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GrowthBusters Premiere Report

I’ve heard from a few of you anxious for a report on the GrowthBusters World Premiere. Apologies for keeping you in suspense. The last four weeks were a whirlwind of activity for me.

First was the presentation and sneak preview of clips at the Center for Environmental Filmmaking on October 25. The next week was our World Premiere in Washington DC on November 2. A week later we held the Colorado Premiere, and then last week was the Bay Area Premiere. This four-week intensive came right on the heels of a Summer/Fall post production binge to finish the film before world population hit 7 billion (31st of October). So finally I am home for a stretch and relearning how to sleep, breathe, relax, exercise and generally have a life. It feels very, very good!

Here’s the report:

World Premiere 2 November (Washington DC): The West End Cinema was packed. People were standing in the rear and sitting in the aisles to see the film. Still about 25 were turned away. This was a nervous evening for me, being the first time screening the film in front of a large audience. For all I knew we might go down in flames. I was so relieved at the applause when the closing credits began. We got a very positive response and no critical comments during the Q & A session following the film.

We were honored by the presence of Dennis Meadows (who led the MIT/Club of Rome Limits to Growth study in the early 1970s), Tom Horton (an environmental journalist interviewed in the film), Brian Czech (executive director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy) and Tim Williams (from the Population Institute board of directors).

I was also thrilled to be joined by a couple of my favorite crew members, Lynsey Jones (currently our screenings coordinator) and Neha Jain (that’s her in the movie poster between me and Kate Jackson). Thanks to the Population Institute, the Center for Environmental Filmmaking and the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy for hosting the event.


Colorado Premiere 9 November (Colorado Springs): This was a really big shindig, since Colorado Springs is my hometown and is featured prominently in the film. We made this a charity benefit for our local Sierra Club group, and we were fortunate to have some excellent sponsors: The Colorado Springs Independent, the Consumer Advocate radio show, and Ranch Foods Direct.

We were also blessed with the presence of an all-star panel of experts for the Q&A following the film: Michael Brownlee, co-founder of Transition Colorado; Daphne Greenwood, economics professor, director of the Colorado Center for Policy Studies, and co-author of Local Economic Development in the 21st Century; John Hazlehurst, a local columnist and former Colorado Springs City Councilor; and Jane Ard-Smith, chair of the local Sierra Club group and a very astute local political activist. Many stayed for the discussion, which was quite lively, civil and optimistic.

GrowthBusters director Dave Gardner and honoree Al Bartlett

The highlight of the evening was when I introduced Al Bartlett, to whom the film is dedicated. Al is a retired physics professor from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and I was honored he traveled to Colorado Springs for this event. Al is featured in the film giving his famous bacteria doubling in a jar illustration of exponential growth. Audiences just love him and that illustration. As always, professor Bartlett had some wise words for the crowd. It was great to have him present.


Bay Area Premier 15 November (Berkeley, California): Our scrappy little non-profit operation doesn’t have the funds or personnel to organize screenings around the world, but we decided to put this together at Paul Ehrlich’s request, since he couldn’t attend the world premiere. The David Brower Center was a beautiful venue for this special event. Our choice of evening did not end up being fortuitous, as a few blocks away former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s Mario Savio Memorial Lecture was moved outdoors and attracted UC Berkeley students, Occupy Berkeley, Occupy Oakland, etc. That event attracted 3,500 people, most of whom I’m sure would have loved to see GrowthBusters. I’ll try to reach out to the bay area occupy movements and offer them the film for screening.

Ehrlichs at Bay Area PremiereStill, our Bay Area Premiere went very well. Paul Ehrlich has a wonderful way with words, entertaining the first screening’s Q&A session and the crowded reception with his wit, charm and uncanny ability to cut to the chase about our global emergency. It was also great to meet and listen to his wife, Ann. Ann has co-written several books with Paul (including The Population Bomb). I enjoyed spending some time with the event’s co-hosts, Searle Whitney, Dan Virkstis and Suzanne York of, and Joan Diamond of Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. See Suzanne’s review of the film here.

We had one protestor outside, making some false claims about GrowthBusters promoting “fear and bigotry.” She had not actually taken time to SEE the film, so I invited her in to watch, and based on our conversation after the screening, I’m pretty confident she put her flyers in the nearest recycling container and now knows GrowthBusters is a film based on love for future generations around the world. My goal with GrowthBusters is to give all the children of the world a fair chance to live a good life. A special shout out to Lynsey Jones for spearheading on short notice the drive to organize this event.

Your Screening Here: That’s right, we’re counting on you, depending on you, we need you, to organize a screening in your home, your local community center, church, library, or park. That is the GrowthBusters distribution model. It’s the only way a film that questions the fundamental underpinnings of our system can be seen. PBS won’t touch it. Sundance wouldn’t fund it. Tribeca passed. ABC wouldn’t include our population PSA among videos submitted for its Earth 2100 special a few years ago. GrowthBusters represents such radical, new thinking that self-distribution is our only option until more of the world wakes up to our global emergency and the fact that eternal growth is not the Holy Grail. Visit our Screenings & Events Page to find a screening near you, but better yet, organize a screening. Our amazing and wonderful screenings coordinator, Lynsey Jones, will provide some guidance, and we have a wealth of resources here to help you.

Recent Screenings: Minneapolis just had one and has two more this weekend. Occupy London screened the film last Friday. Here’s a very thoughtful commentary that resulted: Growth is Not the Solution.

Upcoming Screenings of Note:

November 25 – Winnipeg
November 25 – Minneapolis
1 December – Burlington, VT
3 December – Seattle, Washington
8 December – Portland, Oregon

Dave Gardner

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