Monday, October 20, 2008

"Ripe for Change" Tour day 11 Brunswick, Georgia


I was heading south from the "Ripe for Change" screening in Orangeburg, South Carolina on my way to Brunswick, Georgia when I passed through Savannah. I had never been to this lovely Southern town but a colleague of mine named Luke Dickson lived there. I worked with Luke on "Convention," a feature film that was filmed at the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, and in 19 other locations in San Francisco. I line produced and Luke was doing location management with me. It was a lot of work to find the best locations for this low budget SAG feature film but Luke did a great job. Luke now owns a "green" home building and restoration company in Savannah. I told Luke I wanted to try the fresh, local and regional cuisine. Luke took me to The Olde Pink House in historic downtown Savannah. It was the best restaurant on the whole Southern Circuit, and there were several really good ones. I had the local sustainably harvested Georgia shrimp cooked in a wonderful bisque with sweet corn and apple smoked bacon. It also featured two blue crab beignets. Fantastic. The only thing better than the bisque was the shrimp and grits, covered with a French sauce they called country ham and gravy. The shrimp and sauce covered the grits that came in little grit triangles. Truly, one of the best meals of my life.

After saying good bye to Luke and old Savannah, I jumped back on Interstate Highway 95 and drove on to Brunswick, Georgia. This was the site of the last, and one of the most "actionable" of all 10 screenings and discussions on the tour. This screening was set on the same night as the first presidential debate. I thought we would not have a large crowd because of the debate but was I wrong. The screening was sponsored by the Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association (GIAHA) which is housed in the historic Ritz Theater built in l899, and on the Register of Historic Buildings. GIAHA Executive Director Heather Heath explained to me that the Ritz was originally built as an opera house. Heather made me feel right at home giving me a tour of the Ritz which had been restored and is being used primarily as a performing arts center. I was really pleased when she informed me that "Ripe for Change" would be the first film to play the Ritz sent it was taken over by the city of Brunswick in l981 and restored by GIAHA.

Heather really wanted to turn out a good crowd for the first screening and invited the local "Green Drinks" organization to put out their literature and hold their regular meeting in conjunction with the film. "Green Drinks" is an environmental organization whose members meet over drinks and plan activities to improve and protect the local environment. Keren Giovengo and Travis Douce are the principal organizers along with Rick Giovengo. Rick's full time job is as a State Fish and Game officer. Keren is the Program Coordinator for the University of Georgia's Marine Extension Service. Protecting the seas around the Golden Isles is one of Keren's many duties.

The discussion that followed the screening took us in new directions. The local CSA (community supported agriculture) farmers were there and so was a large crowd in spite of the presidential debate. We were informed by the local farmers about how difficult it is to grow fresh foods locally. The soil is mostly sand, and the last two months of summer are brutal on crops. One suggestion that I made was the idea of creating community gardens so that people could work together composting and creating large beds of healthy soil. Bryan Thompson, the mayor of Brunswick thought that was a good idea. He said there were over 100 vacant lots owned by the city and some of them could be used to create community gardens. This was a boost to everyone there. Here was something people could do locally that would make a difference in their community. Over 14 of the 80 plus who attended the screening volunteered to work on the community garden project. Some of them had never heard of Green Drinks and they became new members.

After the discussion, over 30 members of the audience including Heather, mayor Thompson, Keren and Rick Giovengo, and Travis Douce went down the street to drink, eat and talk about what issues confronting the local sustainable foods movement. I was treated to more sustainably raised Georgian shrimp along with a pile of beautiful fried green tomatoes. We talked late into the evening.

Keren made sure that I knew that the Golden Isles included nearby Jekyll Island and that I had to see it. I got up at sunrise the next morning to drive around the island before heading for Jacksonville, Florida for my flight back to Berkeley, California.

Jekyll Island is now a state owned property surrounded by thousands of acres of the most beautiful marshes I have ever seen. It also has a fantastic Victorian hotel by the Rockefeller's at the turn of the century.

This was a wonderful way to end the longest, and certainly, one of the most successful film tours in my 33 years of producing and screening social issue films. I can't thank the National Endowment for the Arts, the Southern Arts Federation, in particular Allen Bell, and all 10 of the venues who participated in the Southern Independent Film Circuit for their generosity and hospitality. I hope I get a chance to bring my next film on the Southern Circuit.