Through an eco-friendly lens
Filming the North State’s green efforts
Bruce Jans doesn’t consider himself an activist, journalist or documentarian—or even a filmmaker, for that matter—but after hearing about his work, it’d be natural for one to question his outlook.
“I’m a video producer,” he said while snapping a large video camera onto a tripod outside Chico State’s Bell Memorial Union. “I’m just a visual person. I don’t try to be esoteric or anything like that.”
For the past year and a half, Jans, the sole proprietor of Green Light Productions, has been collecting footage for a project called Turning Green, a series of segments that feature individuals, businesses, educational institutions and other groups in Northern California that are working to improve their local environment. The project evolved when he noticed a common theme of sustainability among small businesses while filming a pilot for a series called Open for Business (which he has since put on hold).
“I saw a need for more positive projects and [television and Internet] programs about the environmental things people are doing right here in Nor Cal,” he said, referring to the surplus of television series and documentaries that sensationalize environmental wrongdoings. “It’s all about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. And those things have merit, but I want to show what the little guy is doing—the individual.”
So far, Jans has completed six segments for the series, which have featured the Davis Farmers’ Market, Evergreen Sixth Grade Academy in Paradise, and the wind-turbine technician program at Shasta College in Redding, to name a few.
Currently, production is in the works for a segment about the Associated Students Recycling Program at Chico State. That segment—like the others—relies heavily on interviews, and uses people as avenues through which to tell the story.
“People, in videos, are centerpieces,” Jans said. “I let them say it in their own words.”
Jans is a casual but outgoing guy, and those characteristics come into play when he’s working, said Eli Goodsell, recycling operations coordinator for A.S.
The filmmaker first approached Goodsell and his boss, A.S. Sustainability Coordinator Robyn DiFalco, in September 2010 to ask if the recycling program could be featured in the series.
Jans explained Turning Green to Goodsell and DiFalco, who agreed to participate. Soon afterward, Jans sat Goodsell down for an interview on camera, and shadowed several employees around campus as they collected materials from their 1,800 recycle bins and sorted through them at a campus recycling warehouse.
“He was interested in how the program is pretty much run, and was implemented, by students alone,” Goodsell said, noting that the program’s local and national recognition helped put the program on Jans’ radar.
Aside from picking up and sorting recyclable materials, A.S. Recycling employees also offer free school supplies and recycle items, such as batteries, compact discs and print cartridges, that are often disposed of improperly. The program is currently in first place in California for Recyclemania, a nationwide competition that encourages waste-minimization on college campuses.
During a break in the clouds on a recent rainy Monday, Jans trekked from the warehouse to the front of the Marketplace Café near the Bell Memorial Union to catch a few shots of students’ recycling in action. After a few unsuccessful attempts to shoot video of students using recycle bins, he collected empty bottles and approached passersby, asking for them to simply drop the item into the can while the camera was rolling. Of about 10 students he approached, all of them obliged.
His filming style is experimental and spontaneous, and his willingness to try different things keeps his videos lively and entertaining. At any given second, he unclicks his hefty camera from its tripod, grabs his gear and moves to another part of campus, ready to try out a new shot.
“It takes time to create a good eye and it takes making a lot of mistakes—and being willing to make a lot of mistakes—to get good at it,” he said. “But the important thing is to try things, and to take a lot of chances.”
Jans has more than 25 years’ experience with videography and producing. He started his own production company, Procam Productions, in the mid-’80s in Southern California, and in the early ’90s moved to Chico. He changed his company’s name to Green Light Productions last year when he switched gears.
He collaborates with subcontractors during post-production, and hires an editor to do the cutting (usually his buddy and Chico resident Jim Miller, owner of Local World Productions), but his projects for the most part are a one-man effort.
Eventually, Jans would like to see his Turning Green series go viral on the Internet, where it can be linked to several educational and media websites. He’d also like it air on a local or statewide broadcasting channel, such as PBS, and be shown in classrooms around the country.
But, as all video producers know, Jans’ ability to grow his series is limited to the amount of funding he receives. To that end, he’s approached everyone from utilities companies and nonprofits to environmentally conscious businesses. As he communicates with other potential sponsors, he keeps in mind that his project is somewhat of a “hard sell,” he said.
“It’s feel-good funding,” he said, referring to the positive nature of his project.
Ideally, Jans would like to secure enough sponsors so that his series could air on television and the Internet on an ongoing basis, a never-ending sort of project in which he could put a real dent in the list of individuals who are making a difference in the North State’s environment.
“We’re really just scratching the surface,” he said.