Not Quite A Sob Story

I want to tell you about the process of making an episode of The Perennial Plate.  I’m writing this out of frustration, as a 100 or so of our 8000 twitter followers shared the latest video and 25 out of 9000 Facebook fans “liked” it.  I understand that we have an amazing job, and we are so lucky to do what we do.  I also understand that there is a lot of content out there, all trying to get seen, and that with the way social media works, it is easy to miss things, I also appreciate the wonderful friends that watch our videos week after week.  But I just want to make the point of why one of our videos should be watched.

Prior to leaving for China, we spent a couple months researching subjects.  It’s harder than you think.  Searching “organic” “sustainable” and all the other key words related to food that we like, in China, yielded the same crop of farmers or restaurants around Beijing.  I’m sure they were great stories, but we aren’t trying to rehash the “same old”.  We reached out to the folks at Intrepid Travel (our partners), to numerous bloggers, expats and friends who had once lived in China, to little avail.  When we finally came up with stories that sounded great, we still didn’t know much about the subjects.  Our information was based on a contact in country, sharing our information to the subjects and the subject’s information to us.  Hardly reliable.  But trust we must.

Then we fly halfway around the world.  Intrepid Travel provides us with a guide/translator and we drive 8 hours to the obscure location in Yunnan province that we hope might work out.  We arrive at said location, hoping that we’ve flown all this way for a story that is worth sharing.  And it is, of course.  It always is.

Our story in this case is about a young woman who defies expectations of becoming a doctor/lawyer/businesswoman to open a restaurant and continue to work with her parents’ farm.  It’s a beautiful story. And she spends a couple days with us — devoting her time and her story to sharing with us.  Her parents cook a beautiful meal, bring us to their farm and teach us how to make tofu.  We film the whole time, filling up card after card of footage.  Everything is so striking that it is hard to put the camera down.

After two jam-packed days, we depart at midnight.  Happy with what we’ve captured, frightened by the possibility that our next story might not come through, and gearing up for what will be a lot of editing.  But before we can edit, we have to translate.  This means finding someone who speaks Hani and English perfectly.  We couldn’t find that.  So we had someone translate the Hani to Mandarin and then someone else translate the Mandarin into English. By the time the translation is done, over a month has passed since the inspiring 2 days we spent with our subject.  We re-watch the hours of footage.  Read over the transcripts and try to piece together a story that will appeal to our audience.  A story that rings true to you, that rings true to our experience, that shares the passion of our subject and is within the internet attention span length.

It’s good work, it’s rewarding, and we think the result is beautiful.  All in all, to create the 5 minute video that is up on our website…it took us months.  It took 2 full days for our subject.   It took thousands of dollars from our partners and the time and expertise of several of their staff.  It took a lot to create this snippet of life in Yunnan Province.  And the purpose of that work, is to share it with you.  So when you see our tweet or Facebook message, when you consider pressing play or watching the whole video, know that this isn’t just something that appears on your computer.  This took heart and soul, hours of work and jet fuel, and from the subjects: passion for creating a better food system.  Please watch and please enjoy.