Phillip Vannini and Jonathan Taggart, Filmmakers of Life Off the Grid – Biographies – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Phillip Vannini and Jonathan Taggart, Off-Grid Living Filmmakers


Name: Phillip Vannini

Occupation: Professor, School of Communication & Culture, Royal Roads University

Place of Residence: Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada

Background and Personal History: Phillip migrated to Canada in 2004, after completing an MA in communication and a PhD in Sociology at Washington State University. While he teaches in communication and culture his interests are quite diverse, ranging from cultural geography to environmental studies, and from sociology to cultural studies. 

Phillip loves writing. One of his recent books, Ferry Tales, told the stories of the roles played by ferry transportation in the lives of Canada’s West Coast residents. Just like he did for his latest project on off-grid living, Phillip travelled a great deal and along the way met tons of incredibly fascinating people. As an ethnographer, Phillip’s research typically entails just all of the above: travelling to interesting places, meeting interesting people, and telling interesting stories — while trying to make sense of it all.

Phillip’s interest in environmental issues stems from his love of nature. More at home in the forests of his beloved British Columbia than in the halls of the ivory tower, Phillip likes to work on topics that show both his and other people’s sense of place and place attachment. Keen on sharing inspiring stories and showing positive solutions to some of today’s environmental concerns, Phillip is, nonetheless, not afraid of engaging in social and political critique, lobbying, and whistleblowing.

Current Projects: Phillip is currently busy touring the film festival circuit together with Jonathan Taggart. Phillip produced and Jonathan directed their feature-length documentary on off-grid living across Canada. Titled Life Off Grid, the film narrates their travels throughout each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories in search of people whose homes are disconnected from the electricity and natural gas grid. Besides that, Phillip is busy teaching at Royal Roads University and even busier trying to figure out what his next project is going to be!

Other Fun Facts: An avid traveler and adventure-junkie, Phillip thinks that his main job responsibility —  research — should always be fun. If something entails various doses of paddling, hiking, trekking, flying, sailing, and exploring Phillip will make it his job to research it!

More Places to Find Phillip on the Web:

Name: Jonathan Taggart

Occupation: Researcher, filmmaker, photographer, instructor at Royal Roads University, PhD student at the Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability at the University of British Columbia

Place of Residence: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Background and Personal History: Jonathan was born and raised in the woods and on the waters in and around Vancouver, BC. He studied photography at Ryerson University in Toronto and communication at Royal Roads University in Victoria, and has spent the years since working as a photographer, filmmaker and researcher at the intersection of people and the environment. He is a founding member of the Boreal Collective of Documentary Photographers: his work with BC First Nations has been published and exhibited internationally, and now forms the basis of his PhD studies at the University of British Columbia, where he is thinking deeply about how social and environmental change impact the cultural significance of place. Jonathan is an avid camper and canoeist, a frequent fly-fisher, a devoted cyclist and a burgeoning biathlete. While he loves living in Vancouver, more often than not he can be found (or not found) exploring the backwoods with his wife and their trusty Grumman.

Current Projects: Jonathan is currently engaged in touring and exhibiting the film and photographs from Life Off Grid while pursuing his PhD and working on multimedia-based community and land-use planning projects with BC First Nations. As if that weren’t enough, he is also teaching photography and visual ethnography at Royal Roads University.

Other Fun Facts: Jonathan’s work has taken him to every province and territory in Canada as well as myriad international destinations. In consideration of the connection between memory and action, he has amassed an assortment of sharpened souvenirs, including a sewing ulu from Nunavut, a skinning knife from the Northwest Territories, blades for splitting coconuts and oysters from Mexico and Prince Edward Island, hand-forged kitchen knives from both Mumbai and Manitoba, and filleting knives from the islands of Haida Gwaii and Kyushu. He is reminded of the many ways of being each time he puts one of these souvenirs to use.

More Places to Find Jonathan on the Web: