Under Review: ‘Deep Green’


My bet is that viewing this film will end up saving you money.

The next time you get your electric bill, think of Matt Briggs. He got his down to 89 cents. Before he ever had a crew enter his home and complete an energy audit he was already aware of the most simple things to do. But with his audit, his research, and his involvement in producing this film, he added insulation, a solar collector and changed his lifestyle. Then he sold his excess power to the neighborhood to help it heat the community pool.

Briggs details his energy journey with all the simple, no cost, one-minute things you can do along with the more complicated in his outstanding film, “Deep Green,” which premiered this month in Portland, Ore.


Matt Briggs, a tall, skinny friendly guy, introduced his film at the famous Portland Bagdad Theater, launching his film’s week-long world premiere. He said in an opening message, “If we learn to use all these tools and change our consciousness about the environment, we can fix it.”

One of the purposes of “Deep Green” was to not only educate an audience about energy production but to provide examples from around the world on how to intelligently and presciently become more green and, as a consequence, more responsible with the earth’s resources.

Briggs, the director and writer, opens the video harvesting mushrooms from a damp Oregon forest. He sets up the problem, commenting, “Our way of living is damaging our life support system … By 2100, one half of the world could be a desert.” After developing this idea with superb video footage and dialogue, he develops his thesis that we can effectively make a change to the impending global warming disaster.

Using breathtaking scenes from nature as well as cityscapes and social scenes, personal interviews, black and white comic graphics and the story thread of his own green evolution, Briggs educates his audience using best teaching practices. He begins each sequence of information with beautiful footage that invests the viewer with an experience that the coming info expands upon.


IJM readers, this is the section that is going to guarantee an increase in your wealth today.

Briggs’s explanation of vampire electronics, those electrical devices in our homes that continue to rack up a bill even when they are turned off, will quickly save you the price of your movie ticket. Vampires are calculated to comprise about 10 percent of the average electric bill.

Money-back guarantee:

Unplug, not just turn off, the following devices when not in use: VCRs, televisions, stereos, computer systems, microwave ovens, the phone charger when not plugged into the phone (also, as soon as the charging is complete), coffee makers and anything with a digital clock.

Want even more details? Check out the action section on the “Deep Green” Web site that reflects Briggs’s road to energy sustainability.


At the end of this film, I interviewed Kathy Esparza, an environmental activist representing a Lutheran Peace and Justice group in southwest Washington. She had come to support the film’s world premiere, possibly purchase a copy of the film and get permission to show it at a Peace and Justice event.

We ended up making a little wager:

    Me: What one thing were you most inspired to do personally, to even further lessen your carbon footprint?

    Esparza: My bill last month was $40. I don’t even have a washer or dryer! However, I think I learned some more things I can do. I think I can unplug some of my vampire electronics. What was your electric bill last month?

    Me: About $120.

    Esparza: Okay, I’ll have a little competition with you. We’ll see who can use less next month. And that’s what this film did for me. It motivated me to try even harder.

At home, I got out my electric bill. Last year, July 14 to Aug. 14, I used an average of 53 KWH a day when I was trying really hard to conserve. This year, my goal is to knock off at least 10 KWH a day, which would be about 20 percent of my bill, right?

I pledge to report my results and Kathy’s and how we got them under the Comments section on this page and a new article. If anyone would like to add more ways to conserve and maybe even compete with us, please join in through the IJM comment box. Just register under Meta (lower left-hand side of screen). All results should be reported in daily KWH used during any 30-day period this summer.


The only shortcoming of this film is the one most documentarians make. They become too close to the topic – excessive-compulsive, if you will.

So, Briggs and his editor made the same error many documentarians make. They’ve got a great first hour and then they desperately spiral into an overload of information in the second (in this case, 45 min.). It just started coming and didn’t stop. The first hour laid out the hook, thesis and examples, but the rest of the show skyrocketed away from a narrow focus an audience could reasonably handle.

During the last approximately 45 minutes did the film really need to spend so much time on coal and its sequestration, geo-thermal power and the density of brine, Germany’s town hall with cello soundtrack, and the physics of refracting solar mirrors?

Make it simple. It’s not that we’re stupid or not curious, it’s just that the human brain can only take so much stuffing before it gets an anxiety attack.

The people who view this film most likely already believe in global warming and support government efforts to invest in sustainable energy industries. All we need to know is whom to contact for that home energy audit, which new generation energy efficient vehicle is the best buy and who to hire for those solar panels that can produce enough energy to power neighborhood pools.

Documentarians, in their zeal to proselytize their topic, need to hire ruthless editors who are brought in from the outside to help craft a viewable piece. This doc suffers from the same sins Alex Gibney and his exposé on Abramoff and Robert Kenner’s and his report on the US food chain committed. It got caught up in minutiae. After the first hour they all lost sight of their thesis and its logical contentions and spiraled into a dizzying fine print textbook of examples and proofs of sub-points that promise to overwhelm the most intelligent and supportive of viewers.


The bottom line is that this documentary presents in a variety of practical and effective ways solutions to global warming and sustainable energy in your own home. Yes, it’s too long. But yes, it is also an important, motivating film. I would just suggest, before further distribution and entry into film festivals, that in order to earn the recognition and publicity it deserves, that Briggs allows an independent editor to cut a good 45 minutes of technical information.

The next screening of “Deep Green” will be on July 1 at the NW Film Center in Portland, Ore.

Production Credits

DIRECTOR / WRITER: Matthew Briggs
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Directors of Photography: Andrew Clark, Jeff Streich , and Brett Wood
EDITORS: David M. Potter and Kelly D. Morris
ORIGINAL MUSIC: Randy Porter with Dan Balmer and Allen Hinds among contributing musicians
PRODUCERS: Matthew Briggs, Sophie Harris, Clark Taylor, Frankie Fathers, Ariane Riemers, and Jasmine Dick – Producer (Europe)
RELEASED: June 22, 2010

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2 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Kat #

    Okay Bev, you are on. I will report back with my next bill. I’ve pulled the plug on what vampires I could.

  2. Bev #

    Kat won the contest by a mile. Her bill was something like $20 and I couldn’t get under $180.