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Zena Harris, President, Green Spark Group 

“The leaders of every single industry organization I deal with feel strongly about sustainability.”

Zena Harris first learned about corporate sustainability 20 years ago while she was working for a large corporation. “I was frustrated with how things were being done, and I knew there had to be a better way.” After studying organizational psychology, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management from Harvard University. 

In graduate school, she realized that the film industry was lagging behind when it came to sustainability, and so she started to do some research to develop some best practices. It just so happened that she moved from Boston to Vancouver, where she discovered a strong film and television industry. “It was a right-place, right-time scenario. I started to work on set, focusing on sustainable production work. I could see where the gaps were, and I made it my mission to fill those gaps and help the industry transition.”

Zena started Green Spark Group to help educate people in the film industry around sustainability. “When I talk to people about climate change, it’s so overwhelming for them. There are so many things to do, but I try and put their mind at ease. If you just think about two or three things you can do right now, that makes it more manageable. That’s how we change behaviour.”

Changing behaviour is an education process. Most recently, Zena’s been trying to shift people’s ideas around donating food. “For a lot of them, they get hung up on a perceived barrier. So I’m sharing stories about how other shows are donating food, and if I give them one good example, they get behind it.”

Zena believes people need to tell their stories to inspire each other about what’s possible. The Reel Green initiative focuses on bringing people together to inspire and catalyze a movement that will transform an industry. “The way our industry has been able to become an icon and shift our culture in various ways is through storytelling and inspiration. We need the data, but people need to hear it in inspiring ways.”

B.C. is known as a sustainable production centre, recognized for the resources and efforts put toward sustainability – and it has become part of the dialogue in Vancouver. Organizations like CreativeBC are stepping up to help spread the word. “Creative BC provides a space to discuss sustainability. They spend time being thoughtful about how this could best be incorporated in the industry. They are willing to get out there and talk about it, both locally and internationally.”

What is needed now is scalability when it comes to educating everyone around sustainable practices and their impact. The more we talk about this, the more people become aware. “This industry loves a challenge, and we need to challenge them to do more. We really do need to act more urgently. There’s a big crisis on our hands and we all need to act a little bit more mindfully, with more intent to reduce our impact. It’s such a creative industry that when you empower people with information and give them the tools and resources to act on their ideas, great things can happen.”

Discover more about Green Spark Group and Reel Green.

Kat Jayme, Filmmaker, Finding Big Country

You could say that Kat Jayme was destined to become a filmmaker. “I’ve had a camera pointed at me all my life. My grandfather was a director in the Philippines, and so everything was documented.”

 

Kat grew up in Vancouver, where she was the point guard for her high school basketball team.  When she got her first video camera, she started documenting her friends in their day-to-day life. Capturing moments was something she innately knew how to do, and when she graduated from high school, she naturally gravitated toward film. She studied film production at the University of British Columbia and then interned with the National Film Board for three years, learning the ropes. “That experience was invaluable,” she reflects.  

While she was at film school, she knew that she had to tell the story of her childhood heroes, The Vancouver Grizzlies. “I had a feeling that I had to make this film, so I started to do some research. Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves was the only player people couldn’t track down, it was like he was missing, and so I set out to find him.” 

Kat documented her journey in Finding Big Country, and she learned so much along the way. “He had become the scapegoat, the guy people blamed for how terrible The Grizzlies were. As a little girl, I loved them, even though they were terrible, and I wanted to find my long lost hero. It was the perfect recipe – you couldn’t have written a better storyline.” Yet, it wasn’t always easy. As a young, female director, Kat knows how lonely it can get, working by herself all day. Finding a group of like-minded individuals was a game-changer for her. “I’m really lucky I found my film family. We’re all female documentary makers, and we lift each other up.” 

In a genre heavily dominated by white men, Kat was often the only female in a room full of male sports reporters. They assumed she was lost, or that she didn’t belong, yet she would use that to her advantage. “I believe I got access to Bryant and his family because he wasn’t as guarded with me as he might have been with someone else. No one else had been able to do that except me.”

Kat believes her basketball training helped her become a better filmmaker. “Being a point guard is very similar to being a director. You’re a leader on the floor, the one trying to bring out the best in everyone.” She also knows that nothing great happens without a strong team. “When it comes to producing an independent film, you need all of the help you can get. Creative BC was nothing but supportive. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to complete this film the way I wanted. We are so lucky to have organizations like this supporting emerging filmmakers, helping to bring their dream projects come to life.”

As for Kat’s grandfather, he was able to fly to Vancouver to see her film premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival. “That’s something I will always be grateful for, to see him there opening night. He was so proud that I was following in his footsteps and keeping the family tradition of filmmaking alive.”

Kat Jayme
Finding Big Country