James Gowdey

We've started an IndieGoGo campaign!

The official announcement is out: A Fierce Green Fire has been accepted into the 2012 Sundance Film Fest!


Mark's phone has been ringing nonstop all day, and we're incredibly excited for the near future. Thanks to all for your continued support of our film!

We've been lucky to connect with a host of environmental leaders, scholars, and activists for this film, including 350 founder Bill McKibben, Love Canal activist Lois Gibbs, Sierra Club founder Carl Pope, Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society, and NY Times journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, among many others. Recently, we've been combing through these interviews to pick out stories, insights, and anything else we'd like to share with the public. Below is a sample of this exclusive content - for more, check out our Youtube account!

Act 1 is about the ‘60s conservation movement involving the Sierra Club’s fight to preserve wildness and halt dams in the Grand Canyon.

$300,000 has been raised as of 2011, from fifteen grants and numerous individual contributions. Our deepest thanks to the people who make it all possible:

Gould Family Foundation
Sundance Documentary Fund
California Council for the Humanities
Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation
LEF Foundation
Nu Lambda Trust
Marion Hunt
Pohaku Fund
Fred Gellert Family Foundation
Fleishhacker Foundation
Susan Druding
Lucius & Eva Eastman Fund
Andrew Norman Foundation
Individual donors
and a modest inheritance from Charlotte Kitchell that got things started

This fall has been devoted mainly to archival work – sourcing, mastering and clearing all the film and photos we begged, borrowed and... It’s thanks to a second grant from Patricia and Edwin Matthews of the Gould Family Foundation that we’re able to do this important work. I brought on a pro, Lynn Adler, who has done three big archival films: The Summer of Love; The Most Dangerous Man in America (about Daniel Ellsberg); and Connie Fields’ epic about the anti-apartheid movement worldwide, Have You Heard From Johannesburg? Alyssa Martin also came back and the three of us have been working for three months tracking down archival footage from everywhere. Our biggest, most crucial sources agreed to license or give us their material -- a huge relief. Then we started in on the $60-a-second crowd and ran into roadblocks. In one case, not only did they want $60 per second but they insisted we get permission from the original source, which would have cost another $60 per second – if we could get them to deal with us, often an impossibility in the case of local television stations. As a way around all this we explored fair use, consulted a lawyer who, to our surprise, said most of the archival film qualifies. That was great news. But it left us with the problem of mastering: how do you duplicate masters without licensing and paying for it first?

Kim Aubry of ZAP came to our rescue. He has been experimenting with a black box called Dark Energy, which was invented for special effects but turns out to be excellent for converting video to high-def 24p. We did a trial run with a DVD of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and it looked great. So we’ve found a way to fair use the big commercial archives and little television stations that no longer have their footage. Over the end of the year we’ll be doing as much mastering as possible, so we can go into the final editing assured that archival footage is in hand. I enjoy archival work even if it’s a million details to doggedly pursue. These months have been a welcome break from the demands of directing and writing and fundraising, and set us up to finish the film well.

A Fierce Green Fire is the first film to take on environmentalism as a whole, to bring together all the parts and eras, from conservation to climate change. It explores how the issues built into an international cause, the largest movement the world has ever seen and perhaps the most crucial in terms of what’s at stake. It’s not easy being green – every battle is against the odds. We focus on successes: halting dams in the Grand Canyon; rescuing the people of Love Canal; saving whales and the greatest rainforest on earth. However, we also look at how the struggles continue and the issues grow in scope until it’s an open question whether they’re too big for the environmental movement to deal with. Our approach differs from the usual environmental documentary in two ways.

First is our focus on activism. We reveal the issues by showing how people acted on them; it’s a more engaging approach, emphasizing drama and passion. Second is our emphasis on the big picture – connections, core ideas, what it all means. This film is designed to reach and teach a huge and hungry audience, give them an understanding of environmentalism like nothing before. Now we must all be environmentalists, as Bob Bullard the environmental justice advocate puts it: “There’s no Hispanic air. There’s no African-American air. There’s air! And if you breathe air – and most people I know do breathe air... then I would consider you an environmentalist.”

A Fierce Green Fire unfolds in five acts, each 20-25 minutes. E.O. Wilson, the biologist and advisor to the film, suggested focusing on five of the most dramatic and important events and people. In developing those main stories and characters, we discovered each was emblematic of an era and a part of the environmental movement. So we devised an hourglass structure for each act. They begin with the broader context. Then they focus in on the main story, more fully told. Finally they open up again to explore ramifications.

• Act 1 focuses on David Brower and the Sierra Club’s battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon, a pivotal event in the flowering of conservation that led to a new environmental consciousness at Earth Day.

• Act 2 tells of Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal residents’ struggle against 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals, the climax of campaigns against pollution and poisons that run from Silent Spring to environmental justice.

• Act 3 is about Greenpeace’s wild ride from confronting whalers’ harpoons to a moratorium on whaling, including Paul Watson breaking away to form Sea Shepherd. More broadly we explore radical ecology – going back to the land, building alternatives, anti-nuke and European strands.

• Act 4 follows the struggle to save the Amazon led by Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers, which cost his life but led to reserves that set aside a third of the rainforest. Around it is a look at the rise of global resource issues and crises, indigenous movements and anti-globalization forces.

• Act 5 concerns climate change -- the origins and rise of the problem from hell; a twenty-year tale of top-down political paralysis; and all the bottom-up movements around the globe beginning to transform industrial society, putting us on a path to sustainability.

A Fierce Green Fire’s style is similar to Berkeley in the Sixties, project director Mark Kitchell’s previous work which was nominated for an Academy Award, won top honors and has become a well-loved classic -- one of the defining films about the protest movements that shook America in the 1960s. Thirty interviews have been shot so far. Some are central characters, like Lois Gibbs, Paul Watson and Bill McKibben. Others are key figures, including conservation biologist Tom Lovejoy and climate scientist Stephen Schneider, Carl Pope of the Sierra Club and John Adams of NRDC. Some are gems discovered through extensive research: Barbara Bramble, whose work on World Bank loans led her to Chico Mendes and the struggle to save the Amazon; and Jennifer Morgan, who led the World Wildlife Fund’s international campaign to halt climate change. Bob Bullard talks about the rise of the environmental justice movement. Stephanie Mills, Lee Swenson and Paul Relis sketch radical ecology. Brice Lalonde, Tom Burke and Wolfgang Sachs bring European perspectives. Philip Shabecoff, whose book A Fierce Green Fire is the basis for this film, provides an overview. Most recently we interviewed Amory Lovins, the energy expert and visionary scientist. Coming up in the final round of interviews are: Marina Silva, the rubbertapper who became senator from Acre and just ran for president of Brazil; Mary Allegretti, the anthropologist who worked closely with Chico Mendes and helped to establish reserves; Stewart Brand who, from the Whole Earth Catalog to Whole Earth Discipline, has pushed the envelope; Paul Hawken, whose Natural Capitalism and Blessed Unrest explore the depth and breadth of environmentalism; Terry Tamminen, leader of subnational campaigns against climate change; and more. The other major element of the movie is all the archival material we dug up – glorious, vivid film that captures the events in all their immediacy and passion. We’ve gathered material from more than a hundred sources – truly we stand on the shoulders of giants – culled the best and shaped it into a story that transports you back over fifty years. Audiences love the chance to be there and see people fighting to change the world.

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