‘Life Off Grid’

Reader Contribution by Phillip Vannini And Jonathan Taggart

In my previous blog post I mentioned how Jonathan Taggart and I recently completed a book and a film on off grid living in Canada. For this post I want to talk about the film and what it’s all about. I’ll begin by showing the film’s trailer, which can be seen below or at our website, Life Off Grid.

Life Off Grid trailer from Jonathan Taggart on Vimeo.

Condensing 65,000 miles of travel across the country, almost three years of research, and nearly 200 interviews into 1 hour and 25 minutes wasn’t an easy feat. But the process of selection says a lot about the things that mattered to us as film-makers.

Matt Clarke (editor), Jon (director), and I (producer) decided to build the film’s story around two central questions: why and how someone lives off the grid. The answers do not come from our voiceover words. Rather, it is directly through the voices of about two dozen individuals living across Canada (most of the Canadians, some of them American and British expats) that we manage to share a wide variety of experiences and perspectives on what life off the grid means.

Told as a road story moving from the West Coast to the East Coast — passing by the North Coast along the way — the film introduces at least one family per province and territory and gives viewers an intimate and candid peek into their homes, land, and life.

It’s not the kind of documentary film one would expect. Most of the movies and shows on off-grid living that I have seen sensationalize off-gridders and their homes, or at least make highly selective production choices by focusing only on individuals and families living in the most dramatically unique conditions. In fact, for the last two years I have been getting periodical requests from Canadian, American, and British TV production companies asking me to put them in touch with the most outlandish “characters.” Sorry, I regularly say, I only met “normal” people.

Interesting as that may be in the TV listings guide — after all it must be hard to compete with the Kardashians and Gold Rush — that kind of sensationalism was never of interest to me, Jon and Matt. Instead we wrote an earnest and sober story that portrays off-grid living in Canada for what we found it to be: diverse, complex, nuanced and, most of all, beyond the stereotypes.

The reality on the ground — one that probably would not make for a conventional “reality” show, but maybe for a truly realistic one — is that off-grid living isn’t (just) for the bold, the wild and the adventurous. It is, in fact, for just about everyone. Depending on motivations, available capital, regional conditions, climate, and personal lifestyle preferences one can live off the grid in the most diverse ways.

For example, the documentary shows that certain individuals manage to recreate high levels of domestic comforts and convenience in their off-grid homes — levels of comforts similar to those experienced in urban and suburban grid-connected homes. Other individuals and families, instead, choose to do with less and in the way end up reinventing what a home means. In our mind there are no hierarchies among these individuals: no off-gridder lives a more inherently interesting or authentic life than others. All simply live their lives by choices of their own making.

And living life by choices of one’s making, to us, is really the point of off-grid living.

The movie, by the way, is currently touring film festivals so it’s not available for viewing anywhere other than in the film festival cities. To stay posted on where the movie is being played, and when it’s (hopefully) coming to a big or small screen near you, you can keep up with our blog, Life Off Grid, or follow us onFacebook.

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