Abundance: The Farmlink Story

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Owen Dubeck

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

The Act of Killing in many ways has guided the stories I’ve wanted to tell. My favorite documentaries are the ones that have unique access, where if it weren’t for that filmmaker at the right place at the right time, the story never would have been told.  

What motivated you to make your impact video?

I knew that if we did the story justice, we could make a large impact with this film from a fundraising, policy, and youth activism standpoint. Whether it was taking action on food insecurity or another social issue, we wanted audiences leaving with an urgency that they should do something to help their communities.  

Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it: 

This was a fairly bootstrapped project so we shot on whichever camera we had most accessible. Most of the film is shot on a RED Komodo and Sony A7iii, but there’s also footage from an FX6, Blackmagic, iPhone, and more. 

Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story. 

We set out to shoot the agricultural shots quite wide to show the vast expansiveness of food waste. Conversely, we shot the personal vignettes tight to give a more personal feel. 

My favorite technique was that we used a probe lens to film ultra closeup macro shots of food to drive a greater appreciation for it. 

How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be? 

We didn’t set out to create an organization or a documentary in the beginning. I was just supporting my friends driving one truck of food to their local food bank. I showed up with my camera thinking maybe we could use the photos and footage to get on the local news.  

Fast forward three years and we’ve screened this documentary all over the world and Farmlink is a national organization feeding millions of people every year.  

Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this impact video: 

When I took my lens cap off for the first time during the Shay Meyers onion vault interview, I freaked out. The framing and lighting were perfect from the start and there was so much depth in the shot to show how many onions there were.  

To this day it’s my favorite shot in the film. 

What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

From the onset of a project, talk to relevant nonprofit partners about what type of story would be most helpful to further their efforts. We got fairly lucky with this story that it built in well to so many existing impact events and supporting ongoing policy efforts, but that’s not always the case. 

What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

It’s so tough to say. I feel like I love and hate every part of the process. Production can be so fun when it goes right and so frustrating when it doesn’t. Screening your film for an audience for the first time is so heartwarming, but the days building up to it can be so stressful. Editing is so beautiful when a scene clicks, but so time-intensive. I’m not sure there’s one part that stands out. It can all be so good…and not. 

What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

My kit is usually very bare-bones and unexciting, so I’m going to say that I always bring a pack of Oreos because they’re delicious.  

Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.

A fun fact is that I lived in an RV with six other friends for 40 days while shooting part of this. We traveled the country visiting many of the farms and food banks we were delivering food from/to. That isn’t explicitly in the film, but we had so many amazing times on that trip that I’ll remember forever. We learned so much about the economics of farming in Ashton, Idaho. We celebrated birthdays in the back of a Penske truck after a long volunteer day in New York and did so much more.  

Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?

The biggest challenge of this film was creating a character driven story that felt focused when 600 people were so deeply involved. There wasn’t one main person driving all of this in the beginning, it was a true movement. So it was a storytelling challenge to do that justice and many people who put their hearts and souls into this project didn’t make it into the film. 

For distribution, we had a ton of success with live events (film festivals, conferences, living room screenings, government screenings, etc…) but struggled to find a home that made sense publicly. This is an ongoing challenge for many short documentary filmmakers right now. Eventually we landed on YouTube with a paid ads strategy that worked well for us. 

What do you want audiences to take away from your film?


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion: 

How can we limit food waste in our communities? 

Which social issues in our community are young people best positioned to tackle? 

How can we help alleviate food insecurity in our community? 

Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

Farmlink continues to rapidly grow and is positioned to continue to double its impact year after year. Many of the people you’ve seen in the film now work as full time employees for Farmlink and others have gone on to start new ventures aimed at helping solve the climate crisis. 

What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

If you visit farmlinkproject.org we have fellowships for high school and college students. We have ways for corporations to get involved and you can always host a screening in your community.  

Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:



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