This weekend, La Mission, starring Benjamin Bratt, Erika Alexander and Jeremy Ray Valdez, directed and written by Peter Bratt, opens in theaters across the country. The film takes us to the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco as we follow the story of Che, his son Jesse, the new neighbor next door and the "Mission Boyz", through a whirlwind of social issues, including the environment.
"I think that you find social messaging in all sorts of media whether it's conscious or unconscious," said directed Peter Bratt in the Q & A session at the Artivist Film Festival, where the film screened in December.
Audiences have been moved by the risks the filmmakers took, while others were thankful to see issues of homosexuality, the environment and violence conveyed in a minority community. Benjamin Bratt clearly highlighted, "Artists have historically always been on the point of change in society, so if you have the opportunity to make a film, why not make it positive?"
When it comes to the environment, the film subtly hints at eco themes. For example, one of the character's curiosity with making his low-rider run on biodiesel. But the important environmental message didn't stop on screen. La Mission was an eco-friendly set. In fact, one of the first green sets in San Francisco. Shot in 2008, nearly two years ago, La Mission was on the forefront of green film production.
"The water supply and trash-recycling-compost system worked very well, so much so that I miss the systems on other shoots." said Eugene Caputi, First Assistant Director. "I'm proud to have been part of a pilot program for green productions. I still have the water bottle and it goes with me on all subsequent shoots."
Not only did the cast and crew eliminate the use of water bottles, but the makeup artist was open to using organic products, there was composting on set and in the production office, environmentally friendly detergents were used to clean the costumes, and the art department welcomed green product placement and other innovative initiatives. The City of San Francisco Mayor's Office and the Film Commission were supportive and excited about attracting green film production to San Francisco. First Lady Jen Siebel Newsom also visited the set to offer her support.
"I have often been involved with productions that felt that it was cheaper to not be environmentally conscious," stated Garrett Lowe of the Art Department. "I would try and speak up for a greener production, I had very little information, and could only argue from an ethical standpoint!"
It was also clear that having a green set meant a lot more than just getting rid of water bottles. According to Ruben Gonzalez, one of the actors in the film, "Working on a green set, made everyone more conscious about not only what we put out [trash] but also how we could limit that same trash. Also, a green set creates a positive energy flow on the film set. I also think it is a good tool to teach others who may not be green-minded to think in a whole new way about how their choices affect the world. I think that it was amazing that we, as actors, could get all our needs met and still do something good for the environment."
La Mission went on to earn an Environmental Media Association (EMA) Green Seal Award in 2009 for their green production practices. Dozens of local businesses and non-profits contributed to the placement of green and socially conscious products, and are included in the films credits, fostering awareness and community around these issues.
La Mission opens in New York and Los Angeles April 9th and San Francisco and other cities April 16th.