“Re-Imagining the American Dream”
An Exploration of Intentional Living Communities & Sustainable Living
By Chloe Marina Manchester
Evergreen students Soph Elden, Nate Kindler-Balmy, and Haley Varney have been working on a web series about different kinds of intentional living communities and people who live sustainably for the entire school year. To celebrate and showcase their work, they are holding two free screenings of the complete web series on campus during Week 10.
The project began in a program at Evergreen and blossomed into an adventure through the Northwest. They all went on a month long road trip to sustainable communities in the region and filmed everything along the way. They had two cameras to work with and only one person with any film experience. Soph and Nate have done over 700 hours of editing to get two terabytes of data down to seven 15 minute episodes that will be available for free on Youtube on June 1. I sat down with them to try to figure out why three people would voluntarily spend a month in car with each other and a bunch of film equipment.
What made you interested in sustainable, intentional communities?
Nate Kindler-Balmy: I was interested in sustainability before working on this, but I wasn’t super informed. The chance to learn about it so in depth was exciting.
Soph Elden: We got together as a group because we were in the same program, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and our final project was an operating manual. I was also already interested in sustainable design. For the project, we went on a roadtrip to make this movie.
Why did you start working on this project?
SE: I came to Evergreen from studying film in LA. I realized I didn’t want to be a Hollywood film maker, I wanted to make something meaningful. I wanted to make something that would get people talking and working in their lives.
Haley Varney: I wanted to meet different communities and figure out how they worked because I want to live like that. Part of it was also wanting to share this information with everybody.
How did filming work?
HV: We took turns with who would be on the camera and who would be doing the audio and who would be interviewing.
SE: When we started out I was the only person who knew anything about film. They both learned while we were on the road and Nate learned how to edit. We had a house show fundraiser before we left and used gofundme to get the money we needed for the project. Hayley did all the outreach stuff, she set up the show and called all of the communities we were going to visit.
NKB: Yeah, Haley and I were learning as we went, it was really good to have Soph because she actually knew what she was doing.
SE: It was basically constant filming for a month and we got two terabytes of film that needed editing. I hate editing. The cameras we used were all from Media Loan.
What issues did you face with this project?
HV: Oh man, at the very beginning of filming, we got a really good interview, but the audio got screwed up.
SE: Yeah, I was the only one at the time who could do audio and I was on camera. All he had to do was press the button.
NKB: I pressed the button multiple times… Pulling into the campsites late at night and having to set up the tents. Some nights we were so tired we would just sleep in the car.
SE: We didn’t pay to stay anywhere for that whole trip. Communities would let us stay with them and we used Free Campsites USA.
How does it feel now that you’re looking towards the screenings?
SE: Good. Once I render the last episode and show it, I’m not going to enter a computer lab for a year. Nate and I spent 700 hours on the editing. I actually did the math.
NKB: Yeah, what are we going to talk about when it’s over? It’s all we’ve done for the past year basically.
So now that this is over, what’s next for all of you?
NKB: I’m going to take a big nap.
HV: I want to continue visiting communities and people living like that. I want to get other people involved and take steps to make my own life like that.
SE: The trip taught me more about the eco movement, it’s mostly geared towards white middle class Americans. I want to find out how other countries are living sustainably. … We visited a range of different types of eco communities and with all of them, most of the people were white and middle class. Sustainability is about inclusion, I want to work on what needs to change in this community.
NKB: I’m working on taking what we learned and applying it to my living situation. Even if you don’t want to live in an intentional community with strict rules and bylaws, you can do the same sorts of things living on your own or with roommates. Things like turning your yard into a garden. Why is it that we have grass everywhere where we could be growing food?
HV: Come watch our show!