October 31, 2014

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist

 

TOPANGAN'S FILM SET TO SCREEN ON EARTH DAY


PHOTO COURTESY OF KELSEY STEVENS

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist

Filmmaker, eco-activist and Topangan Peter Jay Brown in front of the MV Steve Irwin, Sea Shepherd's flagship. Thirty years ago, he was hired to document Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd in his fight for dolphins at Iki Island, Japan.

Topanga Earth Day celebrants can be among the first to see Peter Jay Brown’s documentary film about the Sea Shepherd and Captain Paul Watson’s war on whaling.

Peter Jay Brown, an eco-activist, a filmmaker, and a Topangan, is in the final stages of completing his documentary, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, scheduled for release worldwide on April 22, Earth Day 2012.

Any film that takes 30 years to shoot has to be a labor of love. It was 30 years of adventure and 30 years of good deeds done, all in the name of stopping the bad guys from killing whales.

Thirty years ago, Brown was hired to document Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd and a founding member of Greenpeace (card #006), in his fight for dolphins at Iki Island, Japan.

For the boy born and raised in Cape Cod, it was an opportunity that he had been searching for all his life. It was his calling, his contribution, his planetary duty to save the whales.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DON KING

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist

Peter Jay Brown in Fiji, when cameras used film.

The sea was the one place he could find comfort. This was his crusade and he took it on with vigor. He found a friend and cohort in Watson, the man who convinced the Japanese to stop their slaughter, a pact that held for 20 years.

Following that first campaign, Brown jumped on board with any services he could provide and to this day encourages others to do the same. He was one of the earliest pioneers of the environmental movement while it was in its infancy and in need of constant care and attention.

He counts himself among the founders of the eco-movement, earning the honor of friend and colleague bestowed on him by Watson and others in the movement.

Making a feature documentary was never a serious ambition for Brown. He remembers joking about making a film in his retirement. Directing was, more or less, simply a job for him. He started directing TV and found enjoyment in his work but never felt it was anything more than that.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER JAY BROWN

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist

Underwater surfer during driftnet campaign in Fiji.

His true life calling was always saving the oceanic ecosystem.

It isn’t just the whales that he wishes to save, he says. “It’s the entirety of the ocean. It’s easier to save the whales and save everything else as a consequence, but it remains a battle in the much larger war to save the planet.”

Brown came on board in the 1980s with two skills: his sailor’s hat and the director’s eye. He started documentation of Sea Shepherd right away. The goal was simple then: popularize the movement. Years of giving away footage and storing even more left him with about 3,000 hours of footage to edit.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER JAY BROWN

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist

Sea Shepherd Crew Members launching stink bombs on a Japanese “Research” vessel, aka a pirate whaling ship. It was 30 years of adventure and 30 years of good deeds done, all in the name of stopping the bad guys from killing whales.



A stint filming “Whale Wars,” an Animal Planet reality TV show that followed the Sea Shepherd, ended with a broken thumb and with Brown portrayed as the bad guy in the series.

“I have a bone to pick with that portrayal,” he says.

He was also one of the crewmembers of “Whale Wars,” Seasons 1 and 2, where it was quite a different experience when an untrained reality TV crew stepped on board. While he appreciated the resulting publicity and support, Brown had a hard time dealing with the crew that made his job harder.

Brown started his career directing some of the earliest reality TV shows and regards it as a base

PHOTO COURTESY OF KELSEY STEVENS

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist

Saving the whales remains one battle in the much larger war to save the planet, says Brown.

form of expression. He got out when he realized that it was less reality and more “spill your guts” TV. “Everything you see on ‘Whale Wars’ happened,” he says, “just not necessarily in that order.”

The intriguing part of Brown’s story is that he isn’t in the least fascinated by reality TV or documentaries yet he has made a documentary. That may be why the film is unlike countless other documentaries. It’s a masterpiece woven with humor. He simply says, “I wanted it to be entertaining.”

One thing that makes it so entertaining is that Brown has laughed in the face of danger and disaster. Adding that aspect to the film just made sense. It made it bearable for him to watch if he could laugh at himself.

It was a little harder for Watson to feel the same way, but after seeing it a few times, he accepted the humor behind it all. After all, being on a boat with the scent of vomit and body odor for months at a time has to leave one with something to laugh about. It can be quite liberating.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER JAY BROWN

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist

Ramming in progress of a pirate whaling ship.

For Brown, it was even more fun because the film essentially is about manipulating media. He clearly says that he is not trying to convince people to save marine animals through his charming personality. Rather, he is fighting the battle to convince them that, anything short of hurting anyone, is fair game. Media manipulation is but a tool that Sea Shepherd is willing to use to save the environment. Other tools are also hilariously introduced in the film itself.

The film that took 30 years to capture took countless hours to edit. Peter, whose broken thumb slowed him down enough to consider the daunting editing task, enlisted the help of his long-time friend, Timothy Wade Huntley, who had been his editor on his very first directing project. The pair has known each other for close to 35 years.

Now that the film is close to completion and almost released, Brown has begun doing other things. For one, his thumb has healed and he has been back on the ship for a few weeks at a time.

He recently returned from Sea Shepherd’s most recent campaign (Operation: Divine Wind) to stop illegal Japanese whaling in an Antarctic whale sanctuary. Whale Wars, Season 5, premiering this summer on Animal Planet, will cover the voyage in detail.

He has also found his next project, Anatomy of a Campaign, that documents the behind-the-scenes funding of the film.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER JAY BROWN

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist

A Sea Shepherd volunteer holding a baby harp seal on the Labrador Ice sheet near New Foundland, Canada. The selling of seal pelts has been banned worldwide by almost every country by now, thanks to Sea Shepherd.

On the war front, most of the work for Brown is done. He feels that in 30 years Sea Shepherd and its volunteers have already won the war against whaling. All that is left now is to keep it that way.

“To keep the effort alive is a somewhat simpler task now that the biggest battles are won,” he says. “Yet it’s not to be taken lightly, lest the bad ol’ days of whaling return.”

Funding of the organization that spent up to a $1,000,000 in fuel on one vessel and $750,000 on another has always been a struggle. The fact that all the manpower is volunteer, however, goes a long way in making Sea Shepherd one of the highest rated charities around.

Brown simply says, ”I don’t expect everyone to be Paul Watson or myself, but everyone can do something.

“We’re the guys who started the modern environmental movement and have pretty much won the revolution; now we need the right people to govern it before we reach a tipping point. Everyone has a unique talent that can make a difference in this world.”

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist will be available beginning on Earth Day through Video on Demand, Comcast, FiOs and iNDemand affiliates including Time Warner Cable, Cox and Bright House Networks, as well as digital platforms, including iTunes, VUDU, Amazon and Xbox Live.