Gerard Ungerman is a French journalist and filmmaker who has made a number of documentaries under the Freee-Will Productions banner, including "Belonging", "The Oil Factor: Behind The War On Terror", "Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure" and "The Hidden Wars of Desert Storm". He is currently working on a project called Respectful Revolution, the subject of this interview. There are some great answers here, I feel that Gerard talks about people's changing needs and desires and how this relates to his evolution as a filmmaker and agent of change.
Samantha Zangrilli talks about the Chico Bicycle Music Festival
Question 1. What is Respectful Revolution?
Per its mission statement, the Respectful Revolution is a national, not-for-profit advocacy project seeking to document positive action and inspire change. What my partner Stacey Wear and myself are seeking to achieve is to create a video-on-the-web platform of visibility for as many people as possible who are doing something, big or small, public or private, to make our world a better place. We produce five to seven minute videos, mini-documentaries really, each featuring a person, sometimes a couple of people, who have taken action out of a deep sense of caring and respect for others, society, nature or the world. The focus is never primarily on their projects per se, but rather on the individual so that their actions, motivations and personalities can become an inspiration to others. We want to show that it is possible to live and to live better following an ethic that's different from what a currently mainstream, short-term-profit-before-anything else system is selling us as "normal". This is where the word "Revolution" comes into play as we seek to demonstrate that greed, selfishness and exploitation, with their dire social, medical, economic and environmental consequences, are just not the right path to follow. We focus now on the United States for a couple of important reasons: One, because this is where we live and we believe in "thinking globally, acting locally", and two, because this country is still a trend-setter around the world and a culture that has so much more to offer than this model of cancerous greed and predatory exploitation that it is unfortunately all too often associated with.
Question 2. How did you get the idea for Respectful Revolution?
I would split my answer about the idea behind the Respectful Revolution project between form and content. As the market for feature docs eroded, then collapsed over the last few years, I came to realize that working like I was before was a losing battle. I therefore decided to work totally differently and the form of this new project is a radical departure from what I had been doing before as a documentary filmmaker. I was producing feature-length docs that take a long time and are costly to make. I was focusing on issues and not on people and mostly looking at problems, not solutions. Also I was producing with the intention of selling my programs. 180 degrees away from all that, I now want to produce quick-to-make, short format videos, about people, about solutions and that can be watched for free on the internet (truth be told, I'd be glad to sell the videos as an on-going series of short episodes to some TV stations).
As to content, all my life I have been witnessing, for real and through fictional work, the unsavory results of greed, violence, brutality, selfishness, exploitation, shortsightedness, bigotry, racism and so-on-and-so-forth. I threw my TV set out because I was so sick of watching almost nothing but sensationalism and depressing crime voyeurism on network television. ENOUGH!!! OUR PLANET IS A GORGEOUS MIRACLE within the infinite universe. We don't know how many there are like that but it doesn't matter. This is where we live and we should bless our luck and treasure our world everyday. As it turns out, many people are doing just that: actively treasuring our world and working hard everyday to maintain it by improving human behaviors. Well, this is what we want to promote, and if somehow my partner and I can somehow contribute to this noble and purposeful proposition of improving human behaviors, we'll be able to die happy knowing that we've done the most we could while on this side on the grass.
Question 3. How is the Respectful Revolution project going to be financed?
Now the question as to how the Respectful Revolution project is going to be financed is a good one. I wish I had a good answer. So far Stacey and I have been funding the first, and now second year of production with our own money, a mix of savings, selling personal belongings on the internet, and receiving a little bit of friend and family help. We want to create a model where the public could watch positive news and donate to directly help it continue. I believe this project will be primarily donation based. We are currently in the process of creating a membership system by which supporters will be able to contribute and receive merchandise as premium gifts. We've also partnered with a local 501c3 here in Northern California called the "North Valley Community Foundation" so that we can receive tax-deductible donations before achieving our own not-for-profit status. I think the "secret" to carry out such projects is just to do it without fear. The old saying "Don't quit your day job" is a trap. I quit my day job back in 1995 and have never looked back. I believe that somehow, the universe doesn't like empty space. If you project your own will power and resources in one direction, you create a void (in your pocket for starters) and that void will be filled. Support will come if the idea is viable and the idea is viable if you wholeheartedly believe in it and work at it with all your wit and enthusiasm. That's what we do and. we are testing my theory right now.
Question 4. You're going to be making short videos of people doing great things. Is there a plan to make a full length documentary about the tour?
We have already started peppering a map of the United States on RespectfulRevolution with all the videos we've shot and edited so far (a bit over 70 now). We will continue for as long as we can. I am also gathering footage with a helmet camera while cruising around the country on a specially outfitted Harley Sportster 883 (the smallest and most fuel efficient Harley-Davidson motorcycle that gives me 60 mpg even when fully loaded, provided that I ride it carefully and at or under 60 mph). Stacey is now cutting a montage about last year's trip and will most probably cut another one about this year's. It is important for us to show the fun, beauty and excitement of such an adventure, and to show that it is possible and even desirable to travel long distances on a motorcycle that is small only by current American standards. Will this eventually lead to cutting an actual feature-length documentary film ? I honestly don't know. It is not our intent at this point. Maybe later.
Question 5. Is this a project with a timeframe, or is it something that will be ongoing?
Stacey and I hope for the Respectful Revolution to grow over the years and perhaps ultimately become some sort of video-based social networking website where thousands of people, maybe millions will be able to show whatever they are doing to reverse the trend of human devastation of our planet and of our very own societies. Our website is not quite there yet obviously. We take it one day at a time. The workload is pretty overwhelming, but so gratifying. For now we are working at improving the website as we gather more stories and our focus is to improve navigation through the videos and eventually to create an easily searchable database. All that costs dear money and we are hell bent on pushing forward, trusting that enough people will deem our endeavor worthy of support. We have no plans for stopping anytime soon. There's just too much beauty, kindness and wisdom to show out there, and too much of a need for a "Respectful Revolution" to happen at last.