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“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

As we know, Rob Stewart disappeared Tuesday evening off the coast of Florida. The outpouring of support and hope that spearheads his search is inspiring. Across social media on Facebook, Twitter and at sharkwater.com you can find updates and opportunities to volunteer or donate. On twitter follow @teamsharkwater and #FindRob.

The fundraising campaign continues to gather funds for air and ground searches including 13 helicopter and teams working non-stop. The outpouring of financial support is heartwarming.

 Green Heroes field producer Stephanie Silliker and I met Rob in the summer of 2009 when we interviewed him for the first season of our TV and web series.

I remember Stephanie giving me the Sharkwater DVD telling me it was a “much-see” because Rob was your quintessential Green Hero. He certainly changed my Jaws-jaded view of sharks from man-eater. In less than 5 minutes, I learned that sharks are not to be feared by rather revered for the essential role they play in balancing all life on earth.

I was so impressed at how he was able to convince me of their importance that we did the interview with him right away. He was gracious and generous, even introducing us to his pet python.

He also tipped us off that a new film called The Cove was having its commercial release that night in Toronto and that Ric O’Barry, the film’s hero, would be there to talk about it. Thanks to Rob, we got the scoop on another Green Hero, before his Academy award win, that day.

Stephanie wrote to me upon hearing of Rob’s disappearance. “ I was lucky enough to accompany you to interview one of Canada’s most influential environmentalists and documentarians. His vibrant spirit and zest for open water and the wildlife below are so inspiring. I was shocked and saddened to hear that news that he has gone missing. I am sending positive vibes in the hope he will be rescued safely.”

I join Stephanie and literally millions of others around the world hoping and praying that Rob will be found. Just think of Rob free-diving in the last scene of Sharkwater and you’ll agree with this encouraging message from the Sharkwater website:

“We believe Robbie Stewart is out there waiting for us to find him. We are reaching 72 hours, which is an absolutely feasible timeframe in which to find Robbie. And as we all know, he is strong and resilient and at home in the water.”

Rob with his pet python

cinefocus_final-logo colourIf not for the creation of CineFocus Canada 25 years ago today, Green Heroes would not exist today, along with numerous other titles that have made a difference and raised awareness on key issues since the company’s formation in 1991.

When founding members John Bessai, Carl Bessai, David MacDonald and Joan Prowse released their first video they didn’t expect it to become a national discussion piece or be the genesis of a company that’s gone on to create more than 50 videos and 20 hours of documentaries and TV programming for a host of  environmental, labour and social justice clients and broadcasters around the world.

Highlights and friendships are too numerous to name in a short post so check out the company’s news page that chronicles some of the highlights over the years.

CineFocus has so many people to thank, who have helped to build the company and its incredible catalogue of programs that aims to tell Canadian stories worldwide and make a positive impact on people’s lives and causes here at home and abroad.

Twenty five years later, CineFocus continues to make inspiring and insightful videos, documentaries and TV shows and to evolve the platforms where they can be seen. Watch for a new web site and on-line channel in June, and for their urban renewal documentary set in Lawrence Heights, now in production. Also in June CineFocus is celebrating winners of the Transformative Change award, with a series of video profiles they are producing for their original and long-standing client, the Association of Ontario Health Centres.

For more on the company’s history and projects, check out a feature article on founder Joan Prowse in the new on-line publication Liisbeth starting February 22.

Join in CineFocus’ on-line celebration by posting a memory on Face Book or tweet out at #CineFocus25. We’ll add you to the invite list for our 25th anniversary celebration this year!

 

 

From left to right: Emily Hunter, John Bessai and Joan Prowse

From left to right: Emily Hunter, John Bessai and Joan Prowse

Green Heroes producers, John Bessai and Joan Prowse, and Green Hero, Emily Hunter, were selected to join 600+ Canadians for climate action training by Nobel Prize winner and An Inconvenient Truth author, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore in Toronto on July 9 and 10.

While the doom and gloom of the 2007 Academy award winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, woke people up to the problem of climate change, Gore’s latest message is one of encouragement as he asked his newest recruits to spread a message of optimism and hope.

“We need to change laws, not just light bulbs. There are more people working in Green Energy than in the tar sands, but we need to get that message out.”

Gore was referring to the surprising number of Canadians polled recently (54%) who mistakenly believed half of Canada’s revenue came from tar sands development, when, in fact, the number of direct jobs created by the clean-tech sector (solar and wind are two examples) is equal to the number of jobs created by the tar sands.

Joan Prowse was impressed by the breadth of people selected to be part of the growing ranks of presenters. “I’m really honoured to have gained new insight from Al Gore, along with some amazing slides and well-researched facts I can use to help spread the word that climate change is real”, she said.

John Bessai said he “learned a surprising amount about how climate change is intensifying and how the facts we were shown correlate with news report about climate disasters – like the recent fires and drought in western Canada – that come at a great personal and economic cost.”

As Canadians head toward a federal election in October and the Paris Climate talks in December, Gore’s parting words ring true:

“We’re going to win this one – but we’ve got to speed it up.”

Time to get moving…

Green Heroes got a major boost after a successful pitch by co-founder Joan Prowse to investors at the 2014 Imagination Catalyst competition on May 15. The judges (among them former Dragon Den investor Bruce Croxon) were impressed by the content of the pitch and CineFocus’ own commitment to helping develop a node of creativity and excellence using Green Heroes as a prototype for others to learn from.

 Imagination Catalyst is the Ontario College of Art and Design’s entrepreneurship and commercialization hub. Its mission is to help entrepreneurs launch new enterprises and commercialize their designs, products and services. The win gives CineFocus and Green Heroes access to office space, mentors, visiting academics and the talent base of OCAD’s students for one year.

Petra Kassun-Mutch, Executive Director of Imagination Catalyst, put the value of OCAD’s contribution at $20,000 and noted that already the hub has raised $12 million in investments for companies and projects previously selected for their incubator/accelerator program.

Green Heroes is a good fit with OCAD’s vision to focus the power of the cultural industries, creativity, scholarship and smart entrepreneurship to solve the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time.

We lost a truly great Canadian and storyteller today. Sad is too small a word to sum up the loss I felt when hearing about Farley Mowat passing away. I met him on several occasions first as a proud Canadian nationalist defending our distinct Canadian culture during the 1988 Free Trade debate and later as a producer of three biography series Lucky Breaks (2000), Northern Lights (2005) and Green Heroes (2013) for my production company CineFocus Canada.

My visit to his summer home in Cape Breton to film this segment of Green Heroes captured a man, though in his 90s, in fine form. After our interview we went to his writing room to get shots of him at work (writing still on a manual Underwood typewriter.) As we set up I said, “I bet you’ve done this a thousand times.” “Oh no, he replied, you’re the first camera to come up here.” I’m not sure if he was teasing but it certainly added to the distinct honour of being inside Farley’s writing world.

Feisty and fun loving is his how I’ll remember him. As he walked with wife Claire and dog Chester, he stopped in his vegetable garden. He lifted the one remaining squash in the late summer light and recited this famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: …It was a happy scene that day and he was a gracious host.

Farley’s stories gave me a deep love for the North, for Nature and our Native land. His outspoken activism showed me how important it is to protect all that makes this country great. We’ll remember you and carry on your fight to protect Mother Earth and all her creations. Rest in Peace Farley Mowat.

Farley Mowat with GreenHeroes producer Joan Prowse

Farley Mowat with GreenHeroes producer Joan Prowse

GreenHeroes is very proud that our video featuring Ric O’Barry’s journey from dolphin trainer to dolphin activist was screened at Planet in Focus on the environmental film festival’s closing night.

GreenHeroes producer Joan Prowse and Stephanie Silliker were delighted to see Ric O’Barry again. The trio first met at the Toronto premiere of The Cove, in the summer of 2009. Seeing a great story, Joan and Stephanie asked Ric if they could share it on GreenHeroes. That fall, Joan travelled to interview him at his home in Miami just as the Oscar buzz began. The Cove went on to win the Academy award for best documentary in 2010.

R to L Stephanie Silliker, Ric O'Barry and Joan Prowse

In his acceptance speech this past Sunday at Planet in Focus, Ric told the audience that he cannot protect dolphins from slaughter and captivity on his own. It requires heroic people who have protested the annual dolphin slaughter alongside him in Tajii Japan and other countries around the world.
Ric asked the audience to stop buying tickets to dolphin shows at Marineland as a simple way to help end dolphin captures. Want to help Ric’s cause in other ways? GreenHeroes will help you get started.
Planet in Focus gave out other awards on closing night to honour the best of the films featured at the festival. Read the Planet in Focus news release to learn more.

Director and producer of GreenHeroes, Joan Prowse, has just been made a board member of Planet in Focus, Canada’s leading international environmental film and video festival. To find out more, check out our online newsletter. Congratulations Joan!

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest activities at GreenHeroes? Click on “subscribe to list” in the top left hand corner of the GreenHeroes Newsletter. We publish it every second Thursday.

Joan with Planet in Focus board members and GreenHeroes.

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