A conversation with Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell, producers, directors, and writers of the movie Common Ground and previously Kiss the Ground. We talk about their two movies, food choices and their impact on the environment and health, the chemical agriculture model going bankrupt and much more.
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What do you do after you create the enormous hit Kiss the Ground? More than 10 million people saw the feature-length documentary; 39 million schoolchildren in the US saw the school version; and it counts for 1 billion media visualizations on Netflix.
What do you do next, how do you choose what to focus on? What do you double click on and do you dare to take on the large agro chemical complex?
HOW KISS THE GROUND BECAME SUCH A BIG HIT
It was really a unique time when Kiss the Ground, the first movie of Rebecca and Josh, was finished. They felt they had a really important message, but it was not clear if they were going to be able to get it out there.
‘’I think the consciousness of the audience or people was right at a tipping point when the movie hit. And part of that tipping point was COVID. Everyone was locked inside. People watched Tiger King, and they were like, now what? But the reality is, folks did start to put together the pieces of why we, as a global population, are sick. Why are we, as a global population, dealing with chronic disease? Certainly, in the West, 60% of grownups have some kind of chronic disease that is in some way, shape, or form related to the food we eat. So, when they saw a movie that had to do with soil, food, health, and climate, while they’re stuck inside going, Gosh, I hope I don’t get COVID, it kind of had this moment of connecting the dots for people. And all the sudden sickness or health was not a consequence of random factors, but largely a consequence of soil. And that consciousness spread very quickly, which was amazing to see.” – Josh Tickell
”At the moment, we finally had the film, and we were all excited about it. And we are going to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Earth Day with Giselle Bundchen, Woody Harrelson, and all of our people. All of a sudden, this little virus started popping up in the news, and we thought, well, there’s no way that they’ll shut down New York. And then, sure enough, a few weeks later, everything was shut down. And it presented a real problem. […] And fortunately, the timing couldn’t have been better. And at the end of the day, in hindsight, you just never know; sometimes these challenges that seem impossible turn into the most perfect opportunities for something to blossom. And that’s what happened with Kiss the Ground.” – Rebecca Harrell
THE NEED FOR ANOTHER MOVIE
Ultimately, this is a systems change approach, says Josh: ”We’re not just making films, we’re creating the spearhead of an international movement.”
”Common Ground, really it’s the nexus of where climate, food, and health meet.” – Rebecca Harrell
”If you look at that, you could go well. This is an intractable problem. Humanity’s on a disaster course; there’s nothing you can do; forget it; just, you know, get a corporate job and don’t do anything. But then you’re like, no, this is so simple. The solution is as elegant as the problem. It’s, you know, demand-based consumer action. It’s a top-down change for large corporations. And it’s moving levers of power, whether that’s at a national level, a state level, or a civic level at the town level.” – Josh Tickell
”I don’t know if anybody else has noticed. But the climate didn’t get fixed after we premiered Kiss the Ground. In fact, if you look at what happened between the time we premiered the film and now, we have an insane number of records in terms of temperature and climate, climatological issues, and species extinction. I mean, Florida Keys, the temperature was an excess of 100 degrees. And the list goes on and on and on and on. So, I think for anyone who’s paying attention and who is interested in the big picture of humanity, our species, and our trajectory in our future, I always ask the opposite question: why do we not see more people making documentaries about this, really getting into the issues.” – Josh Tickell
WHY KISS THE GROUND WASN’T AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS
According to Josh, the reality was that the Tribeca Festival was slated for early 2020, and the film went on to Netflix in September of 2020. It took all that time to convince Netflix to take the film.
”That included Laura Dern and Leonardo DiCaprio threatening to cough on the CEO of Netflix if they didn’t take it. So, it was right at the beginning of COVID. Yeah, you know, the little arm twisting helped.”- Rebecca Harrell
”It wasn’t due to Netflix’s incredible consciousness and willingness to change the world with good messaging.” – Josh Tickell
”The film premiered, and it had this sort of big moment. And it was a very anticlimactic situation because you’re premiering on a digital platform, and you don’t know; you have no idea; it’s a black box, right? So really, it is in retrospect that we see how the film did, and it’s in that retrospect that, oh, wow, this actually had some impact.” – Josh Tickell
THE FOOD IS MAKING US SICK AND HOW TO CHANGE IT
According to Rebecca and Josh, in the US, people are spending so much money to prop up a medical system that is trying to fix chronic diseases that are caused by food. So we have this massive tax liability as a nation, and so does most Western nations.
“Due to the fact that we’re feeding people garbage, they’re getting sick and then we have to feed them pharmaceuticals to correct the garbage that they ate, because they got sick because they didn’t eat soil-based food that was actually healthy in the first place. So we can course correct that very simply by moving money, and money is the arbiter of what’s important to a population. So if you like sick people and you like climate chaos, by all means continue to invest in chemical agriculture, because that is the direct result. But if you don’t and you want to course correct and you have the ability to do that, we can show at this point regenerative portfolios just like in the beginning of renewable energy that are outperforming the chemical portfolios.”
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Koen, Josh and Rebecca also talked about:
- Environmental documentary filmmaking and soil health
- Resource construction vs. resource extraction
- Food choices and their impact on the environment
- Elizabeth Whitlow on how to change the ag world with the gold standard of regen certification
- Finian Makepeace – How to get regeneration at the heart of the next US Farm Bill
- Karen Rodriguez and Ethan Soloviev – Should we be worried about the big brands and massive food companies getting active in the regenerative movement?
- Lauren Tucker, co-founder of Kiss the Ground helps the next generation of regenerative businesses to thrive
- Liz Carlisle – Let’s get real, regeneration is nothing new, so let’s honour the indigenous history (Carlisle is featured in Common Ground)
- David LeZaks and David Strelneck – Why the USDA gave a $600K grant to figure out how to pay farmers for quality (LeZaks is featured in Common Ground)
- Toby Kiers, the Jane Goodall of fungi and mycorrhizal networks on being an underground astronaut (Kiers is featured in Common Ground)
- Jonathan Lundgren on why all agriculture scientists should become farmers first and Jonathan Lundgren – Regenerative agriculture much more profitable than extractive ag?! (Lundgren is featured in Common Ground)
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.