This summer, I’m working at Fiege Films in Austin, Texas. It’s a small independent film company that I’m really glad to be a part of.
John Fiege, the founder of Fiege Films, is an environmentalist and documentary filmmaker. His past work includes the films Mississippi Chicken, an examination of undocumented workers in the poultry industry in Mississippi, and Above All Else, the story of a last-ditch attempt to stop the Keystone XL pipeline expansion in East Texas.
John has many shorter pieces too. This short film, Torrent on the Blanco, chronicles the devastating flooding that occurred in Wimberley, Texas in 2015:
The environment is a key focus at Fiege Films, and it’s especially important in the current moment, with environmental catastrophes like climate change feeling ever more acute, and a political administration unwilling to do anything to stop it. It’s paramount that people advocate for our habitat.
Currently, I’m helping out with pre-production on In the Air, an experimental, feature-length film about environmental devastation on the Gulf Coast, told from the perspectives of local artists, such as poets and dancers.
We’re focusing particularly on a part of the country called “Cancer Alley,” a stretch of land along the Mississippi host to over 100 petrochemical complexes and a disproportionate amount of illness.
It’s a depressing situation, but also a great opportunity to speak out about this great injustice. I believe that environmental justice is social justice, and that by fighting for better air and water conditions for the residents of this region that have been traditionally mistreated, I’m helping to further the cause of social justice. When we protect our environment, we protect the people living there, too. That’s why telling this story is so important.
Here’s an excerpt from the work sample for In the Air. It was shot in Baytown, Texas, and features a piece of poetry from Baytown native Ebony Stewart:
Right now, there’s a lot of work to be done for the film, and it’s pretty busy here in the office—but also really exciting. Coming off a successful Kickstarter in April, we’ve raised enough funds to start production, and for me that means researching locations, creating shooting schedules, and coordinating with artists, among many other tasks.
My hope for this time is that I can best facilitate the creative vision for the film, to help the story of a very marginalized and exploited part of the country get told. Making a film takes a ton of work, but in this case, with such dire subject matter, it’s self-evident how important it is. I’m very grateful to the WOW program for making it possible for me to work for social justice this summer. It’s awesome that I get to spend my time doing something so meaningful and important.