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
“Where did you find those actors?” they
“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,”
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,’”
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.