Aiming to “Shift” the Mindset

In a world of fast food mega-corporations and wide employer-employee pay gaps, it seems accountability has lost the battle with profit margins. The business world is focused on the here-and-now: People value the number on their bank statement above their personal well-being, companies see their employees and customers as dollar signs and the faster and cheaper a task can be done, the better.

“We need to set a different example for generations to come — the public needs to become more mindful of the choices they’re making and how they affect the big picture,” said Melissa Young, producer and filmmaker behind “Shift Change” and “Good Food,” two documentaries that aired last week in Bozeman.

Young and her partner, Mark Dworkin, have been creating documentary films since 1987 with their non-profit company Moving Images, advocating for community health, promoting human rights and encouraging environmental protection.

“Good Food,” filmed in 2010, focuses on the rising prevalence of sustainable food in the Pacific Northwest and how organic farming has reshaped the food system, as most food found today in grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles.

[pullquote align=”right”]“We need to set a different example for generations to come — the public needs to become more mindful of the choices they’re making and how they affect the big picture.” – Melissa Young[/pullquote]

“Good Food” describes the benefits of re-localizing food production to create a “100 mile diet” provided by smaller, family-owned farms and farmer’s markets. Industrial agriculture produces food that is low in price, but also low in quality, nutrition and freshness; “not to mention it doesn’t taste as good,” Dworkin added.

Only 100 years ago, nearly half of the American population lived on farms but in recent decades society has become “tragically disconnected” from the process of food production, especially in urban areas, the documentary explains.

“To make the land better and richer instead of destroying it should be the goal of the food production industry,” Dworkin said, “They need to be concerned about what they are leaving behind for future generations.”

The second documentary, “Shift Change,” released this year, was completed on a considerably larger scale and budget. It deals with similar concepts of sustainable living, but on an economic sense.

The film laments the current state of the economy and job market, the disparity of wealth and political influence, and how “worker co-operatives,” a business structure developed around democratic ideals in which every employee has a stake in company profits, are a step in the direction of solving the problem.

These organizations operate in all sectors of the economy — from healthcare to engineering —  and equitably redesign the business model for the benefit of all employees. Managers of these co-operatives make about five times as much as the average employee, in comparison to 380 times as much at major corporations.

“It is a project that has been equally grueling and exhilarating, sobering and uplifting, exhausting and encouraging,” Young said of creating the film.

“They don’t do it for the money; they do it for passion, for love and to help others. That’s something that’s grown increasingly rare these days,” she said of the people they interviewed for both documentaries. “One of the farmers said to me, ‘We may not be rich, but it’s a rich life.’ That really struck a chord with me. There’s so much more to life than the number on your paycheck,” Young said.

Like the passionate local farmers and co-operative managers, Dworkin and Young aren’t in it for the money. Most of the time, their films are open to the public, free of charge. “I love traveling around, spreading the word, educating people on worthwhile subjects and hearing their feedback,” Young said.

Currently, Dworkin and Young are over halfway to raising the funds necessary to prepare “Shift Change” for an outreach campaign around the country, and eventually aim to have it broadcasted on national television.