The Woodland Trust was recently approached by documentary film maker Robert Stern. He is currently filming with Ben Law, Grand Design’s most popular self builder who wowed and amazed millions with the way he harmoniously synced his life with his woodland surroundings. He wanted to share his story and plans for future work with Ben and put out an invitation for you to be part of their project. Robert takes up the woodland tale …..
“Early last year, after a day’s filming a TV feature in Prickly Nut Wood, Ben Law and I retired to his local pub for a pint and a chat. Like anyone who meets him, and any of the millions of viewers who’ve seen him on Grand Designs all-time most popular episode, I found Ben to be delightful company – warm, humorous and humble, but at the same time inspirational.
As someone with a passion for sustainability, I was astonished by the depth of Ben’s expertise on an huge range of topics, from woodland management skills, woodcraft techniques and eco-building to ecology, natural history and policy issues. As a professional broadcast documentary filmmaker, I recognized Ben as a very rare species – someone who not only leads an exemplary sustainable lifestyle, but can talk about it in a way that makes it seem like a pleasure, not a penance, even to the ‘unconverted’ mainstream who vaguely aspire to leading ‘greener’ lives but are deterred by the idea of it requiring a sacrifice. As a communicator, he was also ‘TV gold’.
Ben is a natural teacher and more than happy to share his hard-earned knowledge. So I was puzzled why, after he leapt from obscurity to Grand Designs celebrity in 2002 no one had made a documentary about a year in his life as it seemed like a TV no-brainer. Ben told me he’d had several approaches from major broadcasters, but had turned them down after hearing their plans for ‘sexing up’ what he does. Accustomed to people wanting to be on the telly at any price, broadcasters were dismayed to find someone with the integrity to say ‘no’ to reality TV.
I described how I’d approach it – a straightforward observational documentary following the life of him and his apprentices through the changing seasons, fascinating enough on its own not to require any scripted moments, presenter narration or contrived conflict. Ben said ‘that’s exactly what I want to do’. After his experience that day of my filmmaking style, he agreed to let me into Prickly Nut Wood for an entire woodland year.
I’ve been filming self-funded since September 2012, but can’t keep going, so I have launched a crowdfunding campaign to find help to complete the project. If you’d like to be part of making it happen, please take a look at the campaign site, watch the short video, read more and decide if you could help finance this project. And if you feel you cannot invest yourself, please pass this information on to friends – of the real and facebook or twitter variety.
The deadline is midnight on Sunday March 31st. If we don’t meet our target we may have to abandon the project.
Anything you can do to help support this unique opportunity to document the life of a unique woodland pioneer would be deeply appreciated.”
Robert Stern – Documentary Film Maker