Symphony of the Soil at Conferences

Symphony of the Soil will be screening at many important conferences in the next couple of months:

Justice Begins With Seeds | Presented by Biosafety Alliance
August 1-3, 2013 in Seattle, WA
The GMO Awareness Week Film Series screens Symphony of the Soil
Thursday August 1 at 8pm PST
at Campbell Hall in the University Presbyterian Church (4540 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105)
To register:
Facebook Invite

American Community Gardening Association Conference
August 8–11, 2013 in Seattle, WA
Saturday, August 10 at 8PM PST
at the University of Washington, Gould Hall – Room 322 (on the corner of NE 40th St. between  University Way N.E. and 15th Ave. N.E. in the University District.)
For more information:

American Renewable Energy Day Conference
August 15-18, 2013 in Aspen, CO
Friday August 16 at 12noon MST
Pitkin County Library, 120 N Mill St, Aspen, CO
For more information:

The National Heirloom Seed Exposition
September 10-12, 2013 in Santa Rosa, CA
Wednesday September 11, at 4pm PST
at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds – Showcase Cafe
Producer/Director Deborah Koons Garcia will be screening select clips of Symphony of the Soil and holding a discussion with organic farmer Penny Livingston Stark.
— Look for the Lily Films booth to purchase Lily Films films. —

The National Bioneers Conference | Presented by Bioneers
October 18-20, 2013 in San Rafael, CA
Symphony of the Soil will screen as part of the Film Showings
Friday, October 18 at 7pm PST
Location TBA
For more information:

14th Annual Wise Traditions Conference | Presented by Weston A. Price Foundation
November 7-11, 2013 in Atlanta, GA
Symphony of the Soil will screen
Friday November 8, 2013
Location TBA
Dr. Joseph Heckman will lead a discussion after the film.
For more information:


Deborah Koons Garcia, producer/director of Symphony of the Soil and Ryan Storm, blogger at the Canadian Organic Growers Conference

Other conferences Symphony of the Soil has screened this year include:

Ecofarm Conference, Pacifica, CA January 2013
Deborah Koons Garcia in attendance

Canadian Organics Growers Conference, Toronto, ON, February 2013
Deborah Koons Garcia in attendance

Soil and Nutrition Conference, Northampton, MA, February 2013

MOSES Organic Farming Conference, Spring Valley, WI, February 2013

The Maker Faire, San Mateo, CA, May 2013
Deborah Koons Garcia in attendance

Walking the Streets of NYC before the premiere at the IFC

The good folk from Ryder Organic Farms

The good folk from Ryder Organic Farms

As a one-time New Yorker I am absolutely amazed at how much the city is evolving into being more environmentally conscious. I was promoting in the city for the upcoming premiere of Symphony of the Soil at the IFC July 11th  and was as lucky enough to meet some of the folks who are changing the city for the better and doing great work.  From the Grow NYC composters at the TriBeCa farmers market and Union Square Green Market, to The Horticultural Society of NY in mid-town Manhattan, to the farmers from Norwhich Meadows and Ryder Organic Farms who work the Green Markets, it was truly amazing to see how many people and organizations are contributing to making New York City a more sustainable (and beautiful) place to live.  Some of these organizations have been around for quite a while, and some of them are ‘fairly’ new, but here’s a just a sampling of the many organizations in NYC that are changing the city for the better (and these are only a few!).

Grow NYC

Just Food

PS 41

New York City Bee Keepers

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm

Added Value

Brooklyn Grange

Bushwick Coop



Green Guerillas

Lower East Side Ecology Center

New York PermaCutlure Exchange

Slow Food NYC 

Feel free to add to the list if you know of folks in NYC promoting healthy practices to save our soil!  Keep up the great work NYC – there’s a lot more work to be done, but truly inspiring to see.

As one of the composters at the TriBeCa market said, one day SoHo will be called “GroHo”?..

-Post written by Carolina Cruz Santiago
July 11, 2013 at 5:43

Grow NYC Compost Station at the TriBeCa Farmers Market

Grow NYC Compost Station at the TriBeCa Farmers Market

Bicoastal Symphony of the Soil screenings next week!

Symphony of the Soil New York City Premiere at the IFC Center

Thursday July 11, 2013
6:30 PM
IFC Center – 323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street | New York City, NY 10014


Limited seating. Purchase tickets in advance, from the IFC Center website:

Q and A after the film with:
Deborah Koons Garcia – Producer/Director
Dr. Ignacio Chapela – Microbial Ecologist, UC Berkeley
Dr. Michael Hansen – Senior Scientist, Consumers Union

Symphony of the Soil at the Dance Palace Point Reyes Station, CA

Saturday July 13, 2013
7:00 PM
The Dance Palace – 503 B St | Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Q an A after the film with:
Deborah Koons Garcia – Director/Producer
Dr. Ignacio Chapela – Microbial Ecologist, UC Berkeley
Warren Weber – Farmer, Star Route Farms

We will be serving certified organic ice cream from our friends at the Straus Family Creamery!

$10 per person pre-sale through BrownPaperTickets and $12 at the door.

Limited seating. Get your tickets early –

New York Partners


As the Symphony of the Soil New York City premiere at the IFC Center on Thursday July 11th at 6:30pm fast approaches we at Lily Films have been working with groups in the NYC area. We would like to take this moment to thank all of them for helping promote this event and encourage their members and supporters to share this documentary and expand it to new audiences.

GreenGuerilla_LogogrowNYC-transparent-small-368px  slow_food_nyc_logo_products_mouse_pad-r6e3f5b7d7eba4c5d86a9b4aa5a94ebb1_x74vi_8byvr_512  gmkt-200px  sponsorlogograce  bkfarmyards




Thank You!

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE EVENT: Deborah Koons Garcia (Director, The Future of Food) will premiere her new documentary, Symphony of the Soil at the IFC Center in New York City, Thursday July 11th, 2013 at 6:30pm and 9:10pm.

Q and A after the film with Deborah Koons Garcia, Producer/Director; Dr. Ignacio Chapela, Microbial Ecologist UC Berkeley; Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist Consumers Union.

IFC Center located at 323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street, Manhattan (212) 924-7771

Thursday July 11th, 6:30pm

$13.50 per ticket in advance or at the door Limited Seating. Ticket reservations recommended.

To Purchase Tickets:

For more information about Symphony of the Soil and to watch the trailer visit

Symphony of the Soil: An Interview with Deborah Koons Garcia

Interview by Greg Carlson of SouthPaw Filmworks
Re-posted in the High Plains Reader

On Tuesday, June 18 at 7pm at the Fargo Theatre, documentary filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia will present her latest film, “Symphony of the Soil.” Koons Garcia is an accomplished artist, whose 2004 documentary “The Future of Food” investigated the perils of genetically modified foods. “Symphony of the Soil” continues the filmmaker’s study of our relationship with food and the environment.

High Plains Reader film editor Greg Carlson asked Koons Garcia about her work.


HPR: Symphony of the Soil establishes soil as the film’s protagonist and central character. At the beginning of the movie, soil is beautifully described by the brilliant Ignacio Chapela as a “living crust that is smeared over the surface of our planet.” What is your favorite thing about soil?

Deborah Koons Garcia: What fascinates me about soil is its transformational nature, the idea that it not only provides a foundation for life – that plants and trees and animals grow out of it – but that it transforms death into life. It is the medium in which life is broken down and made available for new life to form. One aspect of this is called nutrient cycling, but it’s really about life cycling through the soil.

HPR: When you made The Future of Food (2004), the focus was on the genetic engineering of food and the risks of corporate influence on agricultural practices. Even in recent weeks, more news stories about nations banning the importation, use, or growth of genetically engineered crops have emerged. Labeling and definitions can be controversial. Where do you see the United States in the next steps of the movement to more carefully examine GE/GMO practices and potentially adopt more detailed and explicit labels?

DKG: I personally am relieved that the general population is starting to rise up and question the GMO regime. I know a lot about this because I been studying, making films and speaking about it for over 12 years. For too long, so much of what has gone on in this country has allowed GMOs a free pass; they’ve been under the radar.

It amazes me that the corporations that have spent billions of dollars on propaganda to convince people that we need these allegedly harmless GMOs to feed the world are terrified by mandatory labeling. If they are so proud of their product, they should be proud to label it because then the people convinced by their propaganda can go out and buy it.

You have to be suspicious of the corporate persons, which are these corporations, who are so afraid of being held accountable for their products. The only way that people are going to develop any confidence that this stuff is what their promoters say it is is if we have long term scientific studies that are transparent and neutral, that are not funded and controlled by the corporations controlling the GMOs, and if we have labeling of the food itself.

This way, if GMOs cause harm, we’ll be able to identify where that harm came from. They don’t want stuff labeled, they don’t want to be tested, they don’t want us to have a choice. Just that alone should alarm the public. What are they hiding? Why are they afraid? What do they know that they don’t want us to know? And why should their attitude be so infantilizing – shut up and eat! That is totally insulting.

This whole thing with GMO wheat has alarms going off everywhere – good! Monsanto has not managed to shove this stuff down the world’s throats and Americans are finally waking up and realizing we don’t want it shoved down our throats either. I certainly don’t think Monsanto and friends should be able to contaminate their way into controlling every field in America.

We have to make them pay for damaging farmers’ property by contaminating it with GMOS without the farmers wanting it there, rather than having to make the farmer pay them for basically destroying his freedom to grow what he wants. They should be paying such huge damages for contamination that they have to go out of business. These entities are not who we want controlling our seed supply.

HPR: As a filmmaker and storyteller, can you name a film you saw or a filmmaker whose work you saw that really communicated something special to you or inspired you?

DKG: I recently saw a film called “Hot Coffee,” which is about some changes in our judicial system that have happened over the past 20 years in terms of product liability and limits on what courts can award to victims of wrongdoing. It’s a topic that I’m really interested in. The filmmaker is a lawyer and she shows how our judicial system has been changed to favor corporate interests.

It’s been out for a few years. It’s really fascinating and also terrifying. What it points out is that by introducing mandatory arbitration and limits on what courts can award to someone who has been harmed, special interests such as insurance companies and corporations that make products that end up hurting people really face very little penalty.

It shows the degradation of the judicial system-how corporate interests now trump individual rights. There was a campaign to make these changes happen and they did happen, and our rights as citizens have been eroded. In many ways, we have lost the protection of the law. It didn’t inspire me exactly, rather it infuriated me, but it really brought to light in a clear way some very important issues that too few people are aware of. This affects all of us.

HPR: “Symphony of the Soil” visits many places to share the diverse stories of sustainable practices. How many miles did you log during the production phase of the documentary? Of the places you had never been before, where would you like to return?

DKG: We went to Norway, the UK, India, Egypt and around the United States over a few years, so it was many thousands of miles, many days of jet lag, all of it completely worth it. We were in Egypt before this revolution happened and sometime in the future it would be interesting to go back and see how the lives of the people that we met there have changed.

I was also really fascinated by natural beauty of Norway, the fjords and magnificent land and seascapes there. We were shooting midsummer, so it was light 24 hours a day where we were, up above the Arctic Circle. It was a very strange feeling. As a filmmaker of course I was thrilled because we could shoot 24 hours a day.

Some of the scenes there we filmed at 2 AM and the light was so beautiful. I found it hard to sleep at all because I could feel that the sun was out, even in a darkened room. There’s a part of me that would like to go back there midwinter and experience what it’s like when it’s dark 24 hours a day and everything is snowy and cold outside and cozy and warm inside.

HPR: Scientists often have a dry, clinical, cerebral reputation that suggests difficulty in cinematic translation, but your subjects defy the stereotypes. How do you approach the interview process in order to collect material that is accessible to the non-scientists in the audience?

DKG: I do a lot of homework for my interviews. I choose subjects who are at the top of their field and I figure I owe it to them to know what they do and to figure out the right questions to ask them. One scientist in the film, Peter Vitousek from Stanford, with whom we went to Hawaii, has a book called “Nutrient Cycling and Limitation in Hawaii.” So I read the book of course and then when I told him in a pre-interview that I’d read his book he said “My condolences.”

It actually was a fascinating book and really helped me understand that soil has a lifespan and also that cycling process, life cycling through the soil. I do try to really understand the topic so I can bring out the best of what each person I’m interviewing, whether she’s a scientist or a farmer or an activist, can bring to the film.

I prepare a list of questions in advance. I also see the interview process as a formal one. I tried to not get too chatty or casual before the interview. After the interview, that’s fine, we can go have a drink or meal together but I want to create a kind of formal set up, the sense that this is a special interchange, a kind of a witnessing.

I find that once they understand that I respect them enough to actually find out quite a lot about what they do, that that actually helps bring their best to the interview process as well. I let them know in advance exactly what area I want to cover with them because a lot of these people have a vast amount of knowledge about all kind of things. I chose something they have special enthusiasm for and want to share with the world.

Plus I choose topics that I’m interested in and so they’re telling me about things I’m personally fascinated by so it makes it an animated conversation. One person I interviewed had had a film made about him and it was funny because before we did the interview, he was complaining about that film, that he didn’t like it, that he didn’t feel that filmmaker understood his work.

Then after our convivial interview, he said, “I really enjoyed this interview. You asked me such good questions.” And I said, “Well, I read your book.” And he complained one last time about the previous filmmaker and said, “He did not read my book.” But I can tell as a filmmaker when I watch films in which the director really hadn’t connected with the interviewee, when they just kind of came in on the fly in and didn’t really get the person. Then it becomes rote.

An interview is a kind of a ritual: film lasts forever so you really want to be focused, show respect for them and their work by understanding it, look them in the eye, and figure out how to really listen to them. Usually the people I interview have spoken a lot about their work, presenting papers or teaching. I talk to them about communicating to a mass audience and they are intelligent enough to understand how to present their special knowledge in a way that people can understand it.

If necessary I ask them to rephrase the answer so the average person can get it. It doesn’t mean dumbing it down, it means smartening up. The people in this film are thrilled that it is raising soil consciousness. It’s also nice to ask a question which they wouldn’t be expecting because then they can improvise and that gets them kind of excited too to have to think on their feet.

HPR: You find an artistic tone and voice in “Symphony of the Soil” that resists any temptation to escalate the fear and terror that sometimes accompanies the dialogue about the state of the ecology. Is it hard to be calm, rational, and positive when it feels like there is so much to be scared and angry about?

DKG: I agree there is a lot to be scared about these days. As a filmmaker though it would just be too easy to put people on a giant bummer and leave it at that. After all, to my mind the purpose of making a film is to help. I want people to make positive changes and if you leave people in a negative, depressed, freaked out state nothing will change, they’ll just go to bed and pull the covers over their head, so I’ve wasted my time as a filmmaker.

This film is a kind of a hybrid in that it’s got a lot of science in it but it’s also artfully done, artistically done. Yes, I went to art school! And art is about transformation. The best art is about deep transformation and, I believe, ultimately should be ennobling. I know it’s an old-fashioned idea but that’s what I believe. I think that beauty, scientific rigor and skillful filmmaking can be joined together to create something that actually changes how people see the world and therefore changes how they act upon that world.

I wanted this film to be highly informational. Soil science is fascinating, cutting-edge science these days. And I also wanted it to be heartening and I wanted it to be fortifying. The idea is that once people are armed with this knowledge and this understanding, they simply can’t treat soil like dirt.

I also feel that one of the problems today is that most people have a hard time connecting with nature. It’s just the way our lives are now. We spend a lot of time online, we spent a lot of time running around and so we see “the environment” as something that is out there. What I am trying to do in this film is to give people a sense of connection with nature, a sense that they are part of nature.

When you feel that connection and when you deeply value nature, those feelings change how you live your life. Film is ultimately an emotional medium, so even when I have a lot of information that information has to be grounded in a kind of emotional understanding. I want people to stay “in the film.” Anything that distances them gets cut out. I want people to love my work and to want to share it.

It’s a tricky thing I think to make people realize that the stakes are very high, which they are, and that there are actions we can take to help create a wholesome future and that we must do that now. I did this pretty well in “The Future of Food.” It’s actually a lot more difficult than people may realize to make a film that keeps people connected through bad news so that they’ll hang in there and realize, wow yes there is a lot of bad news but the good news is that there is something I can do about it, and I’m going to do it, I have to do it.

Not that many films actually achieve that. They often just bring all the bad news and then promote that it’s a powerful film, but to my mind you can go online and get all that bad news in five seconds. The challenge is to make a transformational film that moves the audience enough to really change their minds and actions. Another thing is that it’s part of my philosophy as a filmmaker that I want people who see my films to have a sense that they’re in good hands.

I think that’s very important to have faith between the filmmaker and the audience that the experience is going to be a good one, that that you’re in good hands and this is going to be healing even though there is difficult information here, even though we’re dealing with tough issues, ultimately you will be fortified and heartened.

HPR: I am sure you learned many things during the process of making “Symphony of the Soil,” but what is one specific thing you discovered that surprised you and stuck with you?

DKG: When I started researching the film I bought and read a lot of soil textbooks and books on soil so I had a lot of book learning. Then I started interviewing people and started seeing soil from their point of view, whether scientific or agricultural or cultural. Then at some point I really got soil; I understood that soil is alive. I really got the sense that soil is an living organism that is filled with life and constantly changing and made up of all kinds of organisms from the tiniest little critter to herds of animals to us – the soil community.

I got the sense that there were all kinds of processes going on, and cycles and transformations. So I went from basically being soil blind to being overwhelmed with how complex soil is. Right around then, I was out for a walk one day and I looked out at the hills where I walk and have walked for many years and I just suddenly got the idea, “My God, it’s all alive out there. It’s all moving and breathing and changing.”

I got this sense of life: organisms churning through the soil and microorganisms eating each other in releasing nutrients and roots and exudates and chemical reactions going on, massive complexity. I realized I’d looked out on this land for years and not seen it that way, then I learned all this stuff and I look out and thought, “Wow, this is just a miracle, you know, it’s a miracle that soil exists and it’s a miracle that we humans have risen up out of it” and there was for me at that moment an experience of reverence towards all of life in all its glory. So then I knew what I wanted the film to be: to start off with science and end up with a sense of the sacred.

HPR: You are a self-described food fanatic. What is your absolute favorite meal to prepare yourself and serve to friends or to eat at a restaurant?

DKG: I live in Northern California which I think has the best food in the world because we can grow stuff year-round and what we grow is so wonderful, so that totally influences my favorite food. My favorite meal is a simple one, all organic of course: maybe start with artichokes from my garden, then wild salmon from the coast, lovely greens from my garden like chard or kale or dandelion greens or all of them with lots of garlic, maybe green garlic, some other vegetables in season like beets, and a nice grain say millet or brown rice, then a lovely salad from my garden with a dressing of local olive oil and lemons from my lemon trees, and maybe some perfect fresh peaches for dessert from my little orchard, shared with friends.

I also love good local cheese. And maybe a special occasion flourless chocolate cake, not from my garden. I actually get a CSA box from a great local farm so I don’t eat everything out of my garden but I thought I would just do a little bragging since you asked.

To see original article
High Plains Reader

Happy Earth Day

Every time Earth Day rolls around, we are forced to reflect on what actions each of us make in our daily lives that work towards the protection of our environment.  Some celebrate the natural beauty around them, some wonder ‘we love our earth but how can we tell her so?’ and for others it’s just another day.

Here are some steps that you can take in your every day to help the environment:

  • Compost. You don’t have to see Symphony of the Soil to know that composting is important (though, it does help). Composting reduces waste while helping create healthy soil that is able to produce good food.
  • Reuse. It’s important to be aware of the waste you create. Little things make a big difference. Having a coffee/tea thermos that gets filled at coffee shops can reduce that waste. Having a water bottle that you refill does the same. Going out to eat later and know that you’re going to have leftovers – bring a small Tupperware with you. Saving jars from pickles or salsa and using them to hold household items like nails or screws.
  • Eat and shop organic. Most people complain that eating organic is too expensive. While this may be true, if you consider the health benefits that organic foods provide, you may end up spending more money on doctor’s visits than you would buying organic foods. It’s good for you.
  • Shop local. Shopping local not only helps the local economy but it also reduces the amount of fossil fuels that are used to get your goods to you. Most towns and cities have farmers’ markets available. Buying straight from the farmer helps connect you with your food and can be cheaper than buying through a big super market.

We at Lily Films are also taking this wonderful day to share with you our latest version of the Symphony of the Soil movie poster.

Symphony of the Soil poster

Artwork by Will Kim. Design by Sarah E. Gonzalez. Copyright Lily Films 2013.



















AND we are happy to release the first Symphony of the Soil trailer


Happy Earth Day. Let us know how you are spending it.

on Twitter… @soilsymphony

on Facebook…

GAINING GROUND A documentary digs up dirt on soil

Article from PureWOW written by Cristina Tudino

Soil is not particularly gripping on the surface–it’s, well, a dirty shade of brown and crawling with insects. If you asked us to watch a full-length film about it, we’d politely decline.

That is until we heard about Symphony of the Soil, a new documentary by Deborah Koons Garcia. Convinced that most people are what she calls “soil blind,” meaning unaware and unappreciative of its value, Garcia devoted the film to digging up the latest science on and impact of dirt.

The environmentalist and filmmaker based in Mill Valley (and yes, Jerry’s widow) filmed on four continents–and, of course, right here in Northern California. Interviewing ecologists, activists and farmers, she uncovered countless reasons we should care more about what’s underfoot.

For starters, there isn’t an unlimited supply of what is literally the foundation for life on earth. Soil quality affects the healthfulness and flavor of our food (and more important, wine!). And when treated with synthetic fertilizers, soil can cause birth defects and developmental disorders in children.

So what can we do? Garcia advocates composting, chemical-free gardening, eating locally grown food and staying informed about relevant policy through organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association.

One thing’s for sure: You’ll never look at dirt the same way again.

Sunset Magazine: The Green Screen

Sunset Magazine’s February 2013 issue featured many captivating pieces that everyone in the Western United States should read, including a modest spotlight on Deborah Koons Garcia, director of Symphony of the Soil.

The Green Screen

“[Symphony of the Soil is] A must-see for sustainable agriculture skeptics.” – Sunset Magazine

No Vampires. No Super heros. See full page here: SunsetMag_SOS_Article001


Sunset Magazine

Get your copy today online or at your nearest print publication store.

Making a Movie about Soil: A Day in the Life of Kate Scow

Article by Chris Zimmerman | Soil Science Society of America

Soil Science Society of America member Kate Scow has done a little bit of everything. In her words, she’s “a meandering path. And those who meander should take solace.” Scow grew up in Maryland but lived abroad in Israel and Argentina with her family as a teenager, an experience that seemed to spark her wandering ways. She returned to the U.S. to study biology and ecology before receiving her Ph.D. in soil science from Cornell University. She is now a professor of soil science at the University of California–Davis.

For the past five years, Scow has been working with filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia on Symphony of the Soil, an artistic look into the connections between soil and the world. The UC Davis professor served as the key adviser to the film, supplementing the filmmaker’s artistic vision with the technical aspects of soil science. Here’s what Scow had to say about her role in the movie-making process.

Soil Horizons: When did you first know you had an interest in soil science?

Scow: I didn’t know that I was interested in it for a long time. When I was a teenager, my family drove across Europe, and I collected a soil sample from each country and brought it home—illegally. That’s when I was 15 or something. So something was afoot.

I started out studying animal behavior, but I worked for a few years doing a lot of risk assessment for the USEPA on contaminants before going back to graduate school. I started to hear about soil and see the importance of it, and it seemed like everything came from soil. Everything goes back to soil. I fell in love.

Soil Horizons: And now you’ve helped make a film about soil. What was your role in Symphony of the Soil?

Scow: I’ve been involved in the film from the very beginning about five years ago. Deborah Koons Garcia, the filmmaker, found me by talking to several people who suggested me for the job. As an adviser, my role has been to point out key references of soil science. I helped explain and simplify some of the really challenging concepts, like the nitrogen cycle and soil biodiversity.I provided a lot of input in what to include and not to include and did a lot of checking for scientific accuracy. This was in light of Deborah’s need to be able to express herself in more artistic ways. So it was quite interesting to think about fact checking in a film that’s so artful.

Kate Scow is a professor of soil science at the University of California–Davis and key adviser on the film Symphony of the Soil, an artistic look into the connections between soil and the world.

Soil Horizons: Did you work on this on a full-time basis?

Scow: It was on and off over the five years it took to make the film. There were times when it was pretty intense and then times where it was more intermittent. It took a while to put together this film, so we kind of went with the flow as it was being made.

Soil Horizons: Did you travel much with the crew?

Scow: In California, I traveled a bit with them. I went on several shoots. But I was much more comfortable being an adviser than being a “player” in the film. Most of my time was spent at the studio, putting together the story board for the whole film and taking copies of the film home to review them and provide feedback.

Soil Horizons: Did the movie end up like you imagined it would?
Images from the movie, Symphony of the Soil.

Scow: I love film. It’s one of my passions in life. I was part of an advisory committee at Cornell, where I programmed a lot of film festivals and showings. So I’m very keyed into film. I’ve always wanted to be involved in making a film about soil, and I always imagined something along the lines of Fantastic Voyage, with Raquel Welch traveling through the human body. I wanted to do a film like that about soil. Going down preferential flow paths, getting chased by nematodes, hiding in small pores. But that’s a completely different kind of idea.

When I met Deborah, I realized she was going to be taking us to a place where we don’t usually go in soil. She already had a strong desire to create this symphony about soil. She’s very musical and Vivian, her editor, is an incredible music editor. Soil is so stubborn about showing its beauty; we just walk all over it. It’s really tough to get at it. But Deborah had this vision, and I watched as she captured all of these different things about soil, these great scientists she had giving insight, all combined with the music. It came out more intense, emotional, and beautiful than I ever imagined. Am I foaming at the mouth yet?

Soil Horizons: How do you organize and assemble a film that takes five years to complete?

Scow: By starting out with some really great ideas, places, people, and going and doing that stuff. You start out with that, and you look at it, you think more, you read more, you talk, and you discuss ideas. So there was some footage filmed in the last year to fill in some gaps that were clearly identified once the film as a whole could be seen. It couldn’t be seen until there was enough film to piece together. You’re putting together a lot of pieces, and filling in the gaps later.

I think part of why the film is so amazing is that Deborah had a lot of time to think and dwell about where the film went. Its direction would change over time. Certain things would pop up, and different stuff emerged. She has a really great eye for that and is open to seeing where the process takes her. Deborah loves science. She really is a science nerd, but she also knows that she wouldn’t touch a lot of people if she made a “hardcore facts” film. People who don’t naturally take to science would feel force-fed. What she did was provide a taste of these deeper and broader concepts that some people are really going to get a hunger for. They’re going to go and track more of this information down on Google or by reading books. She has such a great eye for what’s beautiful and emotionally moving, and she could see that in the soil, which can be so unyielding.

Soil Horizons: It must have been great for you to finally get the chance to be part of a film. Did you learn a lot in the process?

Scow: I did. I love film, and it was incredible to see the process and be there all along. It was an amazing gift to me, being involved in it all along the way as the key adviser. You go out and capture footage of all these different things, and then you cut it down, and try to glue it all together and then you condense it more and weave it together, and distill it. Weave and distill. Capture the essence. And the whole time, you’re looking at the overall structure of the entire film. It has its own architecture. It was incredible to see the whole process.

Soil Horizons: Now that it’s complete, what do you like most about the film?

Scow: I like that it celebrates the soil with no reservations. I thought Deborah really caught the beauty and huge mystery of soil. And she captured that while still providing a lot of real knowledge.In talking with people about it, it seems like the film works well for those who have no connection to soil. They see it and go, “Wow, there’s so much here.” And it’s great for people who have a casual relationship with soil, like gardeners. People who may not have the technical expertise, but think about soil all the time. And it even works for the experts who already know a lot about theory and practice. The film really uplifts soil. It brings it to the higher level where it should be. |

Read original article here at the Soil Science Society of America