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The Mad Agriculture Journal

Published on

May 02, 2024

Interview by

Jonnah Perkins

Photos by

Jane Cavagnero


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How did you get started in film making?
This is a very good question. To be honest, it’s a question that I’ve never really come up with a good answer to. I’ve always been very visual, and attracted to creative work. Documentaries were some of my favorite things to watch growing up. I took a few film classes in college and jumped into the production world in New York City after graduating. I got chewed up and spit out. But I learned a ton and really cut my teeth in the Big Apple before moving out to Boulder to start making my own films. There, I really discovered what makes my creative process tick - an interest in people and their stories. What makes them who they are? Where does their light come from? How do they show up in the world? What makes them giggle? Films can make the planet feel really big and really small at the same time. The ability to dream and wonder, while simultaneously finding commonalities and things that resonate in you in a story you know nothing about is a powerful thing. And that’s what attracted me to film making. 

You have worked extensively in outdoor industry media. How did you segue into agriculture storytelling?
I have! And I love every second of it. But you’re right, it is very different from agricultural storytelling. At the same time, it’s very similar. My initial work in the agricultural world can be tracked to the Kindergarten classroom in Corte Madera, California . Jane Cavagnero (Mad Ag’s Chief Marketing Officer, woo woo!) and I happened to share one of our formative years together in the “Hickory” classroom, and when I moved to Boulder in 2018, we reconnected. As our careers progressed, we kept in touch about possible collaborations, and in 2021, it made sense to team up on a project for Mad Ag. The “Mad Ag Anthem” video was born, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

When you show up to a farm shoot, what is your film making process?
Believe it or not, the film making process starts well before showing up to a farm. The storytelling team at Mad Ag spends a lot of time identifying farms and stories, and once we have a relationship in place, the work has really only just begun. Pre-production usually involves drafting up a shot list, a rough script (if applicable), a schedule, a look book and style guide, and interview questions. We also want to respect the farmer’s voice, and include them in the brainstorming process. Film making is not an extractive practice, so having their input in the creative process feels important. Once we show up to the farm, I think it’s really key to keep things light, fun, and respectful. We’re at someone’s home, in their space, so we have to honor that. And as far as the fun part goes – who doesn’t like having fun? Shoot days can be a total blast, but the flower only grows if you plant the seed. 

How do you get farmers to be comfortable with you when you are working on projects with them?
Similarly to what got me started in filmmaking, I think it all comes down to relating to folks on a personal level. I don’t necessarily go into a shoot trying to get someone to feel comfortable around me. But, there’s a good chance that whoever I’m filming is an  interesting person, with an extremely cool story to tell, and that makes me curious and excited. Usually, if one person wants to tell their story, and another person is eager to listen to it, you’ll have a nice time. Beyond that, being nice, asking questions, and staying positive are good ways to make people feel comfortable.

What is the most inspiring thing about Luke Peterson’s story?
There is so much to be inspired by in Luke and Ali’s story, and spending a few days there over the past few years has been a real special treat. The work they do, the crops they grow, and the stories they tell all fire me up. But I think the most inspiring part of their story is their ability to look ahead and know that they have to leave their farm in a better place than they found it for whoever takes it on next. Their efforts on soil health and bug populations are geared toward short and long term success, and it’s important to realize that you can’t have one without the other. It’s a good reminder that we’re borrowing the earth from the generations younger than ourselves, which motivates me to do my part. 

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What is a fun behind the scenes story about making the Luke Peterson film that we may not pick up on from watching it?
The food they make is delicious. They treated us to a homemade dinner and breakfast while the team filmed there, and were enormously hospitable and mindful of any allergies or requests we had. It was honestly one of the best meals I’ve ever had on a shoot. 

What is your favorite part about being part of the Mad Ag team?
The team is full of such genuinely fun and kind people, that it makes coming into work feel welcoming and warm. I am lucky to have connected with everyone on the Mad Ag team, whether it was when I was five years old or three months ago, and I can’t wait to continue learning from them, growing alongside them, and helping build Mad Ag together. It’s also pretty sweet to be able to pet Tillie (Tanner’s dog) and Emmylou (Jane’s dog) in the office and feed them far too many treats.

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