Park City High School graduate is one of the producers of the documentary ‘8 Billion Angels’
Film premiered on Earth Day
Filmmaker Victor Ville’s documentary “8 Billion Angels” asks if the world has enough resources to sustain its entire population.
The film, which premiered on Earth Day online at earthday.org and is currently enjoying a limited theatrical run, examines the global crisis and inspires some solutions for lasting sustainability and a better quality of life for the planet’s inhabitants.
One of the producers is Doug Emerson, who graduated Park City High School in 2014.
He got involved with the project just after he stopped studying film at Emerson College in Boston.
One of his friends, Katya Alexander, has a connection with producer Terry Spahr, who was looking to get “8 Billion Angels” off the ground.
“Terry contacted her, and she brought the project to me and asked if I wanted to hop on board to co-produce it,” Emerson said. “That started a four-year journey that ended up with the film being picked up by a distributor a couple of months ago.”
Emerson was drawn to the project because it addressed sustainability and humanity’s effect on global warming.
“Climate change is a massive thing that I’ve known about for most of my life, and this film gave me the opportunity to dive into the science behind climate change,” he said. “It was the chance for me to really understand what’s happening and educate people, without just putting out buzzwords.”
Emerson also liked the idea of traveling around the world with his friends to further his career and make what he calls a “cool movie.”
His perspective changed once he saw the impact the film had on viewers.
“The education of what the film shows is now in the forefront, because I’m seeing all of these people reaching out to us and moving forward with the idea,” he said.
Giving people ideas of how they can help with global sustainability was one of the main reasons to make “8 Billion Angels,” according to Emerson.
“We didn’t want to just terrify everyone by telling them that the world was ending, and leave them (hanging),” he said with a laugh. “Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris said filmmakers have to understand that we have a lot of things we want to say, but the audience has different intentions to come see the film. So if you just spell despair, doom and gloom and end it, people will walk out being super sad and depressed. So we were committed to ending on a tangible note with doable solutions.”
Working with director Victor Ville was one of the project’s highlights for Emerson.
“Victor is one of my best friends,” he said. “He really thinks outside the box, and he has a knack for cutting through the noise and getting to the emotion.”
Ville’s goal was to tell a grand, sweeping tale in an intimate way through the eyes of those who have been affected by climate change, those who are in harm’s way and those who are working on solutions on a global scale, Emerson said.
“We were able to make connections around the world and get into these people’s lives,” he said. “It was the first time I was able to step into a big project with talented people I trusted and show what we’re made of, and throughout the project, I made friends in India, Japan and still talk with them every day.”
In March, “8 Billion Angels” landed a deal with Abramorama, a global theatrical distribution and rights management partner for documentary and music films, and the film will hit streaming services in the summer.
“‘8 Billion Angels’ approaches a real problem from an entirely new angle,” Abramorama CEO Richard Abramowitz said in a statement. “Our hope is that this film will break through the clutter to generate meaningful action and change.”
Emerson’s love for filmmaking started and was nurtured in Park City.
“As a kid I’d make fun films with my friends with handi-cams, and then I bought a Flip video cam,” he said.
Emerson enrolled in the Park City High School film program and made films that screened at the school’s film showcase.
“The Miner Film Festival was huge, because I got to get the feel of a film festival on a small scale,” he said. “The whole ecosystem of making films, showing them and getting recognized inspired me to take things to the next level.”
But Emerson’s first career choice was engineering.
“When I was applying to college during my junior year of high school, I had my applications filled out for Cal Poly,” he said.
Things changed as he scrolled through some Facebook posts, and saw a “cheesy” music video that featured a voiceover by Alan Watts, one of Emerson’s favorite philosophers.
“He said if you do what you want to do, you’re going to love it, put more time into it and you will get better at it and get to a point where you can charge for it,” Emerson said. “They also said if you don’t do what you want, you will spend your whole life getting really good at staying in the exact same situation you don’t want to be in.”
The words clicked with Emerson, who told his parents that he was going to study film instead of engineering.
“After I explained things, they supported me,” he said.
While he was studying film at college, Emerson started his own production company, c49, which is named after a chess move.
“I play chess daily, and when I was thinking of a name for the company, one of my mentors told me he had never heard of a company named after something that had to do with chess,” Emerson said. “So that was it.”
The goal for c49 was simple.
“I was into the idea of going out on my own and building a career,” Emerson said. “So I bought a Red Digital Camera, got some friends around me and went to clients to pitch projects.”
Many of the projects were promotional videos for technological startups in the Boston area.
“I did commercials for these companies, and I ended up missing 45 classes in my junior year to do these projects,” he said. “One day school (administrators) asked why I was still registered if I was already missing so many classes to work. So, I dropped out to continue my business, and that’s when Katya contacted me.”
Emerson recently launched a new company called Cabana.
“It’s a social-content network,” he said. “We’re creating original content and releasing it for free across all social media as a new form of advertising. And we’re also creating virtual movie theaters and hosting virtual events. It’s exciting.”
For information about “8 Billion Angels,” visit 8billionangels.org.
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