When filmmakers Rob Herring and Ryan Wirick, a Chapman University alumnus, decided to make a film about reports that the planet had about 60 years of farmable soil left they found a lot more good news than bad news.
“There are so many people working on solutions,” said Herring, whose “The Need to Grow” will be screened in the Newport Beach Film Festival, which begins Thursday.
“We don’t have to wait for any magic invention — there’s enough of them along with a return to old practices, ancient technologies. With ancient wisdom and cool cutting-edge stuff it’s really about implementing the solutions that already exist. We don’t have to keep creating new ideas or wait for a savior. We have the stuff right now.”
The film features three storylines, two of which are in Orange County.
There’s the story of “all-around bad ass” Girl Scout Alicia Serratos, a Mission Viejo resident, who they started filming when she was 6 and followed around for the next four years as she started a petition and then began a library of seeds to preserve foods species that are rapidly going extinct, Herring said.
Another storyline is on Erik Cutter of Irvine, who runs an “urban micro farm,” Herring said.
“He has a very unique set of farming technologies and strategies that makes his farm not only organic, but regenerative and with zero waste,” Herring said. “He really knows how to reuse resources.”
His soil is “nutrient rich,” which leads to tastier food, Herring said.
The third storyline is about a “bigger-scale solution in Montana, a technology that is regenerating resources critical to rebuilding our soil at a very quick rate,” Herring said. “This particular company is doing something I don’t think anyone else in the entire world is doing… They’re speeding up the natural processes to help regenerate soil faster.”
Scientists say about 70 percent of the soil on the planet is dead or dying, Herring said.
“Just in the last 40 years we’ve destroyed a third of the planet’s soil,” Herring said.
As depressing as that sounds, Herring and Wirick wanted to avoid churning out just a fact-based documentary espousing doom and gloom.
“My partner, Ryan and I, when we first met to talk about this we thought can we make this about solutions?” Herring said. “It’s a challenging thing to make it compelling and just be focused on solutions. You still have to at least pose the stakes, but we really tried to find as much of a balance as we could to present the dire situation, but also showing there are a multitude of ways of people could actually get involved.
“We’re resisting the structure of telling people to just write their congressman… We can actually do these things right now and we don’t have to wait for the government to tell us it’s OK.”
It took four years to film because the filmmakers were dedicated to following the personal storylines through, Herring said, adding there are many “twists and turns” that lead all of the main subjects to question what they are doing.
The festival will run through May 3 with screenings of 350 films.