My professional filmmaking career began in 1973 in the production department of KING-TV, where I won awards for photography and editing. I became an independent producer in 1978, creating numerous Public Service Announcements and short documentaries on a wide range of issues.
My first major environmental documentary was Critical Habitat, a comprehensive investigation of the scientific, economic, and political issues underlying the conflict over the northern spotted owl. Critical Habitat won several awards, and aired on public television stations nationwide. Educational versions have been distributed to schools internationally. I continued to work on forest, salmon and water issues, and in 1996 produced the documentary Torrents of Change, which played a role in a series of events leading to the protection of 55 million acres of public land.
Nevertheless, during the early 2000s, I began to question the ultimate effectiveness of environmental documentaries in affecting real change, and so began to investigate what I considered to be the underlying issue in most environmental conflicts – for that matter nearly all human conflicts – differing perspectives on what was fair. I immersed myself in the rich and growing body of research into the evolutionary underpinnings of the human sense of fairness. This led me to produce two multimedia stories, the Evolution of Unfairness, and Are We Born with a Sense of Fairness? both originally published in Pacific Standard magazine.
As a result of my work on fairness, I was contacted by the Evolution Institute in 2013, and invited to attend the initial planning session for a project that would come to be known as PROSOCIAL, a method of implementing a generalized version of Elinor Ostrom’s design principles for common-pool resource groups in any organization, as long as its members identify a common goal. I had discovered her principles in the course of my earlier research, and viewed them as the essential elements of fairness in human groups, so this was a wonderful opportunity to put these ideas into practice. I produced an introductory video, and eventually became the project coordinator, a role I still fill today.
In 2014, an opportunity arose to combine fairness and filmmaking in an interesting way. The Siuslaw National Forest, the location of my 1996 film Torrents of Change, had gone through a transformation, one which I thought worth documenting. It exemplified how solutions to environmental conflicts can be achieved through a dedication to fairness, when everyone is willing to sit down and talk. The result was Seeing the Forest, my most recent documentary film.