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0 Sep 12 2011 @ 10:53am by Matt Smith in Biofuels, Global Energy

Chips and Salsa With YERT Producer / Director

I formally announce this to be YERTweek™ here on the burrito. Not only does the docu-comedy YERT provide an interesting take on energy trends and sustainability, but it has also prompted me to delve into some of its key themes such as wind power and smart grids (which I will take a closer look at in the coming weeks). As for this post, it serves up chips and salsa with YERT producer / director Ben Evans, with Tamales and Tacos to come later in the week. But first and foremost, here is a brief synopsis of the film:  

50 States. 1 Year. Zero Garbage? Called to action by a planet in peril, three friends hit the road – packing hope, humor. . .and all of their trash – searching for innovators and citizens solving humanity’s greatest environmental crises. Piling on personal challenges as they explore every state in a year (the good, the bad, and the weird), an unexpected turn of events pushes the team to the brink in this award-winning docu-comedy.  

Please watch the trailer here. It will give you a quick insight into how truly humorous and moving this film is. After seeing the film, I was compelled to contact producer / director Ben Evans (he’s the one in the film trailer being pulled through the mud), to give some further insight into what he experienced on his year-long journey. Enjoy:     

The Mighty Ben Evans

Who came up with the name YERT, and what were the other contenders? 

Mark and I had been brainstorming over the phone for a while on different names and nothing was quite sticking. Then he called me one night and suggested the name YERT. We talked it over and loved it – it was short, memorable, fun to say, a great acronym, and had the added advantage of being an intentional misspelling of an actual word. Nothing else was even close.  

You drove across 50 states in a year. Wowee. How many miles was that in total, and has it put you off road trips for life?  

We racked up about 43,000 miles total – 3 people and all their gear, supplies, and garbage in a hybrid, I might add. Still, it’s more driving than I would have liked. It’s certainly given me pause about heading out on any more. In fact, I’m working on ditching my car and planes altogether by the end of the year. We’ll see what happens. Of course, that doesn’t mean no more travel – just means it will be a bit more of an adventure, which is great.  

If there was an environmental super hero, what would their name be?  

Legend Larry Gibson

We met a few real ones on the trip: Eco-Elvis, Earthman, and Captain Crud – each with their own outrageous “superhero” outfit. As for a real life environmental super hero – it doesn’t get much better than West Virginia’s Larry Gibson. Though barely 5 ft. tall, Larry is a true giant among men, leading the fight against the ravages of Mountaintop Removal coal mining (MTR) while coal company thugs blow up his family cemetery, threaten his life, kill his dogs, burn down his cabin, and shoot up his homestead.  

Have you had any / many hostile reactions to the movie?  

None that I know about – which is to be expected, I guess. So far as I can tell, it’s been very well received – lots of laughter, tears, standing ovations, and – most importantly – stories of audience members making changes in their own lives afterwards. So I’ll take that as a good sign. Still, once the film reaches a wider audience, I imagine there’ll be some “haters” out there at some point. We wouldn’t really be pushing any boundaries if there weren’t.  

So you graduated from Stanford University in Science, Technology and Society, became an actor for 10 years, and then became an environmentalist. What’s next?  

Not sure, to be honest. Finding a way to thrive in the uncertainty of the coming decade – I’d take that. I’m continuing to do independent documentary filmmaking locally for environmental groups and initiatives and hope to build that into a full-time career – there are some really interesting stories locally that are dying to be told in a creative way. There’s talk of a YERT TV show – the project is ideally tailored for that medium, so we’ll have to see if that ever materializes.  

Eco Elvis

Mostly, I’m just trying to make sure all of the hard work of the last 5 years with YERT finds its way into the world through the film, and if we can recoup some of the blood, sweat, and treasure we’ve sunk into it along the way that would be great. Hopefully YERT can go from a full-time gig that doesn’t really pay to a full-time gig that actually pays a living wage. That’s the goal.  

The other goal is to create a life that is as self-sufficient and as bill-free as possible. That means growing much of my own food, being transportation independent and car-free, and creating a life built around local community and relationships rather than the acquisition of stuff.  

To be continued….  

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