Interview with Planet GreenFest’s Antonio Saillant
I recently sat down with Antonio Saillant of Angel Light Pictures, producer of low-cost/high quality Indie Features, about his new project, Planet GreenFest. The interview was both instructive and inspiring. Planet GreenFest is a film festival currently based in New York which is slated to begin in late 2014. GreenFest will showcase short films created in a manner which is 100% eco-friendly. Saillant said that the festival had been prompted by his recognition of our imperiled planet. It took millions of years to form this planet. Now, in a terribly short frame of time, due to man’s criminal neglect and destructive behavior, the earth is dying.
Saillant says that he believes that Planet GreenFest’s films could help to turn this destructive energy around by spreading the word globally on how to “be green.” He points out that we live in a knowledge-based economy and education is our greatest natural resource. Planet GreenFest’s educational goal could bring the world together to reflect on and reaffirm our environmental responsibility. The next generation of filmmakers and media may adopt the same goal, so that all communities will become far healthier than they are now. Planet GreenFest has become a non-profit organization to further these goals.
The films shown at Planet GreenFest will be green themselves – 100% ecologically friendly. Planet GreenFest will thereby be a teaching tool. The films will be ecologically conscious without compromising quality. Saillant believes that the festival will not only be environmentally and socially beneficial, it could also make a tremendous impact on the economy. Saillant told me, “By conserving energy in the television and movie industries, we are pushing green ideas forward and producing environmentally sound results…the green initiative will allow us to set a precedent to produce high-quality productions with exacting standards, while minimizing our impact on the environment. This is our way of giving back to our planet.”
These are a very ambitious set of goals but Saillant finds inspiration in the philosophy of entrepreneur Donald Trump, who has said that he has brought show business, entertainment, to real estate.
“I’m a bit of a P. T. Barnum. I make stars out of everyone,” Trump says. “Deals are my art form.” Similarly, Saillant wants his film business – the Planet GreenFest Short Green Film Festival – to bring storytelling to the environmental movement and to make stars out of those people who he mentors.
The festival does involve some risk Saillant admits, but Steve Jobs, another of Saillant’s heroes, once said, “I’ve rarely interviewed a successful entrepreneur or CEO who hasn’t risked failure.” Apple is once again taking a risk – Apple’s next generation of phones and computers will be working with new fuel cell technologies. What Apple does everyone will do. Similarly, this green film festival is a risk but Saillant believes it is likely to go global with other film festivals following suit. Saillant believes in the concept, “No risk, no reward.”
Antonio Saillant is a graduate of New York Institute of Technology with a degree in Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering. In the 1990’s he saved energy and dollars for the New York City and New Jersey hospital systems, Columbia and New York University and for pharmaceutical companies – Hoffmann, BMS, and other major businesses including Radio City Music Hall, the old Yankee Stadium, the Hebrew Home for the Aged and the Jewish Home Lifecare System.
He was a top management executive in the energy field for over 15 years. But Saillant’s passion for the entertainment industry led him away from engineering and carried him into motion pictures. Most recently, Saillant has begun his producing career, forming Angel Light Pictures Entertainment Group (ALPEG), and producing low-cost/high quality Indie Features. Angel Light Pictures Entertainment Group also expresses Saillant’s vision and passion for creating energy efficient movies and television. Saillant says, “The motion picture industry is such a large user of electricity for its sound stage shooting and diesel fuel for its location filming [that it is a clear target for energy conservation.]”
Through ALPEG, Saillant is actively working with small independent movie companies, helping them go green and following Governor Cuomo’s solar goal for New York. Governor Cuomo’s New York Sun Initiative, according to EarthKind Solar Energy head Ron Kamen, “is putting us on the right trajectory…The extended solar jobs program will provide longer program certainty to solar developers than current programs, funded through 2015, and is expected to attract significant private investment in solar photovoltaic systems, enable the sustainable development of a robust solar power industry in New York, create well-paying skilled jobs, improve the reliability of the electric grid, and reduce air pollution.”
Inspired by the solar goals articulated by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s State of the State Address in January of 2013, Saillant had this to say of ALPEG, “With ALPEG’s support Planet GreenFest will make progress toward renewable energy. Our goal is to enable the future generations of filmmakers to ‘learn by doing’ and to power all future film and television productions entirely with energy from renewable sources – solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. So we’re taking the risk and investing time and energy in Planet GreenFest, establishing relationships with sponsors so we may achieve 100% renewable energy in all future film production – including television and theater productions.” Saillant believes that reducing our energy needs will increase future job growth.”
ALPEG gives inspired filmmakers the chance to make their dreams into realities. Angel Light Green Productions, a subsidiary of ALPEG, is committed to demonstrating that the movie and television industries can be environmentally responsible, providing filmmakers with the tactics and strategies for greener productions.
In recognition of Saillant’s and Angel Light’s accomplishments, Saillant made an appearance at Syracuse University in April 2012 as part of SU’s Showcase for Sustainability 2012. Saillant was honored to be introduced to the students by Sherburne Abbott, Syracuse University’s Vice President for Sustainability Initiatives and Professor of Sustainability Science & Policy. The central message of his speech, said Saillant, was that “The green initiative allows us to set a precedent to continue to produce high-quality productions with exacting standards, while minimizing our impact on the environment.”
Rachel May, SU’s coordinator of sustainability education, applauded the speech and commented, “With his successful film career and his deep familiarity with the energy field, Mr. Saillant is an extraordinary resource for students from a wide variety of disciplines.” This is the kind of support and publicity one can’t pay for.
Saillant wants to spread his green message to the world, to create a new sustainable world – through the festival, which will feature short films, 15 finalists, outdoor screenings, lectures and live bands. Saillant’s welcome message to participating filmmakers:
As the world’s only green, short film festival, we welcome all filmmakers to participate and become leaders in one of the most important issues of our time “Going Green.” We will teach the concept of “Learning from Doing” in film. We are preparing the next generation of green filmmakers to be environmentally responsible, so that all communities will be safe, healthy and the earth’s bounty will be preserved for future generations. We will make ecologically responsible decisions by creating and developing films that are 100% green. Planet GreenFest will become a teaching tool.
The Hollywood film festival will serve as a model for Planet GreenFest. Director/Producer Ted Kotcheff, an old friend of Saillant’s, will assist in finding sponsorship for the festival. Kotcheff is the subject of a documentary that Saillant will produce, The Apprenticeship of Ted Kotcheff, narrated by Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss. With Kotcheff, Saillant hopes that Hollywood Film Festival founder, Carlos de Abreu, will assist Saillant in finding sponsorship.
Canadian film and television director giant Kotcheff directed U.S. films throughout the 1970′s and 1980′s. In the 1990′s, Kotcheff returned to directing television series such as NBC’s notable “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Kotcheff’s film biography includes The Apprenticeship of Ted Kotcheff. The Apprenticeship will frame Ted’s dramas from The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, one of the greatest Canadian films of all time, to First Blood which initiated and defined the Rambo series. Other notable Kotcheff films include the Cannes Film Festival Australian classic, Wake in Fright. Declared a “Cannes Classic” in 2009, it was screened again this year in New York and LA as part of that year’s retrospective program. It’s one of only two movies to hold this “Cannes Classic” distinction.
Renowned for its quality and longevity (it was founded in 1999), the Hollywood Film Festival’s mission is to provide its emerging filmmakers with an avenue of new discovery while they also join in the global creative community. GreenFest will follow suit – it will give filmmakers the chance to screen their films and to speak and teach about Going Green, locally, then globally. The films shown at the Planet GreenFest film festival will be shorts, 10 minutes long. Saillant sees himself as a mentor and an educator for these filmmakers. Saillant is very optimistic about the impact of these films – he expects that the festival will eventually go global.
Kotcheff is not Saillant’s only inspiration. He has taken instruction from business models and philosophies of our century’s top entrepreneurs. A singular model for Planet GreenFest, in addition to the Hollywood Film Festival, is Australia’s highly successful, TropFest, and its creator John Polson. TropFest is the world’s largest short film festival, now reaching over 150,000 people live on a single night in February of each year. Polson is the creative director of what is now called Tropfest, after its premiere venue, the Tropicana Café. He is also an award-winning actor and director, and co-Executive Producer of “Elementary” on CBS.
Saillant’s current passion is filming an eco-friendly film in New Jersey based on a true story about the 1979 Old Tappan that began to turn itself around and win and sow the first seeds of community pride in the school. Saillant’s older brother Angel was on that 1979 team. The movie, The Golden Knights, centers on how The Golden Knights team overcame adversity and led Old Tappan down the road to a state championship. Although the team lost 25 straight games, in 1979 “[t]hey started being successful and then they won states [the State Championship] in 1985, and their journey continues.” The film will honor Saillant’s brother, a key team member.
Finally, Virgin Group’s entrepreneur, Richard Branson, summarizes his philosophy of entrepreneurship for his predecessors: “Dream big!” As entrepreneurs struggle to rekindle the spirit that fueled their passion in the first place, Branson has this advice: “Obstacles and challenges are healthy for everyone, not just entrepreneurs. They force you to think outside the box…to be creative.” Planet GreenFest is doing just that.