Film Explores lush, green America
Fernandina Beach News-Leader | July 3, 2007
By Glenda S. Jenkins


   For a documentary filmmaker, the challenge lies in presenting the truth.
   But after seeing the documentary “Gimme Green,” some doubt the authenticity of its characters, filmmaker Isaac Brown said.
   “Where did you find those actors?” they ask him.
   “Every bit is all a documentary,” said Brown, describing a 28-minute movie he filmed and directed with college classmate and environmental scientist Eric Flagg of Gainesville.
   The two met as graduate students in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. “Gimme Green,” completed as part of their master’s thesis for the college’s Documentary Institute, is “about the American love of lawns,” he said.
   In addition to several film festival awards, the film has received second place at the Student Emmy Awards during the College Television Awards presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected the film as a finalist in the 2007 Student Academy Awards competition.
   “We didn’t make this film to get awards,” Brown said, adding they both “felt the need to do this.”
Brown, a seventh-generation native of Yulee, wanted “to explore the concept of American consumption in a way people can relate to without being polarizing,” he said.
   “People watch a film and they want to figure it out for themselves,” Brown said.
   “There’s no way to remove your influence,” Flagg said, noting that he works as a consultant on water shortage issues. “It’s transparent that we do have our opinions…When I see a perfect lawn, I do say it’s well done. I also know the amount of chemicals and water that go into it.”
   “It don’t think lawns are bad,” Brown said. “When people start demanding that lawns be a monoculture…one type of grass, and stay a certain shade of green all year round, you don’t want nature any more. You want something beyond reality.”
In making the film, “We had a point of view,” Brown concedes.
   Despite their personal views, Brown and Flagg wanted “to provide information and not say ‘lawns are bad,’” Flagg said.
   Instead, they “follow people around while they’re doing their daily routine” and “give people a chance to express themselves,” Brown said. As directors, they “wanted to hear people’s perspectives.”
   “We tried to have respect for the people,” regardless of their beliefs, Flagg said.
In the documentary, the “main thread is a Realtor on the hunt for a lawn of the month.”
   The film follows her travels from inside her car and breaks away to weave in facts and clips about lawns and the industry in other parts of the country.
   The pair owns a company, Jellyfish Smack Productions, that has completed several other projects including commercials and educational films, “a hybrid of documentaries,” Flagg said.
   Another of the documentaries, “Murder on the Suwannee River: The Willie James Howard Story,” tells the story of a 15-year-old African-American boy lynched in Live Oak in 1944 “for having a crush on a white girl.”
   Three of their film shorts have appeared on the viewer-driven satellite and cable channel, Current.
   Flagg and Brown do all filming, editing, and duplication in an effort to keep costs low, and as a result, make their fees affordable for clients without corporate budgets.
   Documentary filmmaking “is where our heart is,” Flagg said, explaining, their commercial projects support that and allow them to continue doing projects “that catch our interest.”
   “I really wanted to raise awareness about the amount we consume as culture,” Brown said. Some documentaries “fall on the preachy side (and) turn people off.”
Others antagonize and attempt to make people look foolish. “That’s not my style at all,” Brown said.
   “We’ve had overwhelming positive response from people who love lawns as well as people who hate lawns. They are surprised at the amount of resources it takes to maintain this aesthetic.”
   They also use humor. Despite the fact that it’s difficult to incorporate humor into something serious, “People laugh,” Flagg said.