Trailer of “Vegucated”
“Vegucated” follows three meat eating participants selected at random to dedicate six weeks of their lives to adopting a vegan diet. Together, they become educated about how the food they eat affects animals, the environment and their health, as they struggle to embrace a vegan lifestyle.
Q1: I read that you came up with the concept for “Vegucated” after watching “Supersize Me.” Can you tell me a little bit more about how the concept evolved?
A1: I saw the documentary film “Supersize Me” and I thought it would be helpful to show what Morgan Spurlock [the filmmaker and star] should be eating—rather than what he shouldn’t. I wanted to highlight the positive benefits of eating a healthy vegan diet. Originally, I only chose one person to participate in the film but then I decided to open it up to three participants to represent the diverse viewers who would be watching the film. I wanted the audience to be able to relate to the three different participants—the single professional mom raising two children, the female college student from a meat eating immigrant family with no frame of reference for this lifestyle and the twenty-something single guy. I was extremely lucky—all three were open, willing and invested in becoming a vegan. At first it was more about losing weight and being healthy but then the ethical reasons overshadowed the physical ones. Other than the female college student’s crisis when she found being vegan to be difficult in social situations, “Vegucated” was an overwhelming success. And years later, the participants have stuck with the vegan diet and lifestyle.
Q2: The selection of participants was a crucial element of the film. What were you looking for? Were you satisfied with your selections?
A2: The selection of the participants was a total gamble. I was looking for people who had a personal connection to animals and didn’t want to get involved just for health purposes. I had no idea if they would take to the vegan lifestyle, if they would be able to tackle the challenges of incorporating a vegan diet into their established day-to-day lives. I was very happy with the ending. Everyone committed and followed through with the film, trying their best to adopt the vegan lifestyle. It was not propaganda—it was an experiment that conveyed truth, love, openness, sincerity and humor.
Q3: You used a fast paced mix of B-roll and graphics throughout the film. Can you walk me through the process of gathering and assembling the footage and graphics?
A3: B-roll and graphics were important for the flow of the film and how I wanted it to feel. For some of the b-roll, I used archive.org. For the farming footage I used some USDA footage but I mostly used undercover investigation footage. I watched 200 hours of this harrowing footage to pick the parts that were most effective for the film. Most of the footage was too graphic to show in the movie. I had to decide what pieces of the footage I could show in the film without being too preachy and shocking about how what we eat affects how cruel animals are treated. The graphics from Asterisk Animation added so much production value and credibility! I think they were a tremendous addition to the film. I really enjoyed working with them.
Q4: You appeared in the film, introducing yourself with personal home video footage. You were also the narrator. What inspired you to be featured in your own film?
A4: Originally, I wasn’t going to be in the film—I was just going to be the white rabbit that lead the subjects to Wonderland. Throughout the process of making “Vegucated” I workshopped the film in the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, which then became FilmShop. They tore it apart, and I had to go back to the drawing board about how to best tell the story and connect to the audience. They suggested that I use myself to introduce the film and connect my own story of becoming vegan into the journey of the three participants. I have a background in improv comedy which I thought worked well in the film.
Q5: Do you feel veganism and staying vegan is a realistic option for the average person?
A5: I think veganism is a realistic option—whether someone can stick with it depends on the person. You need a really strong reason to be vegan and you have to be passionate about your reasons. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Q6: What was the funding process like for you, a first time filmmaker?
A6: I raised money for production costs by asking for donations every birthday, holiday, even my wedding—everything went to making the film. My husband helped me along with the non-profit Kind Green Planet. I used Kickstarter [crowd fundraising site] for the release and theatrical tour. Because I had never made a film before, the grants I received were mainly from animal support groups, not arts/film foundations. Most of the donations were private. We did get corporate sponsors for the tours.
Q7: What advice do you have for other documentary filmmakers?
A7: Pick a topic that you are so passionate about that you are always excited to get up in the morning and work on it. I am an animal rights activist so I funneled that energy into “Vegucated.” It’s about patience, perseverance—it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I never went to film school. I found a film school intern to do the shooting/technical work. I learned Final Cut Pro for editing. It took seven years to make the film. I had the idea in Summer 2004. We shot in 2005 and it premiered in 2011. Because I never went to film school, I made every mistake in the book. What you don’t plan in pre-production, you pay for in post-production. It’s very hard to raise money without a track record of making films and you need to raise money for each stage of production. That’s why it’s so important that you have the passion to keep going and complete the film.
For more information on writer/director Marisa Miller Wolfson and her work, visit: www.getvegucated.com.
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