The Change Agents is a story for our times about Carly Dutoff and her peers who find themselves in the midst of family difficulties while coming of age in an era of environmental degradation. Set in a beautiful mountain town in western Canada, the story revolves around Carly, who is a Doukhobor girl living with her curmudgeonly Deda (grandfather) during her final year of high school. Disconnected from her Deda and obsessed with environmental issues, she becomes alienated from her peers - many of whom support the environmental movement in principle but “still want to have fun.”
Driven by a vision for a better future, Carly draws upon the courage of her Doukhobor activist ancestry as she sparks an unlikely group of teens into organizing a youth driven movement. She finds support in Ruby Gootrie, wise beyond her twelve years, and Michael Parsens, a new senior student from Fort McMurray with a personal and tragic connection to the Alberta Tar Sands.
Dissatisfied with the adult apathy, the youth take matters into their own hands as they challenge their community to heed the escalating impacts of climate change. As change agents they step up and show environmental global stewardship, especially in the face of the impacts of unchecked tar sands development on Canada’s dwindling fresh water supply.
In a tricky time in the planet’s evolution, this is a generation which faces a future like no other generation before them - while they find the strength to do something in the face of a world which doesn’t know how change.
With nuances from the popular Occupy movement, the Change Agents is an important film. It captures the authentic voice of youth. It asks that we reexamine our path. It leaves us hopeful.
What inspired The Change Agents was a conversation I had with one of my students. “If everything being said about the environmental crisis is true, then why aren’t we doing more to change things. It’s an emergency. She sat in my office in tears. “We need to do more.”
Reassuring her that many people are part of a growing movement for positive change, I later, asked myself if I was doing enough to make a difference. I knew I couldn’t harness energy from some far off planet, but I could tell a story - a story about a girl deeply concerned for the well-being of Mother Earth, a story about a girl determined to draw attention to the environmental crisis happening in Canada, a story about a girl steadfast in her commitment to do more before it was too late. And so the journey began…
Our goal was to expand the walls of our classroom into the community, taking a group of students from grades nine through twelve with us, transforming them into a production crew capable of producing our feature film, "The Change Agents."
During an intense period of hands-on preproduction throughout the first semester, we moved beyond basic film theory to practical application. Because of a strong commitment and a belief in mentorship programs, student alumni and professionals taught our students the roles that they would be performing on set. They learned how to break down a script, to generate call sheets and shooting schedules, to operate cameras, to work with talent and to hone all the necessary skills needed to become a cohesive production unit. These lessons were put into practice in the second semester when we went on location to begin our feature film.
Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." He knew that logic could only take you from A to B, but imagination could take you beyond what you knew and understood. In fact imagination is the only thing an individual possesses that can manifest a reality.
--Robyn Sheppard -- Writer / Director
"Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes time. Vision with action can change the world." Joel Barker.