Werner Boote Jump Starts a Revolution in “Plastic Planet”

Werner Boote Jump Starts a Revolution in "Plastic Planet"
Werner Boote Jump Starts Revolution "Plastic Planet"

Below is an interview with “Plastic Planet” director and writer Werner Boote. The film hits select theaters this Friday, January 14.

We live in the Age of Plastic. It’s cheap and practical, and it’s everywhere – even in our blood. But is it a danger to us?

This feisty, informative documentary takes us on a journey around the globe – from the Moroccan Sahara to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, from a factory in China to the highest peaks of the Alps – to reveal the far-flung reaches of our plastic problem. Interviews with the world’s foremost experts in biology, pharmacology, and genetics shed light on the perils of plastic to our environment and expose the truth of how plastic affects our bodies and the health of future generations. [Synopsis courtesy of First Run Features]

“Plastic Planet”
Director and Writer: Werner Boote
Producers: Thomas Bogner, Daniel Zuta
Executive Producers: Tom Gläser, Ilann Girard
Camera: Thomas Kirschner
Editors: Ilana Goldschmidt, Cordula Werner, Tom Pohanka
Music: The Orb

The best and strangest job in the world…

Filmmaking is the best and most varied job. I’ve received death threats and had mojos sent home. The debt collector took away my car and 30-minutes later (no kidding!) I sat in a stretched limo driving to a gala to receive a golden award. I directed scenes with a staff of 400 professionals in the desert and a month later I found myself alone with my camera in Siberia.

Actually my grandmother might have taught me to love “the film”. She placed the little Werner next to an 8-mm home projector on the ground whenever she wanted peace. The projector was always five inches in front of the wall. The film was always the same (“Laurel & Hardy”). The warm and noisy big projector and the stunning fast running film strip attracted my attention and taught me that film is much more than this tiny image on the wall.

I started at the bottom as a best boy for TV and cinema and did almost every possible job in the industry. I love making docs because you meet great people, see fantastic places and learn about important issues. And above all: Films are the best way to change peoples minds. And I am allowed to say so.

The Age of Plastic…

After the stone age, the bronze age and the iron age, we now have the age of plastic. The amount of plastic we’ve produced since the beginning of the age of plastic is enough to wrap the entire planet six times in plastic.

Back in the 60s my grandfather was managing director of the German Interplastic Werke. Because of him plastic was not only an important material in my childhood but a holy word within my family.

In 1999 I read an article in the newspaper, saying that fish are dying out because of a substance, which leaks out of plastics. I wanted to know more about it and started to investigate the material and its impact. I needed to find out the truth about plastics.

The plastics industry makes more than 800 Million Euros turnover a year. In the past I thought that they tested their products carefully! For “Plastic Planet” we tested many plastic products and I was shocked. Dangerous substances have been found in different kinds of plastic products. Even in baby bottles and baby dummies. For “Plastic Planet” I traveled to 28 different countries and spoke to scientists, politicians and people from the plastics industry. I accepted two blood tests to find out whether I have plastic in my blood or not.

Last year I completed “Plastic Planet.” The film is my first long feature doc and shows that plastic has become a threat to both the environment and human health. Due to the film some people even changed their lives and various products have been taken off the EU-market.

Entertaining the audience and himself…

For some reason or another people are always telling me more than they normally would. That is why I mainly get offers for documentaries. The subjects which I am talking about in my films strongly arousing my interest. Once the film entertains me, it quite likely will entertain the audience.

Starting a project I often can not explain why I am interested in this subject and I am often going to start in an unconventional way. This is not an easy situation for my producers.

I am investigate the subject from my point of view and I am put my own excitement and doubts into the shooting of the film. This is not an easy situation for my crew. That is the reason I tell some of my documentaries from my own point of view and even as a helmer (like “Kurt Rydl” or “The Flying Dutchman”). This is not an easy situation, too! A guy on a search needs to direct a helmer in the middle on a quest!

“Plastic Planet” director Werner Boote. Image courtesy of First Run Features.

Personal ties to “Plastic Planet”…

“Plastic Planet” became a very personal film because I found myself investigating my grandfather’s material. In the beginning I asked myself the question, “How is my family going to react if the film needs to tell that my grandfathers material is a danger?” Luckily my family lost faith in my long term film-project over the years. They thought that I would never succeed in finishing my first long feature film. In the end my family has been relieved that I finally completed “Plastic Planet.” They winked at the fact that it tells the other side of grandfather´s material.

Toughest challenge in completing the project…

Endurance. No one wanted to invest in the “greenie” until producer Ilann Girard (“The March of the Penguins”) heard about my film idea and stepped on the show. The most difficult moment during shooting this film was that I finally knew so much about the dangers of plastics, while still, everyone around me bought plastic without challenging it. After shooting on the garbage dump in India the whole film-crew got seriously ill and we spent a week in the hospitals getting infusions. Plastics saved our lives! I was lying there watching every phthalate running through the pipe into my body and during the weeks before I just have learned that some hospitals still use products made from harmful phthalates.

On the occasion of the film’s opening in Europe PlasticsEurope sent a 14 page media kit to all the European plastic manufacturers and told them not to make any statements against the film in order to not make any unwanted advertising. Since the film’s opening I am constantly invited as an anti-plastic ambassador. Instead of working on my new film I am at the moment working on new draft proposals with the Federal Environment Agency. Thanks to this film I need to sit through all kinds of parliamentary Assemblies. Another test of endurance.

Starting a revolution…

One week after the film opened in theaters in Austria, a family called me and told me they wanted to make an experiment. They wanted to find out if they can live without plastics for a month. Today, a year after, they are still not buying any plastic products and they are still alive. Many people since then have stopped buying plastics or changed their behavior in dealing with plastic products. Even a Member of the National Council in my country is now living without plastics. People began performing a vast number of activities after watching the film. Supermarkets came up with new products and banned plastic bags off the market. The Minister of Health in Austria banned BPA, a harmful substance. Now the EU Commission banned the material. Due to the films presentation at the MEIFF in Abu Dhabi the Minister of Environment and H2O banned plastic bags in UAE beginning in 2013. Several scientific studies have been made because of the film. There is even one saying that since “Plastic Planet” was completed it is far more easier to receive financing for studies about plastics than before. The film seems to fascinate adults and pupils as there are many art exhibitions, presentation and actions on schools tied to “Plastic Planet.”

A surprising inspiration…

I love the form of investigation, the objectivity and the humor of British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, especially in his documentary “Kurt and Courtney.”

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