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What I've learned from off-grid communities

A two years journey across Canada to visit people who made the choice to disconnect.

According to a recent report , Off-grid energy is moving from the eco-fringe to mainstream. In 2014 the US investment bank Morgan Stanley announced that the off-grid era had arrived, driven by the falling prices of renewable energies and the raising prices of energy supplied by power companies.

In America, according to some estimates , over the last few years the number of people living off the grid increased from under a million five years ago to over two million today. In the UK, growth is slower - land prices and planning permission system inhibit progress.

We have met with Philip Vannini , writer and film producer of Life Off Grid for a quick chat. Philip has spent two-years exploring the lives of Canadians in every province and territory who have made the choice to disconnect from the grid. We are showing his latest documentary at our next DOC:Supper event in March. It will be an incredible opportunity to know more about the off grid world. Philip will join us in London for a post screening Q&A

Why did you make this documentary?

This documentary was part of three years of field research into the lifestyle of people who live off grid. I've always been a writer and as a writer you realize sooner or later that you have a limited audience. Producing a documentary was a way to reach out to a different audience, and a larger one.

With the book, "Off the Grid: Re-assembling Domestic Life" and the film together I hope to have created an in-depth picture on why people live off the grid in Canada and how precisely they do so.

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How long did it take to make the film and what has been the hardest challenge?

Two and a half year were spent travelling across Canada, filming. About a year and a half were spent editing. The hardest challenge was condensing all the material we shot into a 85 minute documentary (and a 52 minute version of it as well). Selecting the material to include in the final cut meant excluding about 98% of what was filmed. That was a very difficult process.

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What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from the communities you have visited?

The idea behind the project was to see if we could enjoy domestic life off-the-grid as much as we enjoy it on the grid. I wanted to see if we could live as comfortably as conveniently by utilizing renewable resources and alternative domestic technologies. I found that we can. Does it take more involvement, more planning, more awareness, more sense of responsibility, more skills to live that way? Absolutely. But all these things together also make domestic life more enjoyable, simply because one can take greater pride in the simple things that one has accomplished. It's amazing how much more comfortable a warm fire is when you've made it yourself.

You have explored Off Grid communities in Canada, where else in the world do you suggest looking for other great examples?

Anywhere there is sun, wind, water, and earth.

Why do people live off-grid?

You can find the best answer from the words of the off-gridders .Just listen (click here)

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What is the future for you as a producer and for the movie?

The film is screening across Australia and New Zealand right now, so I'm busy helping out with promotion. After that I'll be delighted to stop answering emails and phone calls and go for a long walk in the woods!

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Photo Credit : Philip Vannini - Life off Grid (the book)

Join the Doc:Supper community to watch Life Off Grid at The Montpelier on Wednesday 16th of March at 8:30pm. Get your tickets here.

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