How to grow a documentary: Raise money

Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson have devoted most of the past year to filming Georgia’s new generation of young farmers. But they’re fast approaching a deadline to raise the money they need to finish the project.

A monthlong fundraising campaign they launched on a website called Kickstarter comes to a close October 31. It’s an all-or-nothing deal: If they don’t reach the stated goal of $10,000, they won’t get any of the money pledged to complete post-production of their documentary, GROW!

When the couple (pictured right, in a photo shot by them) moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles in 2005, they hadn’t planned on becoming food activists, or even documentarians. They just wanted to continue their commercial photography business.

But they also wanted dinner. And they realized that what they had accessed easily in L.A.—local and organic food, purchased directly from farmers at abundant markets—was a relative rarity in the Southeast.

“When we lived in Los Angeles, we just ate well,” Anthony says. “And since coming to Georgia, we’ve really … taken a strong part in trying to change things here.”

So they contacted Georgia Organics and volunteered to photograph farmers, helping to introduce the community at large to the people who grow their food.

They wanted to do more. “We said, ‘OK, we’ve got some money saved up—let’s take some time and explore making some pictures move,” Anthony remembers.

A 13-minute film, FARM!, shot on a Flip Ultra, led to the larger project—and a better camera. Since April, they have worked nearly full time on GROW!, logging more than 5,000 miles to interview 21 farmers on 12 farms around the state. Like the farmers they’ve honored with the film, they’ve been guided by passion, not money. But now, they are nearing the end of the work they can complete themselves. It’s time to hire specialists for color correction, sound mixing, licensing and other essential tasks.

What happens if they can’t raise the money—if, at the end of the month, they are back to zero donations?

“We keep going,” Anthony says. “We just keep going. Along the way, your wish list just gets a little smaller, you adapt; the project will be made.”

Either way, the journey has been worthwhile, Masterson says.

“It’s been very exhilarating. It’s not what we’d planned, but then, nothing ever really is. … It was better than ‘the plan.’”

The pair have asked themselves what it is about these young farmers that has moved them to spend countless hours and thousand of dollars  to tell their stories.  

“We kind of put our heads together and came up with the fact that they live on the edge. And for much of our adult lives, we’ve lived on the edge, too,” Anthony says. “They’re edgy. They take chances. We like that.”

They hope GROW! will draw others into the farmers’ compelling tale. “We hope that it is viewed by many people, young and everyone else,” Masterson says. “We hope that it inspires young people to consider farming. To take matters into their own hands. To question authority. To cut out on their own. To make a go of it. And maybe not look so closely at ‘the plan.’”

To view a trailer and consider making a donation, visit the project’s Kickstarter page.