Entrepreneurial struggle caught in ‘green’ film
Ryan Summerlin May 18, 2010
A Park City company is the star of a short documentary film making the rounds on the festival circuit this spring hoping to land itself at Sundance.
Edwin Stafford and Cathy Hartman are marketing professors at the Utah State University Jon M. Huntsman School of Business where they direct the Center for the Market Diffusion of Renewable Energy and Clean Technology.
As specialists in marketing green technology to consumers, they became interested in Wasatch Wind Intermountain’s efforts to build a wind farm in Spanish Fork.
The company was based in Heber at the time but has since relocated to the Park City area.
With support from grants, the center promotes wind power through a variety of means including writing opinion editorials for newspapers, testifying to the Utah Legislature and even presenting to classrooms made up of graduate students down to fourth graders, Hartman explained.
The potential marketing capability of a film about the Spanish Fork project the first wind farm in Utah and possibly the closest one to urban areas in the nation warranted special consideration, they said. So the two wrote a treatment for a film and contracted Michelle Nunez of Colorado-based GreenTech Films to produce it.
It was a three-year endeavor, but the film, titled "Wind Uprising," recently won an award at the Mountain Film Festival in Mammoth, Calif. and is being accepted at numerous other festivals across the West.
Stafford and Hartman wrote the script for the movie the same way they might have created an academic article on the subject for a peer-reviewed journal. They interviewed everyone involved or affected by the project. Over 100 hours of footage was condensed into about 31 minutes, they explained.
"The purpose was to educate people on what the challenges are for transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy onto a cleaner, more sustainable path," Stafford said.
But the power of film is persuasion, Hartman pointed out.
"We wanted to put a human side on this story," she explained. "In the film you can see the developer and see his commitment and his emotion. You hear people for and against it."
It’s easier to relate to people when you see them and not just their words on a page, she said.
Stafford said he loves that it’s a true entrepreneurship story.
"The developers live here in Utah and wanted to make a difference in the state. It shows a four-year struggle," he said.
Wasatch Wind Intermountain lost an investor at one time, Stafford said, and had to surmount many other challenges.
"I’m not aware of any other film about a wind project through the eyes of the entrepreneur," he said. "It’s a human story people will relate to. They can understand the agonies and challenges of trying to achieve something."
Hartman said the relevance of their film has only increased since watching the British Petroleum leak in the Gulf of Mexico. When she watched oil executives defend themselves before congress, and then recalled the words of Wasatch Wind Intermountain CEO Tracy Livingston, there was a stark contrast, she said. Rather than preach her own views, Hartman said she hopes people see the film and then consider carefully the kind of people they’d like to see driving energy policies.
Stafford said promoting wind power is an easy sell when comparing it to fossil fuels. Calculating the cost of creating and operating a wind farm and the minimum amount of power it will create is easy to do and never changes, he said. The cost of fossil fuel exploration and extraction is in constant flux and pushes the public up and down a pricing rollercoaster.
Once the turbines are created, the land underneath is still useable. The same can’t be said for an oil field or strip mine, he added.
Lastly, wind farms actually increase property-tax revenues, thereby helping local schools. The Spanish Fork farm is in a gravel pit. Adding the turbines produced 1,600 percent more property tax from the same lot than the pit alone, he said.
Even if one isn’t a supporter of wind power, the film is worth watching because it’s about history in the making, Hartman said.
When the film played in Park City in early May the screening was attended by a supportive audience, said Wasatch Wind Intermountain’s spokesperson Michelle Stevens.
Mayor Dana Williams, who is interviewed in the film, is an advocate for wind power in Summit County. Stevens said her company has been working with the county to discuss building a farm here.
"Wind Uprising" is expected to play again in Park City in late summer. More information can be found at winduprisingmovie.com.
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