Ben Law's Woodland Year
A documentary on 'the man who built his house in the woods' on Grand Designs - sustainability pioneer Ben Law.
'One of Ben's remarkable gifts, besides being arguably Britain's greatest living woodsman, is a knack for inspiring others.' Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
'An extraordinary man – not exactly a warrior for his cause, more the quiet victor' – Kevin McCloud.
Many of us first learned about Ben Law in 2002, when his bureaucrat-busting, cruck-framed, communally-built woodland home featured on British TV series Grand Designs.
Ben's amazing first attempt at construction might look like a spontaneous miracle by a self-taught architectect. Actually, it's just one expression of Ben's low-impact, sustainable life and work.
Ben has spent his life re-discovering and mastering a wide range of neglected skills. In Ben Law's Woodland Year we learn alongside his apprentices as he passes on his expertise.
This documentary is partly a practical guide to different ways of making a living as a modern woodsman, but it also tells the story of how this skills are linked to nature's cycle and to Ben's ecological values, and follows the lives of Ben and his apprentices through a year in the woods.
Individually and collectively, we're realizing the need to re-discover the art of living within our means. Whether you live in the woods or in a high rise, Ben has many of the answers.
Here's what some of the charities, publications and professional organizations who support this project have to say about it. Please note that while they fully endorse the project, they are NOT funding it!
This film will be inspiring, fascinating and fun. It will be crafted into a compelling narrative by professional storytellers.
It will not feature contrived conflict, artificial challenges or anything scripted. We believe Ben's life is fascinating enough not to need any TV 'sexing up'. Our only 'format' is nature's annual cycle, as we see how life in Prickly Nut Wood adapts to the challenges and opportunities each season brings.
After 10 years as a news producer and reporter in the Far East for ABC, CNBC and CNN I've been making broadcast documentaries since 2000.
If you're curious about the kind of films I make - or have an existing interest in Mongolian naval history, ukuleles or Chessboxing - take a look at www.litmusfilms.com.
You'll see that I relish finding universal human stories in apparently obscure subjects. I've made many films on inspirational pioneers who show sustainability to be a pleasure, not a penance, be they zero-carbon architects, organic farmers, school teachers, fishermen or Viking historians.
For 12 years, and more than 50 films, I've been making documentaries for major broadcasters via the standard commissioning model; if I can persuade a TV station enough people will be interested in my idea, they give me money to make the film.
I've made a living doing this, but its getting harder to interest mainstream TV in this kind of one-off documentary, as they chase ratings and search for 'talent' and 'returnable formats'.
Attracted by the democratic nature of crowdfunding, I tried it for the first time last year (search for The Ukes Down Under to see how it turned out). Crowdfunding turned out to be a great way to reach out directly to people I know will love the film and give them the opportunity to help make it happen.
Woodland charities, permaculture organizations and eco-architects have all welcomed this project (see below for what they say about it) and share my belief there's a neglected audience for Ben Law's Woodland Year. We know you're out there!
What We Need
We've been filming since September 2012 – as you can see from the video, we're getting some great stuff. I want Ben Law's Woodland Year to be made to the highest professional standards but I can't keep funding it myself - so that's where you come in.
£50,000 will pay for filming life in Prickly Nut Wood over the course of a year from September 2012 to September 2013, and turning that footage into a broadcast-quality documentary of around one hour plus plenty of DVD extras.
This sum covers all the costs of filming and post-production, such as editing, sound mixing, grading, music, graphics, animation, marketing, distribution, DVD design & production.
What You Get
In return for your contributions we're offering a range of rewards - from your name appearing in the end credits to a day in the woods with Ben.
As we go along, we'll be making a series of instructional how-to videos with Ben explaining his tricks of the trade, which you can download as the year goes by, season by season. The three we're planning for Winter are :
Fruit Tree Pruning & Fertilizing
Cleaving with Axe, Wedge & Adze
There are also great deals on films from the Litmus Films back catalogue. Some are on sustainable themes, others (as we all have more than one interest) on utterly different topics. The films on offer for this reward are:
Arctic Outdoor Kindergarten (outdoor education)
The Budapest Children's Railway (Soviet relic's educational excellence)
Bill Dunster's Zero Carbon Mission (pioneering eco-architect)
Sir's Happy Little Greenhouse World (schoolboy orchid conservation)
4 Strings & The Truth (portrait of a ukulele maestro)
Looking For Love In Modern Ireland (matchmaking moves on)
The Mongolian Navy: all at sea (landlocked naval history)
Chessboxing: You Saw It Here First (see it to believe it)
To help you choose, descriptions and sample clips are available at www.litmusfilms.com.
Finally, Ben has kindly agreed to host two Days In The Woods. These provide a rare chance to learn directly from Ben himself, gain hands-on training in various woodland skills and experience life in Prickly Nut Wood for yourself.
The £500 reward is for anyone with an interest in woodland craft/management, natural history, or sustainability/permaculture.
The £1,000 reward is designed specifically for people with an interest in eco-architecture, whether you're a professional architect or planning your own self-build. The day will focus on roundwood timber building and is designed to address the Sustainable Architecture module of RIBA's Continuous Professional Development Core Curriculum.
Food is included for both days, but not transport costs.
We hope everyone will find something to suit them – and remember, we only get your money if we reach our target. If we don't, you pay nothing!
Risks and challenges
Any project following someone over the course of a year risks unexpected developments, from illness of key personnel to bad weather, and no one can guarantee the future.
Having said this, the whole point of Ben Law's Woodland Year is that we're not filming a unique event fraught with risk and peril, simply documenting what Ben has been doing in Prickly Nut Wood for the past 20 years.
Another potential risk with anything involving unique, exclusive access is the project being scuppered by sudden unexpected withdrawal of permission to film.
Again, the risk in Ben's case is remote. He's not a person to take decisions lightly, or to reverse a commitment once he's made it - just ask anyone who's done business with him, including broadcasters!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (41 days)