Interview: Filmmaker Ian Connacher, “Addicted to Plastic”
Did you have a clear goal from the beginning about how you wanted to frame the film?
Relating it to my own personal journey happened during the editing process. Originally I didn’t shoot any stand-ups or spend anytime in front of the camera. We just wanted to capture as much footage as we could and wound up with over 400 hours, which is probably why it took so long to edit. And during that editing nightmare, one of my editors said to me, “It has to be about you. It can’t just be talking head to talking head. We need to relate it to the average viewer.”
So we presented it that way. Here I am visiting all these locations, seeing the problems and asking the question “what can we do about this?” It was all kind of serendipitous how I wound up being the catalyst for the movie. I don’t like being on camera necessarily, but it worked that way. It’s me, it’s you, it’s all of us seeing all of these things.
You take an interesting look at the idea of recycling and some of these plastic alternatives, somewhat dispelling the myth that these are all great ideas. Can you explain that a bit?
I tried to be really open about that in the film and wanted to make sure that the audience understood that a lot of these solutions don’t necessarily come without their own costs. We talk about something like bio-plastic and we need to start looking at the issues surrounding corn. It’s extremely energy intensive to produce and there needs to be an infrastructure in place to handle the composting etc. But that’s not to say that these things aren’t helping. With the doc we wanted to get this conversation going and investigate some of these so-called answers to the plastic problem.
How has the filming of this documentary changed your own feelings about plastic?
By no means am I anti-plastic. I think it’s a great material, but it’s all about how we’re using it and misusing it. I’ve always kind of been the guy with the knapsack at the store and the reusable coffee cup, but after making this film what really struck me was this idea of toxicity, “what’s really in the plastics we’re using?” After speaking with endocrinologists and toxicologists, I’ve become much more aware of which types of plastics I’m buying. And of course now, my eyes are like magnets for plastic everywhere which made me realize how truly pervasive it is. If anything, that’s what I want people to take away from this experience, is to wake up and see the world through this lens.
After people see the film and absorb all of this information, I’m sure they feel overwhelmed about what they should do next. What do you tell them?
Again, not to sound redundant, but I think the little things like buying certain products in bulk, taking a reusable bag to the supermarket and knowing what plastics you’re buying can add up to a big difference on a consumer level. And I hope that maybe someone sees this and decides to get a recycling program going at their own company or works in government and wants to pass legislation that remedies the way industries are doing things. At the end of the day, I’m just a filmmaker and what I think I can do well is tell stories that can get people inspired and motivated behind these issues.
Is their one lasting image that will stay with you from this film?
I think what I take away most from the doc are the individuals – whether it’s the woman making bags out of salvaged plastic in India or people staring clean-up initiatives around the world – there’s a ton of people that are trying to fix this problem, many with very little money and just a lot of passion. And that’s what really resonated with me, that together we can figure out a way to fix this thing. There are just so many amazing people out there trying to make a difference.