EMF projects continue to have widespread impacts far beyond the original documentary films themselves. Below are just a few examples of those impacts and outreach that have had effects on both public policy and "on the ground" environmental issues.

Our Case Studies also clearly demonstrate how each project and the relationships it builds between producers, funders and distributors builds on those that came before to create greater impact and public outreach.

The Last Stand: Heroes at Ballona Wetlands

The Last Stand: Heroes at Ballona Wetlands documentary project came to EMF seeking emergency funding. Dr. Sheila Laffey, PhD had been documenting the growing protest to stop commercial and residential development at the Ballona Wetlands in Playa Vista, south of Los Angeles. Ballona is the largest remaining natural wetlands ecosystem in the southern United States.  A diverse group of individuals, community groups, NGOs, fisheries and activist organizations had formed a coalition to stop its destruction. Based on our review of rough footage, EMF quickly raised completion and distribution / educational outreach funds for the film.

Three years after its completion this powerful, short documentary has been used by almost 100 community groups, activist organizations and NGOs, and had become an integral part of the fight to save Ballona. The film screened in art house theaters, local auditoriums, at house parties and in college and high school classrooms. It was screened in chambers for state congressmen in and at City Hall for Los Angeles Council Members, and won a number of national film festival awards. And in 2005 it premiered on the PBS national series, Natural Heroes (another EMF funded project), earning the National Telly Award for environmental films’ series for that year.  Working through EMF, Surfrider Foundation incorporated it into the Respect the Beach program that teaches young people about the value of preserving our marine ecosystems. 

Today most of the development at Ballona has now been halted and its natural value has been recognized, in part due to Dr. Laffey’s relentless efforts. And four years after the film’s completion, director Steven Spielberg, whose DreamWorks Studios had intended to be part of the Ballona development, met with Dr. Laffey to praise her efforts and bring the issues at Ballona to his attention. The film's distribution and DVD sales to educational institutions continue to this day.

The Last Stand remains a testimonial to how one small film can have an enormous impact.

Farming the Seas: The Marine Fisheries Education Project

Soon after being founded, EMF received a request from noted international documentary distribution agent, Charles Schuerhof, to help raise production completion and outreach funding for Habitat Media’s Farming the Seas feature documentary, a follow up to their seminal work, Empty Oceans, Empty Nets. Habitat Media, an independent nonprofit film producer, had a PBS national airing commitment and faced an upcoming premiere deadline.

Within weeks EMF brought in Environmental Defense Fund as an outreach collaborator and funder – something EDF had never done before.  EMF also brought the Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) as a co-collaborator and funder.  Bon Appétit is the “Whole Foods” of corporate restaurateurs and is one of the largest providers of corporate food services to Fortune 500 Companies in the world.

Farming the Seas was completed on time and aired on PBS in 2006 to high ratings and reached 85% of PBS viewers in all major markets.  Its ensuing educational outreach included screenings and DVD sales to high schools, colleges and universities, NGOs, local and national government agencies, commercial fisheries stakeholders and others, supported by a broad-based collaborative effort.

The program inspired over 150,000 people to visit the Habitat Media and PBS Marine Fisheries Series web sites. Site visitors responded to questionnaires to help us gauge the impact of the show.  Nearly all respondents indicated that they were inspired to ask for seafood products produced by sustainable fisheries.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website showed a remarkable spike after the cluster of PBS air dates.

Over 20 newspapers made references to Farming the Seas in articles and television highlights including the Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Cape Cod Times, Anchorage Daily News, and Marin Independent Journal.  Articles on the film appeared in both National Fisherman and Chow Magazine. National Public Radio’s live evening news show, On Point, devoted an hour to the film and aquaculture issues during a panel discussion entitled Farming the Seas: the Future of Seafood, featuring Steve Cowan, Carl Safina (Blue Ocean Institute), Jeremy Brown (Pacific NW fisherman) and Rich Langan (offshore aquaculturist). Radio spots were placed on NPR stations during peak commute hours around the country. 

A widely-reaching grassroots email, newsletter, and website banner outreach effort was executed with the support of 75 natural ally organizations, including Seaweb, The Ocean Project, Environmental Defense Fund, the Blue Ocean Institute, the California Academy of Sciences, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Coral Reef Alliance and many other organizations. Many of these organizations used Farming the Seas as an educational tool in their own outreach. Chef’s Collaborative screened the short version at dinner events.  The South Carolina Aquarium arranged special educational events anchored by the PBS broadcast featuring a panel discussion with Aquarium staff and the local fishing community.  And the program screened to full houses at a number of film festivals around the country.

EMF continued its involvement and raised funds to have the film re-purposed into a 14 minute educational version with a companion curriculum and web-enabled DVD teaching tools to create the Marine Fisheries Series - Educational Teaching Pack.  This version was distributed to over 400 partners of The Ocean Project, an international network of aquariums, zoos, museums and conservation organizations. According to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, zoos and aquaria in the U.S. alone receive 130 million visitors every year.

EMF also helped fund a 25-minute version of the film, Save our Oceans, (2006), that screened on the national PBS series, Natural Heroes, winning the National Telly Award and Emmy for the series in that year. This short film was also screened throughout the country in a joint effort between Monterey Bay Aquarium and BAMCO. The Save Seafood project promoted sustainably-produced seafood to an estimated 25,000 employees, regional seafood purveyors and consumers. 

Farming the Seas continues to create positive impacts far beyond the initial PBS broadcasts through its use as a resource tool by a wide array of governmental, educational, and industry organizations.  Government organizations including NOAA Fisheries and the US Coast Guard Scientists along with educators from around the world have ordered copies of the film for outreach and education.  Over 100 universities around the country, including MIT and Stanford, have used Farming the Seas as a resource tool along with industry groups including seafood distributors, restaurants, and aquaculture farms. The film and its outreach collaborators were an integral part of the process of raising public awareness that led to the passage of landmark legislation to create marine fisheries reserves off the coast of California.

Farming the Seas has won the CINE Golden Eagle Award for Excellence (2004) in the Environment and Natural Science category, Best Independent and Best Marine Conservation Message at the International Wildlife Film Festival in (2005), and the Grand Prize in Public Affairs category of the Ekotopfilm International Festival of Professional Films in (2004). The program was also nominated for an Emmy Award in the Best Documentary category (2005) and has been selected for the United Nations Association Film Festival, San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, Portland International Environmental Film Festival, Marin Environmental Film Festival, and Washington D.C. Environmental Film Festival.   

Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation (BAMCO Foundation)

EMF introduced BAMCO to media as a tool to raise public awareness and effect consumer buying habits through its experience with the Farming the Seas project.  BAMCO also funded a short educational version of Farming the Seas called Save our Oceans, which aired on the Natural Heroes PBS series the following year.

Inspired by this, BAMCO approached EMF to assist in creating the first “Eat Local Challenge.”  With media created by Free Range Studios and provided by EMF, the challenge was held in 100 corporate cafeterias of Fortune 100 companies on a single day. Chefs competed to create the most original menus consisting of the best local, organic produce, meats, poultry and seafood that had to come from within 100 miles of their location.  The Challenge was such a success in raising consciousness about corporate buying habits that it has been repeated every year since.

Subsequently, BAMCO brought in EMF to help name and develop a mission for their newly created corporate foundation.  Since that time, BAMCO has continued to work with EMF and create media to raise public awareness about the importance of organic food and fair trade coffee buying practices.

KRCB’s Natural Heroes – National PBS Series

PBS affiliate station KRCB and Greentreks Networks approached EMF with a novel concept for a new national PBS series about environmental issues called Natural Heroes. The series began in 2004 with the mission to celebrate the independent filmmakers who are turning their lens on our natural world, and to showcase inspiring stories of people who are making positive differences for our environment.

Working with a variety of individual donors and foundations, EMF was a founding funder for the show for the first two years.  Natural Heroes has been honored with five Emmy Awards, three national Telly Awards and the Insight Award. The first four seasons of Natural Heroes have aired on Public Television stations all across the United States, Puerto Rico, and into Canada, reaching an estimated 90 million viewers and has served as a springboard for the careers of many independent documentary producers. The series exemplifies the message that one person really can make a difference.

South Central Farm: Oasis in a Concrete Desert

The South Central Farm documentary film and educational outreach project covers the controversy over the South Central Farm in Los Angeles, California. Created by poor Latino families on land given to them (in perpetuity) following the riots of the early 1970s, the farm became the largest, most productive (per square foot) and most bio-diverse urban farm in the country.  It fed a community of 350 families in need, as well the many visitors to its monthly Tiangus or farmer’s market. Crime rates dropped. Welfare rolls dropped. School attendance increased. It sheltered birds and other wildlife in the shade of its 200 walnut and fruit trees, providing a cool oasis in the concrete desert. 

Decades later the original land owner sued the City of Los Angeles and cut a "back room" settlement deal to buy back the land (for $5 million dollars: the same amount he'd sold it to the City for decades earlier). When the community begged for a chance to stay, they were told they could purchase the land if they came up with $16 million in a month. Miraculously, they did with the help of the Annenberg Foundation. But the owner now said he wanted $20 million.  And soon after, he got the riot police to show up unannounced and sent in his bulldozers and demolished the entire farm.

The filmmaker approached EMF with rough footage and in need of emergency funds to continue to film this entire sequence of events.  EMF quickly provided a stop gap grant and brought in other funders to help complete the project. The film went on to become a rallying message to engage community and government activists and others to focus attention on this injustice.

South Central Farm premiered on the Natural Heroes PBS series the following year. It has been supported and promoted by a variety of individuals, including Oscar winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler, farm leaders Tezo and Rufina Juarez, celebrities such as Daryl Hannah, Joan Baez, Julia Butterfly Hill, John Quigley, Martin Sheen, Tom Morello and Willie Nelson, some of whom donated film footage and all of whom helped bring international attention to the issue.  The film has been screened at countless community gatherings and used by urban farming advocates to teach the importance and value of community farming in urban settings.  Other supporters have included human rights activist Don White, author Marion Nestle (Politics of Food), and Green Party leaders Mike Feinstein and Linda Piera-Avila on the broader issues of food security, bio-regional planning and global trade.

Perhaps the greatest irony of this small film’s success is that the filmmaker has become a conduit for negotiations between community leaders and the original landowner, which continue to this day. Years after the eviction, in a collapsed real estate market, the land sits unused.



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