Local photographer Brittany Upp exhibited on the final day of the San Luis Obispo Film Festival, the 14th annual event. March, showed her first film, Where There Was Once Water.
App directed and produced the film, which took five years to make.
The day it started, I was sitting on the porch looking out the window, and my neighbor was in the driveway washing his boat, and it was driving me crazy. So I thought as a creative person I should do something to bring some more attention to this issue because some of us don’t understand what drought is, App said.
Epp describes himself as an occasional water advocate. After traveling the world in 2008 and seeing the lack of access to clean water, App knew it was his calling to help solve the water crisis.
In 2010, App raised money for WaterAid, an international nonprofit that provides access to clean water and sanitation around the world, by crisscrossing the United States and raising $15,000.
The app was originally created to document the effects of the drought in the state through photos. App realized that the subject matter went far beyond simple photography, so he decided to make a film.
In 2014, App raised money for his film by posting a campaign on his Kickstarter page. The film was funded entirely by donations. App reports that she hasn’t made a penny from the film since it began.
App drove through California and the Southwest, some of the driest places in the country. That’s how Ms. App got involved with the nonprofit DigDeep, which strives to bring running water to families on the Navajo Nation.
More than 1.7 million people in the United States still live without access to clean running water.
In the film, App works with indigenous communities, including Kandi White, a local energy and climate activist.
App’s film showed viewers the effects of drought, lack of access to water and water pollution, and then showed how we can address the crisis.
Jason Haas, partner and CEO of Tablas Creek Winery, was featured in the film as an example of water-friendly practices.
From the Tablas Creek website: We believe in the potential of regenerative agriculture to make a significant contribution to the world’s most pressing climate and resource challenges. That’s why we are proud to be the first regenerative vineyard in the United States to achieve Organic™ certification in 2020.
Tablas Creek, located at 9339 Adelaide Road in Paso Robles, is primarily a dry-grown vineyard and uses a method similar to that from southern France.
Haas says it’s possible to grow raisins if you start early. At Tablas Creek, new vines are irrigated for the first two years or so and then dried.
From the Tablas Creek website: We strongly believe in terroir wines – a French term that best translates to somewhere – and we choose our vineyards and winemaking methods to maximize the chances of our terroir being expressed in our wines. Our goal is to produce wines that reflect the character of the grape variety, the place it was grown and the grapes it was made from.
Tablas Creek is not only water conscious, but also practices biodynamic farming.
We started working biodynamically in the vineyard in 2010 and since 2012 we have a mixed herd of sheep, alpacas and donkeys in the vineyard. Our other biodynamic practices include an extensive composting program, planting fruit trees between the vines, abandoning native vegetation beds and planting insect-friendly flowering plants to attract and encourage a healthy mix of insects, building owl hives to naturally control rodent pests, and maintaining our own beehives. In 2017, we received Biodynamic® certification.
App decided she wanted to challenge herself during the shooting of the film.
I questioned my assumptions and was very happy about that. It’s a very scalable solution to the problems we face, App says.
At the beginning of the film, App was convinced that cows were the enemy of water.
I started with that assumption, and it’s a pretty common assumption, because the unfortunate assumption these days is that all cows are bad and eating beef is bad – I forced myself to question that assumption, because I thought nature had created animals and plants to support each other, App said.
When she discovered a holistic ranch in Northern California, App said she was amazed: The biggest surprise for me is that it turns out that cows can actually be the masters of restoring the water cycle – it’s not about whether cows are good or bad, it’s about our management.
App has been a photographer on the Central Coast for 20 years. He grew up in Morro Bay and now lives in Carrizo Plains.
She has been a photographer at the Mid-State Fair since App started her photography business and says she has always loved agriculture.
Request for a closed escrow for their off-grid cabin in Carrizo Plain in March 2020. Five days later, the first isolation of COVIDs was performed in California. Perfect timing!
Because of COVID, App has had to cancel and reschedule most of my photography work. But every cloud has a silver lining.
Forced to stay home, App was finally able to finish her film project and her passion.
The film was screened at the closing night of the SLO Film Fest on March 14, followed by a panel led by Pepper Daniels that also took place virtually at Zoom.
Through his film, App hopes people feel empowered and that there is a way to get involved, no matter how big or small the task seems. I hope people will find a way in their lives to be a voice for water.
App added that she wants people to develop a personal relationship with water and find a way to advocate for our water by changing a small part of their lives.
Excerpt from the director’s statement on the film’s website,
Through research, curiosity and love, I have tried to serve the water that gives us life with this film. To tell the story that unites us all… a story of water. Time is of the essence. The climate has changed. Water is sacred. We have to find a new way. We have to write a new story. And we should write it together. The point of choice has been reached.
For more information on the Where There Once Was Water app, visit wherethereoncewaswater.com/#home-section.
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