Friday, July 31, 2009

Media Lab Studios Efficient Film Challenge

Indie film powerhouse IFC Entertainment is hoping to spark more efficient film production by holding a green short film contest. The Media Lab Studios Efficient Film Challenge is offering three prizes of up to $3,000 for short films that tackle the topic of energy efficiency. This is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to get exposure on the Independent Film Channel and Sundance Channel (not to mention some cash!), while making a timely statement and raising awareness.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

No Impact Man

Our friends over at Oscilloscope, who distributed FLOW, have another environmental documentary coming out which we're very excited about. The film, which was shown at both Sundance and the LA Film Festival, follows Colin Beavan (aka No Impact Man) and his family as they spend a year in New York City trying to live without leaving any impact on the environment. That means that Colin, his wife, and his 2-year-old daughter planned to make no new purchases, use no electricity, and produce no trash.

To document the experiment , Colin started a blog that has since become a resource for anyone trying to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to the film, Colin's story is also the subject of a book that will be released in September alongside the film. Meanwhile, Colin's currently working on the No Impact Project, a non-profit project meant to "engage citizens in choosing lives that they believe will both make themselves, their communities and the planet happier."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

DIY Comes To PHL

Before the days of the Internet, when a director made the final cut of a film, it was out of his or her hands. The final version went on to a distribution company, and essentially, all that hard work became someone else's product.

But a new conference has arisen to put the power back into the hands of the artist. Developed by filmmaker Lance Weiler, the DIY Days conference series is meant to help not just directors, but musicians, gamers and artists gain more control over their content. More specifically, Weiler wants to teach this group of "Self-Identified Storytellers" how to monetize and distribute their content on the Internet.

DIY Days’ latest installment is going to be held this Saturday at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. A host of Philly filmmakers, artists and innovators are going to be there, including Tom Quinn (The New Year Parade), Don Argott (Rock School, Two Days in April), Mark Schoneveld, Gretchen Clausing, and Indy Hall co-founder Geoff DiMasi. The conference, which opens for registration at 8:30 a.m., is completely free—but space is limited, so you’re better off registering online.

Monday, July 27, 2009

an e blog for e bond

Philadelphia-based artist e bond has been a huge friend of Future Weather from the start. A catalog designer for Anthropologie during the day, she dedicates her nights and weekends drawing and making handmade books. Many of you are already quite familiar with her work: she designed Future Weather's t-shirt and postcards and has written a few guest blogs for us.

design-phan (a blog about design and art in the City of Brotherly Love) recently took a tour of e's studio to celebrate the launch of e's new website, roughdrAftbooks. The blog post showcases her gorgeous books and provides some great insight into how e comes up with her book designs.

Congrats, e!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One in Three Children Fear An Earth Apocalypse

Looks like Laduree (Future Weather's protagonist) is in good company. It used to be that kids were afraid of monsters and ghosts, maybe nuclear war. But in today's world, it appears that children are more afraid of the ecological effects of an unsustainable culture. According to TreeHugger, a survey conducted by Habitat Heroes of 500 American preteens, out of three surveyed fear that the Earth won't exist when they grow up. 56 percent (over half!) worry that the planet will be "irrevocably damaged."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recycling Heaven

For the last twelve months, Future Weather Productions has been saving all of the metals and plastics that can't be recycled curbside. While Philly’s recycling program will take Plastics #1 and #2 (soda bottles and milk jugs), there are 5 other types of plastic that we’ve been accumulating for a while now. This pile of recyclables had grown to the point of being clutter, so we decided to finally clear out some space and make the drive to Recycling Services in Pottstown, PA.

We loaded up the car and set out on Saturday, enjoying the beautiful weather during the hour-long drive from Philadelphia. We expected a pretty straightforward trip. (How exciting could recycling styrofoam and old yogurt tubs be?) But when we arrived at the end of a sleepy street in Pottstown, our expectations were definitely surpassed.

Founded in 1971 by Jim Crater, Recycling Services, Inc. (RSI) is a non-profit recycling center that collects numerous materials and resells them to be recycled and reused. RSI is an extensive operation, accepting glass, metals, papers, plastics, tires, textiles, electronics, and even vegetable oil (which is used to make biodiesel). The company dedicates two days a week towards public collection of recyclable goods (they charge an $8 per car gate fee), and if our trip was any indication, they serve hundreds of people on any one of those days.

RSI's staff was friendly and knowledgeable. We were impressed by how easily they helped us sort some of our more mysterious plastic items. While they don't take #7 plastics (that mysterious "other" category) or toothpaste tubes, we still ended up recycling a massive amount. Not only did we learn a lot about our consuming habits (we really need to curb the takeout habit), but we witnessed how people can come together in the effort to minimize their impact on the Earth.

A Life in Plastic

If there were a game show where contestants had to identify an object's plastic code blindfolded, the staff at Recycling Services might just be billionaires.

Jim Crater, Recycling Guru

Jim Crater, Recycling Services Inc's founder and president, is determined to reduce the amount of waste he leaves on the Earth to as close to zero pounds a year as possible. He lives his life according to the mantra, "How can I do what I already do, but better?" And talking with him was by far the most interesting part of our trip to RSI.

Determined to find a use for everything the plant accepts, Jim has recently taken to making functional "found object art" out of several of RSI's collections.

Take, for example, the dragonfly, Merlin 2. Made out of headlights, a dome from a street light, and a swimming pool ladder among other recycled items, this "dragonfly" also flaps his wings and has headlights that blinks. But, as Jim said, "don't get hung up on that, [because] that's not even it."

The sculpture has a bellows that breathes in carbon dioxide and exhales pure oxygen. Using solar panels to operate, Merlin 2 uses renewable resources to purify the air. This catalytic converter technology is similar to one employed by Volvo which removes 90% of noxious fumes from exhaust. Jim noted that if manufacturers had taken the extra step of using this purified oxygen for combustion as well, cars would be a lot more efficient in addition to having cleaner exhaust.

For Jim, who has a simultaneously calm and energetic aura and looks like a cross between Willie Nelson and Wallace Shawn, this illustrates just one of many missed opportunities in industrial design. Engineers and inventors need to figure out what to do with the waste products of their inventions before products can be developed for mass consumption.

For now, Jim remains optimistic about the possibility for a more sustainable, less wasteful society. "When you decide things are going to be different," Jim told us, "it'll push you out of your comfort zone. That's how things will change."

Here Jim introduces one of his functional art pieces, Ron Peyote.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Meet Mr. Peabody

Recycling Service's resident peacock, Mr. Peabody just might be the company's staunchest environmental advocate. According to Jim Crater, Mr. Peabody simply showed up one day. After their efforts to find out who he belonged to failed, the staff at RSI decided to keep the gorgeous bird around.

And Mr. Peabody fits right in at the recycling center. Peacocks have long been alchemical symbols of transformation. Pretty appropriate for a place that's designed to turn waste products into useful material.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Looking Back at Netflix

After some much-needed time away from our computers, we’ve got great news: Future Weather made it to the finals of the Netflix Find Your Voice competition, in great standing.

Needless to say, the last few days of the contest were a bit of a roller-coaster ride for the Future Weather team and our fans. We had expected the contest to end at 3am EST on the morning of the 6th, and when we finally shut off our computers, we were confident that we had finished the competition in first place. A lot of us noticed, however, that the votes just kept rolling in. We thought that the website was just catching up with the tally, but around 5pm on Monday, we learned that the contest had been extended another two days.

Jenny left for Europe on Friday, and after checking the vote via text message Monday morning (Sunday 3am EST) was satisfied with the scores. Without access to email, she had no way of knowing that Film Independent (FIND) had e-mailed her Sunday at 11:45pm to notify her of the extension. The real kicker was that this was the only attempt at contacting our team that was made. Kristin was not notified. It wasn’t until about twelve hours later that she finally spoke to our contact at FIND.

Apparently, a glitch in the contest website had left many votes uncounted. Because the five films below Future Weather had been jockeying for position so intently, Netflix and FIND decided to extend the competition, afraid that votes that were uncounted over the weekend might have seriously changed the makeup of the top 5.

After losing a good twelve hours of voting time (and watching our lead of 2,000 shrink considerably), it was a quick scramble to get the word out again. We hit up our Twitter and Facebook pages with a fury, and sent out a blitz of messages asking for your immediate support. Through the intense efforts of our team and our supporters, we managed to get 4,000 votes in under 30 hours. That was a contest record for us, and we couldn’t have done it without an incredible movement of support.

In the end, it came down to a neck-and-neck race for first place between Future Weather and Touchback. After a heated final hour of the competition, Touchback managed to take the top spot—but only by six stars.

Most of our fans and our team were incredibly disappointed with the way the extended contest played out. After all of our hard work to get Future Weather into first place, those twelve hours that we were out of the loop had a real impact on our lead. There was a lot of confusion because there had been no mention of the extension anywhere on the contest website. To add to it, many of our fans noticed odd voting behavior from one of the other contestants as we finished out the extension period. And because they couldn't be certain of the impact that the lost votes had, FIND decided to move six films into the finals instead of five.

That being said, we are thrilled with the results of the competition. Our fans stood by us and helped us rally over 7,000 fans to cast votes in our favor. They brought us new friends and great PR to support Future Weather as we finish out the final round of the contest.

This next phase is in the hands of the contest's judges, who will choose a winner from the six finalists. The fact that we're at the forefront of the vote will make a strong statement on our behalf, but the rest is up to them. Stay in the loop here at The Future Weather Report.