High Tide

The CapeMay.com blog

Cape May’s First Annual Green Film Series

"No Impact Man" comes to you direct from the Sundance Film Festival at Cape May Stage, April 25, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.

Why in the world would the Cape May Film Society host a Green Film Series just now? Why not years ago? Hasn’t environmental awareness been a long-standing cause? Isn’t Earth Day… like… 40 years old already?

Yes, in fact Earth Day is 40 years old this April. And to celebrate, the Cape May Film Society is hosting a special Green Film Series and kicking it off with one of the best environmental film to come along in years. Best because it is actually as entertaining as it is effective in raising environmental awareness. It’s that “entertaining” factor that is relatively new in the world of environmental films.

"Unstrung," the story of Pat Martino, screens April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Gallery Aferro in Newar, NJ.

On Sunday, April 25, at an exclusive 2:00 p.m. matinee at Cape May Stage, Cape May Film Society will partner with Slow Food Cape May to present No Impact Man, a funny environmental film straight from Sundance Film Festival. No Impact Man follows self-proclaimed Guilty Liberal, filmmaker Colin Beavan, who takes his family on a year-long adventure of having no impact on the environment and thus discovers a lot about himself and the way we all live. Question is, “Can he save his family while he saves the planet?”

The Cape May Film Festival is taking its show on the road – again! In a special event held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute’s Jazz Appreciation Month, the Festival will screen Unstrung, the story of Pat Martino, at the Gallery Aferro in Newar, NJ. Mr. Martino will be on hand to answer questions, as will filmmaker Ian Knox from the UK. The program will be held on Saturday night, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. Details at www.capemayfilm.org or by calling 609-884-6700.

Also being shown with the feature film No Impact Man is the environmental music video What About Tomorrow? produced by Charles Alexander. This year marks the 20th anniversary of What About Tomorrow?, The following is an excerpt written by Alexander looking back on the production of the video.

The music for the video is taken from a little-known song by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who are now more famous than ever because of the current global success of Jersey Boys, the Tony-winning play based on their lives..

At the time I produced this video, I was science and environment editor at TIME magazine. Instead of having our customary “Person of the Year” in 1989, we named “Endangered Earth” as “Planet of the Year” and compiled a 33-page special report on such dangers as global warming, deforestation and species extinction. The issue generated enormous interest, and I got invitations to address audiences from Maui to Moscow.

Working on one of those speeches in late 1989, I came up with a line something like, “We have enough resources today, but what about tomorrow?” That made me think of a song called What About Tomorrow? which was an obscure track on Streetfighter, one of the Four Seasons’ least known albums. But it was written by those same two Jersey Boys, Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, who wrote Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Rag Doll, and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. What About Tomorrow? is a typically melodic Four Seasons’ love song. Yet, I thought it could be much more. Within a day, I had rewritten the lyrics to make What About Tomorrow? into a call for environmental action.

After obtaining the permission of the Four Seasons Partnership (Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio) in early 1990, I immediately set out to make my rewrite into an environmental music video. Time was short. I wanted the video to have its premiere on April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Day.

To perform the soundtrack, I recruited my friends Bill Oliver and Glen Waldeck, a folk-singing duo who made a career of playing songs about the environment. Oliver happened to hail from the musical hotbed of Austin, Texas. To arrange the music and gather musicians for the soundtrack, he lined up Reese Wynans, at the time the keyboard player for the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Wynans, in turn, put together an all-star Austin band. Percussionist Paul Pearcy, for example, had just been named one of the city’s top musicians at an annual awards dinner and also played on Willie Nelson’s and the Dixie Chicks’ albums.

With soundtrack in hand, I found a willing video producer, whose company did environmental documentary work for the Smithsonian Institution, in Sam Green, owner of the Edit Room in Washington, D.C. After listening to the song, Green and Jeff Consiglio, who became the director and editor, suggested that we could put together a video by using stock footage of nature scenes and filming original scenes featuring children, for whose sake we need to preserve the environment. Consiglio recently edited the documentary feature film War/Dance, which was nominated last year for an Academy Award, and also edited Weezer’s music video Pork and Beans, which won Best Short Form Video at the 2009 Grammy Awards.

To shoot the original scenes, Green and Consiglio hired skilled cinematographer Erich Roland. In recent years, Roland has shot footage for such prestigious TV shows as Frontline, Nature and American Masters. But perhaps his most celebrated year came just before he shot What About Tomorrow?. In 1989, Roland was camera operator on the Academy Award-winning Driving Miss Daisy and cinematographer for The Johnstown Flood, which took home the Oscar for best documentary short subject.

What About Tomorrow? premiered on Earth Day 1990 on the VH-1 national cable-TV network as well as airing on several local TV stations, including major network affiliates in Cleveland and Indianapolis. A couple of weeks later I was interviewed about my video on Nine Broadcast Plaza, a show produced by Channel 9, based in Secaucus, NJ, and serving New York City. The substitute host that day was an up-and-coming TV personality named Matt Lauer.

Why is this 1990 video still relevant? Well, the environment is even more in the news than usual, as Congress struggles to pass the first U.S. legislation to fight climate change. Unfortunately, little has changed in two decades. In fact, such ominous trends as global warming and habitat destruction have accelerated. The environment is more imperiled than ever. The future in which our children and grandchildren will live is more in danger than ever.

For decades, the music of the Four Seasons has brought joy to millions. But few people realize that Seasons’ music has also been used to deliver a powerful and vital environmental message in What About Tomorrow?

– Charles Alexander