Detroit Hives

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Palmer Morse

Is there a particular video, film, campaign or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

It’s difficult to say if there’s a single filmmaker or film that had an impact on my career. I think what’s had the biggest impact is attending film festivals and viewing other creative work. I’ve found it’s incredibly important, if your film is selected, to attend festivals to get inspired and see what stories are being elevated. I think in this way festivals have allowed me to be more critical of my own work and also network with other filmmakers whose work I admire.


What motivated you to make your impact video?

It’s not very often that we hear about a small non profit creating tangible, visible, impact in their community. When we first heard about Tim and Nicole’s work through Detroit Hives, this was something we noticed almost immediately. Detroit Hive’s mission to bring bee cognizance to their city is a result of an acute awareness that honey bees and other pollinators are incredibly crucial for the survival of our greater ecosystems. Many people are surprised to learn that two young people of color are keeping bees in a city such as Detroit, but often Tim and Nicole will argue that an urban landscape is an ideal location for honey bees. The lots that Tim and Nicole occupy and the nearly 90,000 that are still left blighted and abandoned often are filled with wildflowers in the Spring and free of pesticides that are known to be harmful to bees. Tim and Nicole also bring this knowledge to local schools and visit classrooms across their city where many children have never even seen a honey comb before, and very often are afraid of bees. It is in these hands on classroom lessons that Tim and Nicole demonstrate how bee-keeping is done, talk about the greater environment and the importance of protecting it, and demonstrate their leadership as two incredibly entrepreneurial beekeepers.

It is for all of these incredible reasons that we wanted to create Detroit Hives. We wanted to highlight that great change can happen at a grassroots level if one’s mind is set to it. Tim and Nicole saw a problem in their community, they also saw a problem with honey bees, and took the steps to try and address those two issues jointly. We felt this story needed to be highlighted to inspire future generations to do the same.


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

Detroit Hives was shot on a Panasonic EVA-1, with Sigma Cine lenses.


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

Most of the film was shot handheld or on a tripod except for scenes with honey bees which were shot on a gimbal. We wanted the scenes with honey and opening hives to embody the beautiful process of bee keeping. In using a gimbal and slow motion we were able to exemplify the intricateness of this process.


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

Before producing the film, we were in pre-production for about three to four months working with Tim and Nicole to figure out how best to tell their story. A lot of this discussion was hypothetical full of “what if’s”. When we arrived to film, the neighborhoods around Detroit in which Detroit Hives operates were very different from what we imagined. The visible vacancy of these lots was at times intense. Huge houses abandoned, some filled with trash and overgrown, really juxtaposed the clean and revitalized lots that Tim and Nicole were creating. This discovery really informed the way that we shot and edited the film. We wanted to highlight this juxtaposition to underscore the impact that Detroit Hives is having.

Throughout post-production, we felt like the personal story of how Detroit Hives got started was slightly secondary to the impact they were having on their community. We made the hard decision to loosely describe their founding and growth and instead focus on the impact they are having now for their community. This was certainly a bit different than what we had originally imagined, but after the experience of being in Detroit we felt it was an important one.


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

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of making this film was meeting the many students that Tim and Nicole work with in the Detroit area. Tim and Nicole visit a handful of schools through their city during the week to educate young children about the importance of honey bees to the greater environment and our food systems. Many of these children have never seen a honey comb before, so when Tim and Nicole show up in their bee keeping suits it’s amazing to see so many kids excited and engaged.

In making our film, we wanted to ensure Tim and Nicole could use it as an educational tool when visiting these classrooms. We’re now happy to see that this video is shown throughout schools in Detroit so that Tim and Nicole can demonstrate their work in the field. It’s been incredibly rewarding to create a film and see it be used in this way.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Getting a start on something you are passionate about is often the trickiest step. Whether it’s making a film, writing a book, starting a business, etc. There are often many doubts we have about ourselves and our abilities. We have both found that to negate that doubt, finding friends to collaborate with and support your passion is key. We certainly would not have been able to make this film without each other and all of our work is often done with friends who we can be open with and share our ideas. Having someone there to bounce ideas off of, challenge your ideas, and help you grow is so crucial to creative success.


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

As pain staking as it can be, post-production is perhaps our favorite part of the filmmaking process. It’s incredible to see this story come together like a huge puzzle with many different moving parts. Almost 100 percent of the time the story you end up creating is very different from the story you thought you were going to tell, and that’s an exciting and addicting part of the editing process for us.


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

When we’re out in the field we’re always sure to bring quick and easy snack with us to ensure everyone on the crew is happy and doesn’t go hungry. It sounds silly but it’s difficult to think quickly and effectively when you’re starving for something to eat. Our quick and easy snack on set is typically peanut butter and jelly, you really can’t go wrong!


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

Tim Paule and Nicole Lindsey are the founders of Detroit Hives. Detroit Hives is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that transforms vacant lots in East Detroit into bee farms for the conservation of honeybees to help spread bee awareness, and to educate communities and local schools about bees and their contribution to our environment.


What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

Detroit Hives was founded just over two years ago after Tim became sick with a cold and discovered the healing power of local raw honey. Upon trying the honey from a local store in Ferndale, Michigan, Tim and Nicole became infatuated with where honey comes from and how it’s made. From that moment, Tim and Nicole took the plunge and signed up for a bee-keeping course. Living in Detroit, the two struggled to find a course within their city limits and traveled outside the city for the class. As some of the only bee keepers of color in the course, the two quickly realized that beekeeping needed to be brought to their home city of Detroit and there was no better place to do so than the nearly 90,000 vacant lots across the city landscape.

There are a myriad reasons as why there are so many empty lots in Detroit, but what’s more important is the incredible strides being made to create change. Tim and Nicole are tangibly making a difference in their community by buying lots often filled with trash, abandoned buildings, overgrown grass, etc. and beautifying them not only for the enjoyment of the people in their community but for the hundreds of thousands of bees that they have. Tim and Nicole are planting flowers and trees that are native to the area, ensuring that their hives are healthy and bustling, and continuously growing and expanding their impact all the while.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this impact video.

Filming honey bees was definitely a challenge. Operating a camera in a swarm of bees while wearing a beekeeping suit was not only tricky but somewhat comical. Palmer only got stung once! Of course, it was a result of neglecting to wear gloves so that he could operate the camera.


What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

We want audiences to consider the responsibility or motivation to tackle issues facing their own community. Often times we depend upon services, organizations, etc. to create the change we want and need. In spending time with Tim, Nicole, and Detroit Hives we have felt that sometimes the best way to address an issue facing a neighborhood, city, or space, needs to come from the people themselves.


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

Key points would include a discussion around the lack of diversity in beekeeping as an industry, issues facing Detroit and how vacant lot revitalization can help, the importance of honey bees to our food systems and environment.


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

Since creating this film, we’ve been grateful to have it screened around the country and world. As a result, many people have supported and donated to Detroit Hives. Since the film’s creation Detroit Hives has been able to purchase four more additional lots which they plan to begin revitalization efforts with in 2020.


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

Detroit Hives is a non profit 501(c)3 organization. Individuals donations to support them can be made on their site:


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

Detroit Hives, the film, was featured on National Geographic:

The original article that inspired us to create the film:



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