Tavern will host the DVD release party of PolyCultures: Food Where We Live - check out the brand new trailers for the movie on the right! It's a natural collaboration, because the Greenhouse features local food sourcing, recycling, composting, eco-friendly building materials, refurbished furniture, numerous energy efficiencies - the list goes on (PD article).

Space is limited so


Please bring a print-out of your PayPal receipt for admittance.

Check out this video that we at LESS Productions made this week - it should give you a sense of the event and the restaurant!

For $40 ($45 at the door) you'll receive a copy of the PolyCultures DVD, hors d'œuvres concocted by renowned chef Jonathan Sawyer using local ingredients, and drink options of "port punch" and beer. You'll be celebrating with local foodies, characters from the movie, sustainability advocates, members of the arts community, and the pro-Cleveland contingent.

Launching a Green Platform

This unique collaboration between two Cleveland startups will officially launch the national distribution of PolyCultures. The movie was featured in the "Local Heroes" and "It's Easy Being Green" series at the 33rd Annual Cleveland International Film Festival in March. Now LESS is making it available for community screenings, theatrical showings, educational use, library circulation, and home use through

Come on down to have a good time and help us begin to spread the seeds of a revolutionary way of eating throughout the nation! It's time for the U.S. to see how far Cleveland has come in transforming itself from a Rust Belt town to a leader in the local foods movement.

An Historical Event: The Cuyahoga as the Catalyst
In the 1960s Cleveland's main waterway, the Cuyahoga, was one of the dirtiest rivers in the U.S. So polluted with oil slicks and debris, it caught fire several times - including one episode on June 22, 1969 that caused Time Magazine to describe the Cuyahoga as the river that "oozes rather than flows." It was truly a low point in the long and storied history of Cleveland but helped spark national environmental reforms and was a catalyst for the restoration of this once great riverway. On the 40th anniversary of that fire, join us for a unique event that symbolizes Northeast Ohio's environmental rejuvenation and, in fact, significant leadership role in issues of sustainability.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

still, but with direction

Alright, who's ready for a massive update?!

Aside from a brief note the first week of May, I haven't added much to the blog since the full CIFF debriefing at the start of April. We have been incredibly busy with PolyCultures, putting a distribution system in place almost full-time since the Film Fest. I won't bore you with the details of intellectual property law, acquiring vendors licenses, PayPal accounting, etc. - but suffice it to say that this has been a major undertaking. We're very happy with where we're at, though we've never done anything like this on this scale, so we regret that it's taken a lot longer to put everything in place than we anticipated.

As of June 1st, PolyCultures is available for community screenings, theatrical showings, educational use, and library circulation! On June 22nd the new eco-friendly gastropub, the Greenhouse Tavern, will host the PolyCultures DVD Release Party, and after that the DVD will be available for home use through - you can order it pre-sale now and we'll ship it June 22nd. Check out the details of that party right now (and the clever button our web developer came up with for the main site) - we're stoked to be collaborating with the Greenhouse and think it's gonna be an awesome event!

It'll be interesting to see how these elements of distribution play out over the course of the summer. If they go well, we have a lot of ideas about online distribution and re-editing for one-hour public television appearances.

100 Minutes. 90 minutes? No, 100 minutes.
We took a good hard look at the possibility of editing the movie down to 90 minutes from 100, which we felt like we ought to do in consideration of feedback received at the Cleveland Film Fest (CIFF). We concluded though that it would be rather difficult to do well - due to the way the "conversation" is carefully constructed from quotes from different people, cutting 10 minutes could make key aspects of the movie make less sense, which could easily make the whole movie feel even longer than it does now. That doesn't sound very good, does it? We also don't want to bum out anyone who's already seen themselves in the movie by gutting their contribution. So take a break in between chapters 2 and 3 and between 4 and 5 and enjoy all 100 minutes, k?

Limited First Release v1.01
The CIFF cut was considered v1.00, and in April we made a couple dozen minor edits to tighten it up into what is now v1.01 - a.k.a. "the limited first release." The versioning system is a nod to my software development days back in San Diego, and it specifically relates to the agile methods I learned about and employed there. With agile development, you try to develop a bare-bones working prototype real quick, and then you make it available to your users and garner their feedback before coming up with another iteration that responds to their feedback fairly shortly thereafter, and then you start another iteration and so on. It remains to be seen exactly how often and in what depth we edit Food Where We Live, but it feels good to at least have the framework and intention of it being a living, evolving thing.

Actually, the main thing that makes v1.01 a major stride past the CIFF cut is the menu design when you first put in the DVD and, moreso, the absolutely gorgeous cover art that some friends of LESS Productions, Dan and Jordan Dreyer, created for us. It took a lot of back-and-forth, and there were some technical hurdles as you'll find with any worthwhile project of this magnitude, but now that it's completed we couldn't be more pleased about this art! And the DVD menu makes it a smooth experience to watch plots from the movie one at a time, which is a style of playback for which we've found there's a lot of demand.

PolyCultures Showings in Columbus & Warren
I added a new section to the right called "Upcoming Showings." Check out our July events with Studio 35 in Columbus and the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County in Warren, Ohio. Tom, Brad, and I will all be in Columbus to present and hold a food forum, and Tom will be presenting in Warren - check this blog for more details as they roll in. Also, there's a new "Other Press" section on the right for things that don't fit into a pre-existing box.

Film Festivals
We really enjoyed CIFF and have appreciated the exposure, so we've started applying to a lot more film fests. Here are the ones that caught our eye and have thus far collected our entry fee: Sidewalk, Princeton Environmental, Traverse City, Hot Springs, Detroit Windsor, DocuWest, Planet in Focus, Royal Flush, Artitivst, San Diego, Forecastle. Ideally, we'll get into a handful of festivals that are around the same time and not terribly far from each other so we can integrate them into a cross-country road trip later this year - this idea is TK's baby, and it sounds pretty fun to me. Hit us up in the comments if you have any thoughts on the festival circuit!

What Else is Happening?
Since this is a movie blog, there's a couple new films I want to share. One is Jim Jarmusch's latest, The Limits of Control. I saw it last weekend and it's very textured, very aesthetic-oriented. "I'm among no one." Tai chi is one of many recurrent elements in that, whereas I've been doing yoga since January... so I'm looking forward to seeing Enlighten Up! this weekend, also playing at the Cedar Lee.

As far as food, there's a lot that's happening now that the growing season is in full effect. The CSA we profile in the movie, City Fresh, started their fifth year this past week - you can find out how to sign up here, which I highly recommended. There's a Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition meeting coming up on June 10th about "Connecting Youth to the Food System" - they're still working out the location, so check out their site, which I'm sure will be updated soon. And finally, I was fortunate to attend the grand opening of the Countryside Farmers Market in Howe Meadow in the Cuyahoga National Park this past Saturday - great vendors, great location, great turnout, great ingredients! Buffalo sausages, artisan chèvre, organic 7-grain sunflower spelt bread, chocolate-walnut billy goat fudge... and that's before we even start talking about fresh produce. It's a good time to be living and eating in Ohio, that's for sure.

Friday, May 15, 2009

PolyCultures Clips

Finally some clips from PolyCultures: Food Where We Live!

Here are the first 4 minutes of the movie in lue of a trailer (though we'll have one of those shortly)

And because of his immense popularity during the Cleveland International Film Festival, here is the patriarch of the Hartzler Family Dairy, Harold Hartzler telling the story of why his family business changed to all natural farming from using conventional methods.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


So when I last posted I mentioned how we were planning on doing a variety of things in April to make the movie available at the start of May. We've never done many of these things before and so we're running a few days behind schedule - we expect all to be up and running by the end of this week. This phase has become a collaborative effort with several people beyond LESS, and we're really excited to share the results once they're in proper shape! Check back here soon for more info...

In other news, I acquired some worms today and we've recently procured some new seeds (including some at the very-fun Rutabaga Nights on Saturday), so the LESS garden is about to be expanded!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Sun also Rises

I stole the title of this post from the title of an Ernest Hemingway novel, which I also stole from my friend Andrew Samtoy (come to think of it, he might have actually given me the book, he's very generous). He told me the book reminded him of the lingering hangover you might feel in late autumn after a summer of drinking, parties and celebration.

It is now Spring, I-80 is in bloom from here to New York, I just bought tomato and jalapeno plants to add to LESS Productions' window garden but I must admit that much this month I have felt this lingering hangover after PolyCultures' showing at the Cleveland Film Festival. & like any good period of withdraw, the past couple weeks have been fairly introspective - until now...

While Dave and I have been steadily working to define exactly how we are going to distribute and license for PolyCultures, today I woke up ready to do everything at once - a good feeling, though usually attributable to high-octane coffee. Though I love a cup of jo, I think this inspiration is more the result of finally understanding the energy other people are getting from seeing the movie.

People I know from all kinds of different backgrounds have been approaching me to find out how they can show this movie to others. My cousins Sev in Warren, my friend Sade from Ohio City, not to mention all community members I've just recently met involved with libraries, schools and a bunch of nonprofits who are all like: so, how can we show this thing?

We'll have an answer for that (probably) in the next week or two. But in the meantime, I wanted to say thank you to everybody who is currently working to help get PolyCultures in front of people who could benefit by seeing it. The movie certainly has a certain appeal to those who are already interested in sustainability, food and how people in our region can build a healthier food system, but in order for it to reach the individuals who are not advocates of this philosophy (many of the people it would certainly benefit most) it is going to take a lot of direct, interpersonal communication.

Though the festival may have left the lingering delusion of a mass media firestorm of PolyCultures' spreading through every community in the US, it has been a sobering wake up call to see people who are ready to really work to get it out for the simple reason that others should see it. It's a refreshing sobriety, feet on solid ground.

--oh, by the way, check out Dave DeOreo's Applause piece from Oberlin during Michael Pollan's visit. You might spot some PolyCultures footage in there.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Debriefing: PolyCultures' world premiere at the 33rd CIFF

Well, we've had a week to relax, recover, and reflect on the premiere of PolyCultures at the Cleveland International Film Festival. I think overall we can say it was a big success! We went into it expecting to have two showings, and two more were added due to audience demand, in addition to a preview screening courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company. We didn't win the award we were up for, but we estimate 1000 people saw the movie in those five theaters.

It was an intense week for us! Tom and I were there before every showing coordinating technical aspects of the playback, and we joined Brad before and after each showing to introduce the movie and then answer any questions from the audience. Tom and I joined Pat Conway (co-owner of GLBC) and Maurice Small (City Fresh Action Hero) for a Film Forum after the official premiere on Wednesday, which was moderated by Dee Perry (WVIZ). That was fun (especially Pat's quip about the bottled water, "Why did they give us this light beer?"), as was the panel on editing a movie at CSU that I was honored to join. I say "honored" because I learned a ton from the veteran filmmakers who composed the rest of the panel... probably more than someone speaking on a panel should be learning ;-)

It was incredible talking with so many people about PolyCultures, seeing new faces and old. A huge group of my parents' friends, most of whom are long-time Clevelanders, came out on Wednesday night, and it was a unique feeling for me to share with them my present take on this region. I had entertaining and inspiring interactions with Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman (who's in the movie and a huge advocate of urban gardening) and Warren Taylor, self-described "Dairy Evangelist" and owner of Snowville Creamery near Athens, Ohio, which was sponsoring one of the showings and promoting all-natural milk.

I also got a chance to check out some great movies playing at the fest. Two really stood out: Alternative to Slitting Your Wrist and Alexander the Last. Alternative is by Cleveland-native Owen Lowery, who stared down suicide and then spent a year doing all the things he always wanted to do with his life, regardless of how dangerous, silly, or emotionally painful they might be. I thought it was brilliantly edited and took an incredible amount of courage for him to put out there. To write Alexander, Joe Swanberg rented a one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment and brought the cast of eight to live there for a month and collaboratively improvise and write the script. Consequently, the acting is spot-on - it just feels incredibly real throughout. It's an exploration of fidelity in several types of relationships, and it was also was edited with a lot of style. I'm not sure at this stage in my film career I could earnestly call myself a colleague of theirs, but it was fantastic to see these young filmmakers (Owen is 26 and Joe is 27) doing such great work and being there to share it in person. Kudos, gents!

So, what kind of feedback did we get on PolyCultures? Well, overwhelmingly what we heard was positive... but of course it was a fairly choir-y audience, and anyway most people who don't like something probably choose not to risk an awkward interaction by expressing that to its creators. But we did solicit earnest feedback from a lot of people after the showings, and with the help of E4S's Lilia and Victoria we conducted some post-screening surveys - plus there are the reviews posted to the right. Basically, people thought it was well done and enjoyable, but they tended to feel it was a little too long... though most found it hard to say which parts should be cut. Some felt the narrative structure wasn't focused enough. Some felt the production values were kinda shoddy, which in some cases is plainly true, but we also had really bad audio issues to contend with in three of the showings, apparently due to blown speakers - so that was a bummer for everyone. Despite that, most people seemed to feel the main messages and the heart of the stories came through.

So, what's next? Well, I think we're going to give ourselves the month of April to revise the present cut and shorten it to 90 minutes (down from 100) - so if you saw it and you have any feedback you haven't had a chance to share, now is the time! We're working out a licensing structure, so the movie can essentially be rented by organizations who wish to show it publicly (such as non-profits with related causes) - more than a dozen have approached us about this so far, so that's encouraging. Also, this will enable schools and corporations to use it for educational purposes. We're going to create some packaging and make DVDs available for sale in the near future. We'll wait until we have the revised cut to distribute, so our goal is to have all these things available at the start of May - check back here for details. We also got some good recommendations on other film festivals to submit to, so that's in the works as well... hopefully we'll be able to travel to some to present the movie and garner national feedback. Also, there's interest in editing the movie down to an hour so it can be broadcast on TV (such as PBS), and that's something we'll probably consider down the road. So that's what's next for PolyCultures... we're also hoping to work with more food- and sustainability-oriented organizations on new projects as the growing season gets underway - let us know if you're interested!

It may sound cliché, but there would be no PolyCultures without the support of the community. Period. Thanks for reading and for being a part of this thing!