Last weekend, filmmaker Marisa Miller Wolfson premiered her documentary Vegucated at the Toronto Independent Film Festival to an audience of more than 400 people—a crowd which doubled the attendance record of any other film at the festival. The feature-length film tracks the lives of three meat-loving New Yorkers during their pledge to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. VN caught up with the globe-trotting filmmaker just before the festival.
VegNews: What are you most excited for this weekend?
Marisa Miller Wolfson: Most people would say [they’re most excited] to see their film on the big screen, but that’s not it for me. For me, it’s hearing the audience while watching the film, seeing where they laugh, listening to where I hear sniffles—that’s the most exciting part.
VN: A lot of people have already seen the film. What has been the response so far?
MMW: We’ve had three sneak-peek screenings this summer, but just at conferences. [The response] has been tremendous. People are just really glad to have a film that they can share with family and friends that doesn’t scream “go vegan or die.” They’re not showing them a film that’s going to bring their hearts to the floor. There’s a place for that and we do have some of that in the film, but we balance it out with humor. I think the biggest response is that people appreciate the humor, which I think makes this film a little bit special.
VN: Would you say that your film creates some common ground between vegans and non-vegans?
MMW: I think so, that’s a really great way of putting it. At the end, it isn’t all or nothing. Obviously I want people to go vegan, but we want to applaud people wherever they are in their process and feeling they’re part of the solution no matter where they are in their own vegolution. We want to cheer people on. When people say that they’re doing Meatless Mondays, we say great! They might say they’re doing vegan taco Tuesdays, and we say fabulous!
VN: Are you still in touch with the subjects of your film?
MMW: I am still in touch with them, actually. I’m so glad about it. Ellen lives a few blocks away from me now and we do meet up for brunch regularly and I meet up with her daughter Debbie, as well. They come to my house for parties, we go out and have ice cream. It’s really nice. I am in touch with Tesla online. She probably has the least support out of everyone, so she’s struggling the most. Brian is doing great; he’s out in California, having a ball and he’s lost so much weight even since we’ve finished the project; it’s amazing.
VN: Can fans of your film help schedule screenings in their towns?
MMW: Heck yea! The theatrical screenings are trickier. We had someone on Facebook tell us about calling their local theater and urging them to show the film. While that’s great, I don’t know if that’s going to work. I think the best thing that people can do if they want to get the film shown in their town is to sign up to hold a community screening next year. We’re launching our community screenings campaign in January and we’re going to have a whole screening kit. Folks can either show it in their living rooms as part of a house party-potluck event or they can show it at their school, yoga studio, or community center. Or if they want to show it in a theater they have a relationship with, that’s fine, too. We’ll work with people in any situation they want to show the film.
VN: That sounds like a great way to connect with your viewers.
MMW: Well, we made this as a grassroots outreach tool. It is going to be quite usable because the tone is so positive and it is so comprehensive. It covers a lot of ground and it’s still entertaining. I don’t know of too many films that cover all the reasons for being vegan, like health, animals, human rights, and the environment. But ours does, and it crams it all in to 75 minutes while telling personal stories of transformation.
VN: How do you think Vegucated will impact the vegan movement?
MMW: It’s another tool in the toolbox and while not everyone will sit down and read a book, a lot of people will sit down and watch a film. Having made one, I know how much work they are, and now I know why there are so few vegan feature documentaries out there. We’re just glad to be able to add to the list of really great outreach tools.