Cow manure can provide enough energy to run a Vermont farm.
Take it from Emerson graduate Allison Gillette, who set out on a mission to make a documentary film about the energy provided through cow manure on Vermont farms. Gillette first learned about this phenomenon from her co-worker at a local café who explained that she pays a percentage on her energy bill each month to support cow power.
When Emerson put out a call for documentary film pitches, Gillette realized, “this was a great story that needed to be told.”
She headed out with a group of Emerson film students to a farm in Vermont to start producing the documentary.
“When we got to our first location and all of my crew got out of the van, they just went into ‘work mode,’ and quickly set up the entire scene while I was talking logistics with the manager,” Gillette said. “When I came back everything was set up and the shot look so beautiful. I had tears in my eyes and thought to myself ‘this is actually happening.’”
Various Vermont institutions share Gillette’s passion for her cause. Specifically, Long Trail brewery, Green Mountain College and Vermont Clothing Company all jumped on board to aid in cultivating cow power. Even Gillette’s crew, accustomed to the lifestyle of a Bostonian, quickly transitioned to the rural environment in order to shoot the film.
“I knew none of them had been to a farm so I warned them all to wear boots and jeans they didn’t care about,” Gillette said. “On our first shoot in Vermont, everyone had sneakers on that they didn’t want dirty. They actually all ended up wearing these plastic booties that the owner of the farm gave them. We had someone fall into a river on our first day shooting b-roll.”
Fortunately for the the filmers, Gillette recalls “everyone was getting down and dirty like they grew up on a farm and loving it” shortly thereafter.
Working with cows wasn’t always the easiest task, but she found that they were also cooperative and provided quality footage.
“They are creatures of habit, so when they see something new, like a camera, they all gravitate toward it,” Gillette said. “It makes a great shot, but is hard when you want to see cows walking by, not stopping.”
Gillette hopes that one day all farming states will use cow power, which would provide ten percent of the nation’s energy if accomplished.
“I am deeply personally connected to the Vermont landscape,” Gillette said. “As are all Vermonters and we are willing to do anything to keep it beautiful and rural.”