"I doubt myself less and say ‘no’ more often. In doing what you are meant to do, you need to stay close to the vision and let people in the process…you also need to stay in charge when others may want to pull you off course. It’s hard work.”
-Director Pamela Tanner Boll
Research shows that although Americans today make twice the income they did in 1957, people are not happier. While our standard of living has improved, our happiness has not. On March 6th at 2 p.m. at the Belmont Studio Cinema, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers will present the film, “A Small Good Thing," winner of Best Documentary at Boston International Film Festival in April of 2015.
The film is directed by Winchester resident Pamela Tanner Boll, winner of Academy Award as co-executive producer “Born into Brothels,” who explores the question: How can we live in a better way? Boll formed her company Mystic Artists Film Productions in 2003.
The film weaves together the stories of six people living in the Berkshires and chronicles their process of creating a happier, holistic life based on a closer connection to themselves, the community, and the greater good. Boll researched “happiness” for two years before beginning the film and learned that any dollar over $75,000 doesn’t buy you more happiness. The film includes quotes from experts in the field including Stephen Cope, yogi at Kripalu and author, who says that happiness is finding “what lights you up.”
Paula Kirk of Winchester has been assistant and friend to Boll for 18 years. This film was her first initiative as a producer (along with producer Kerthy Fix). “This experience has led me to slow down more, be more in the moment, and be more authentic with the people I really want to be with -- like my 92 year old mother. I have asked the question, “How much do we really need?” said Kirk, believing the research that says that if you walk through life with people you feel more connected to, you will live longer.
Jen and Peter Salinetti are a college educated couple featured in the film who once worked in the lucrative field of landscape design. “We were faced with a question of work, lifestyle and the big moment came when we had a family and wanted to be with them. From a home vegetable garden where we fed ourselves, we shifted to full time farming,” Jen said. They sell their produce to community supported agriculture and area cooperatives. The camera crew visited monthly for a year and a half as the couple worked hard to make these life changes.
At their Woven Roots Farm in Tyringham, Jen and Pete are considered experts in sustainable practices like composting. Gardens for Health International, a non-profit organization focused on ending malnutrition by teaching gardening and agriculture, planned a trip to Rwanda for Jen and Pete. The film crew spent a week there and the Salinetti’s spent three weeks there helping farmers establish a workable composting system. “The shared aspect of community was so empowering, so beautiful,” said Jen. They worked with trainers in the fields and visited a health clinic, which provided a rare opportunity to visit families. “Women were so proud to feed their children. They were thriving, not dying,” she said.
“I was honored, humbled and proud to be part of this film and what was created out of so much footage,” said Jen. “It also confirms everyday the choices we made for our family and community that now have an effect in the world,” she said.
Also featured is Tim Durrin, a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran. We witness his transformation, through hard work and gritty determination, from an addicted victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to a yoga practitioner and competitive cyclist who completes his undergraduate degree and receives a full scholarship to graduate school for social work.
Sean Stanton served for four years in the Coast Guard and returned to his home to find more meaning. He learned how to raise chickens and pigs. He farms at Blue Hill and North Plains Farms, which includes farming for restaurateurs Dan and David Barber; Sean also serves on the town council, transitioning from serving his country to serving the community with sustainable practices and education.
During the film, yoga teacher Mark Gerow struggles with losing his sister while raising two young boys as a single parent. He also recovers from addiction. During the film he shares the challenges of parenting. Through the sometimes painful process, he becomes more mindful and joyful when parenting and teaching, and after the film, he end ups with a leadership role in order to give back to the community.
Shirley Edgerton is the founder and leader of Youth Alive, a Pittsfield step-dance and drumming performance group. More than performance, Edgerton and her own children help young people enjoy a more meaningful life and realize that the circumstances you are born into do not determine your life.
According to Boll, the film is really a gift to viewers, to people who struggle, telling them that there is nothing they are doing that is wrong. “Our work is bleeding into our homelife. Kids are overscheduled, the middle class is disappearing, we are taking care of our elderly and our kids, but there are doable solutions,” Boll said.
“I doubt myself less and say ‘no’ more often. In doing what you are meant to do, you need to stay close to the vision and let people in the process…you also need to stay in charge when others may want to pull you off course. It’s hard work,” continued Boll. In making this film, she wrestled with these issues in her own life. In doing so, she says she found her purpose: to tell stories of folks who sacrifice, struggle and avoid their life’s work and calling until they finally do what matters. “This is a small, good thing,” said Boll.
This article was originally published in the Belmont Citizen Herald: