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Going Green in New York

After months of monitoring the disasters in Japan, it is a refreshing change to cover a story about a positive energy vision. Filmmaker, Antonio Saillant, and his friends and mentors, Ron Kamen and Ted Kotcheff, are committed to making the movie business sustainable and are working towards a greener world through clean, green and sustainable energy in the energy hungry movie industry.

Antonio Saillant’s company, Angel Light Pictures, expresses his vision and passion for creating energy efficiency in 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.]” He adds: “As one of the most outspoken ‘green’ professionals in New York City and Hollywood, I am proactive in the area of energy conservation and in helping television and movie industry colleagues push their [green] initiatives forward…In the past decade, I’ve combined my knowledge of the energy business with the entertainment industry in hope of contributing to a green planet.”

Actor, producer, director, filmmaker and energy/green activist Antonio Saillant, who lives in New York City, could well be called a Renaissance man – a man with many passions and talents. In his original capacity as an aerospace/mechanical engineer in the 90’s he saved energy and dollars for the New York City hospital systems and universities (Columbia and NYU) and for pharmaceuticals 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.

After his brother Angel died when Saillant was 25, Saillant changed his professional focus – to the film making business. He has recently formed his own movie company, Angel Light Pictures, named for his brother.

Through Angel Light Pictures, Saillant is producing films and actively working with small independent movie companies, helping them go green and realizing Governor Cuomo’s solar goal. Saillant, who is from Washington Heights on New York’s Upper West Side, (once notorious for its high crime rate, now for its vibrant arts community) is planning to bring a movie studio to that neighborhood.

Finally, Saillant, who brings the same intense commitment to every project he undertakes, will soon be bringing his “green energy” to the management of a fitness club in New York and New Jersey.

Going solar

Saillant shares New York Governor Cuomo’s passion for “going green,” specifically embracing solar energy. In his January 2012 State of the State Address, Cuomo has called for quadrupling solar capacity by 2013, a pledge praised by solar advocates like a friend and mentor of Saillant’s, New York Solar Energy Industries Association’s (NYSEIA) president, Ron Kamen. Saillant has known Kamen since they both worked as project engineers for the World Bank in DC in the 1990’s and terms him one of his mentors.

Kamen points out that, under Cuomo’s direction, the state has developed a 3-year plan. “What is significant and measurable…[is that] the state will install about 350 megawatts of solar over the next three years.” It is to be hoped that the initiative will not stop there but will grow and build.

Ron Kamen and NYSEIA

Kamen’s career has been in environmental policy and applied energy technologies. Throughout the 90’s, Kamen developed and managed energy efficient and advanced new energy technology projects for Fortune 500 companies, governmental and non governmental clients, including the World Bank. In 1999, Kamen’s consulting business, Starphire New Energy Technologies, enabled the creation of green power marketing programs throughout New York State. Ron is currently a founding partner of EarthKind Energy, a company that provides solar heat and hot water systems and is also president of New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA).

As Saillant has also pointed out, Ron Kamen and NYSEIA have a comprehensive plan for how New York State’s government can enhance its support for solar energy, including instituting a government purchasing program, educating the public to the benefits of solar energy, and increasing public-private partnerships that can exponentially increase the use of solar energy. The goal of “5,000 megawatts by 2020” a global goal shared alike by South Korea and the state of North Dakota, will however require government funding and the investment of the utilities companies and non profits alike. Saillant and Kamen say it is high time. New York’s neighboring state, New Jersey, is far more ambitious in realizing green goals both in legislation and in practice.

We asked Antonio to tell us about his emergence into the movie business—and then into the green movie business. Well, Antonio said, at one time he dreamed of playing professional baseball and in fact he actually became a semi-pro player. But the untimely death of his brother spurred his reinvention of himself as an aerospace/mechanical engineer. His most recent career change has been to enter the movie business. Along the way, there were many on stage and in the movie industry that changed his life — mentors, producers, and friends. There were theatre and film people whom he met almost by accident. “I met conductor and musical director Michael Rafter at a bar.” and, his wife, award winning composer Jeanine Tesori. “These people truly understand theatre. They know the stage and what everybody’s job is, and they can do everybody’s job.”

He made contact with film director, producer and former child actor Ron Howard, director, producer screenwriter and actor George Clooney – a man of “old (second generation) Hollywood,” and actor and producer Sylvester Stallone, who, says Saillant, truly knows his audience. Saillant with perhaps undue modesty attributes much of his success to these friends and mentors, and particularly to his two mentors Ron Kamen (energy) and Ted Kotcheff (film). When I asked Kamen about the mentorship, he replied, simply, “Antonio is such a gentleman.”

Ted Kotcheff – Canadian film and television director giant, another guy from “old Hollywood” became a close friend and mentor of Saillant’s. Kotcheff directed U.S. films throughout the 1970′s and 1980′s such as First Blood in 1982, starring Sylvester Stallone. In the 1990′s, Kotcheff returned to directing television series such as NBC’s notable “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” where he is finishing thirteen seasons as Director and Executive Producer.

Saillant and Kotcheff became close friends on the set of “SVU,” and Saillant will soon release a documentary he produced about Kotcheff’s life: Dream Destinations: A Documentary of the Legendary Canadian Hollywood Director Ted Kotcheff, narrated by Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss. Set for release in summer 2012, Dream Destinations will highlight film director and producer Ted Kotcheff’s 50 year journey from Canada to London to Hollywood to New York, and the making of “Law and Order: SVU.”

Kotcheff is one of the industry’s top directors and producers. Before “Law and Order: SVU,” his classic dramas included The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which launched the career of Richard Dreyfuss, to the cult hit Weekend at Bernie’s to the comedy Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe with Jacqueline Bisset. His direction of First Blood initiated and defined the Rambo series. Other notable films include the Cannes Film Festival classic, Wake in Fright, which was declared a “Cannes Classic” in 2009 and was screened again as part of that year’s retrospective program. It’s one of only two movies to hold this “Cannes Classic” distinction.

(Drafthouse Films)

Saillant says that “for those unfamiliar with Kotcheff’s work, this film Dream Destinations will expose them to the artistic endeavors that drove his life. For fans of Ted’s, it will be a unique look into the man they thought they knew.” He noted that as of last August, buzz of excitement about the film has begun. Saillant’s early work in film was with Stock’s Eye, an independent production company which produced the Sci-Fi thriller, The Ascension, and on the independent film Heterosexuals produced by Tony Award winner J. Robert Spencer. Upcoming movies from Saillant include a drama entitled The Golden Knights, two comedies entitled If and Pumping Up, as well as three thrillers Wormhole, The Expendables: Soul Harvest and Gripped.

The Golden Knights, soon to be released, is partly autobiographical and wholly inspirational. The Golden Knights is a movie about the 1979 Old Tappan football team which tells the tale of how a losing [team] began to [turn that streak around and] sow the first seeds of promise and pride in the school and surrounding towns. “The whole turning point of the Golden Knights was then,” said producer Antonio Saillant, whose older brother Angel was on the 1979 team. “[After a very long losing streak] they started being successful and then they won states in 1985, and the journey continues.” (“Cooper: Knights, camera, action: For Old Tappan, another movie-worthy season.” By Darren Cooper. The Record, Dec. 1, 2011)

Angel Light

Subsequently, Antonio formed his own company “Angel Light Pictures.” His signature and logos speak for themselves: The Green Angel Production Company: The art of learning and staying green through film and television. Growing for the future of a cleaner and green world through film and television. And Going Green and Staying Green – A Green Angel Production.

How did the movie business become involved with the green energy business? Saillant says that in his case, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth about the nature of global warming was the catalyst. It caused a domino effect. Everybody wanted to get into the act. Energy conservation was the name of the game. Riding that wave, Saillant was an energy consultant to corporate giants such as Con Edison and pharmacological companies for many years. He commented that implementing conservation in the US was difficult because Americans are really not accustomed – in fact are really resistant– to being energy efficient- to just turning off that light.

Hollywood and Energy Efficiency

This experience made it clear to Saillant that Americans needed to learn how to save energy, and that the movie industry might just be the right vector. He noted that Hollywood was leading the way in teaching energy efficiency to the country. Stars like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio and most major Hollywood studios like Disney, Fox, Universal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. are now following “the Green Path.”

We asked, “How does a film company go green?” Well, said Saillant, it is the wave of the future- and it is cost effective. That’s an incentive; and it is also just good common sense. Saillant said that the basis of going green for the movies is to develop a recycling and conservation plan. All vendors must have a green certification. Make sure that all vendors recycle, use local products, and conserve energy. Change the way you dispose of bottled water, paper, and food products. Rent electronic equipment instead of buying-copy machines. Reuse equipment instead of purchasing it. Shut it all down when you’re not using it. Turn off the lights and turn off monitors. Fortunately, HD is digital not film. Therefore, it’s already green.

Solar energy in New York

Saillant’s friend and mentor Ron Kamen of NYSEIA has commented that New York Governor Cuomo’s support of solar energy – the New York Sun Initiative- “is putting us on the right trajectory… This is a great step he’s taking and showing leadership.” Kamen spreads the gospel of solar energy wherever he goes, pointing out that solar energy will soon be so cheap it will be available on demand.

In a recent NYSEIA speech, Kamen has also pointed out another incentive, “A clean economy for New York would create 20,000+ new jobs, with global clean-energy doubling by 2020 in wind power and solar power…The NY Solar Jobs Act…predicts the cumulative economic impacts (through 2025) of 22,000+ new jobs and an economic output of over 20 billion dollars.” That is a powerful incentive.

Examples of Going Green

Saillant has said that the best example of the use of solar energy worldwide- is in Europe. Europeans are much more energy conscious, possibly because the costs for utilities are much higher than they are in the US. Spain and Germany have prompted the development of solar power with strong incentives called feed-in tariffs that require electric utilities to buy solar power at a high, fixed rate. But even in the USA, the message about global warming is finally getting through. Every company is trying to make money off the green concept.

In addition to encouraging New York State to follow the “green path,” Saillant and Kamen, maintain that going green should support new jobs in film and TV. Saillant says that Angel Light’s web site will provide information on “Being Green” through its affiliate Green Angel Productions. “Filled with ideas, we help large to small independent filmmakers with information about how to be green and using green products and services for their businesses. These types of changes within the movie business will attract wide attention… and [be] replicated in other business and industries. Let’s aim high by partnering with simpatico film and television professionals to leverage the right resources and partners necessary to make use of sustainable practices.”

What are Saillant’s next Big Projects?

Saillant said that “I believe my plans for the future development for a movie studio in Washington Heights, New York’s Upper Westside, utilizing solar panel installation, will be my contribution to improving the neighborhood and help offset the carbon footprint.”

In addition to the environmental benefits, advocates of solar power highlight its potential to create local work and jobs in the Heights. And Saillant’s vision is to create a site that resembles what the original “New York ‘Hollywood’”- used to be before its 1911 migration to California. It will be his homage to the old neighborhood and to Old Hollywood, and a new contribution to New York’s “going green.”