Time for a Change: Kip Pastor
Kip Pastor worked on Capitol Hill as he studied policy and diplomacy, but he found out he could make a bigger difference in Hollywood.
Thirty-year-old Robert Kiplin McNamara Pastor went from earning a degree in Diplomatic History at the University of Pennsylvania to serving as an international trade consultant in Mexico to working at a law firm in Washington, D.C. It didn’t take Pastor long to realize, though, that his desire to make a difference was not going to be achieved in our nation’s capital. He left politics for Hollywood, heading to the American Film Institute to earn an MFA in production.
Once Pastor made the career change it didn’t take him long to get working. He began producing short films, creating music videos, and even writing for such publications as the Miami Herald and Christian Science Monitor. It wasn’t until the release of the documentary In Organic We Trust that Pastor got the recognition he wanted—both for the subject matter and himself.
Kip Pastor: I did some law and a little business. Actually, what I always wanted to do was influence public policy and have an impact on the debates. After I was doing trade consulting in Mexico, I went back to Washington, D.C. and I thought to myself, I really enjoy story-telling, so I’ll take some night classes in film and get a day job in politics until I decide what I’m going to do with my life.
I had come back from a good job in Mexico and I wasn’t really humble enough to get onto the Washington ladder and have to get an unpaid internship and work my way up. I got to the final round of a lot of interviews, but they always said ‘everybody else has five years on The Hill and a master’s degree.’ I did not. I really enjoyed the night classes in film and I started working in a production company. That was it. I then applied to the American Film Institute that spring and started in the fall.
KP: Upon finishing [at AFI], I just hopped right in and started a small company with friends. We did short films and music videos and whatever would come our way.
KP: It’s definitely a hustle. The problem I had in D.C. was that it was really about ‘my team winning’ or ‘your team losing.’ It wasn’t as much about the ideas and the ideals that people think about with politics. I thought that when I came to L.A. my ideas and the social issues that I wanted to work through film could be initiated more quickly. I found out that Hollywood is a little bit more corrupt and has more greed. Instead of dealing with people who want to win, you deal with a little bit more ego. It doesn’t mean people are green-lighting the best projects or working with the best people, there’s other factors involved.
KP: Pre-production is a lot of phone calls and a lot of research. Production to me is the lifeblood of the whole project. We had a mantra when we were making In Organic We Trust, which was whenever we started to hit a creative wall we needed to go out and shoot something. That was sort of the way that we lived because there’s nothing more inspiring than actually getting out there and physically capturing what’s going on and hearing what people were doing through the visual side of that story. I think that’s really important.
Our story was about an idea that it was about an individual story so it wasn’t like we had to run out and track down much. Our filming was a little bit more intentional. We were scheduling it. I think we shot 13 or 14 days.
KP: I thought it would be easier. Getting people to write back and respond was very hard, but I’m already in pre-production on the next one and after this one has been successful and under my belt, it’s been a lot easier getting people to respond.
KP: From conception to finish it was about three years, but really it was about two years because we started filming in August 2009, we didn’t get any money until January 2010, and the movie was done in February 2012. It was two years from when I got cash, three years since I wrote the original prospectus.
KP: Yes. It’s actually been on the festival circuit for a year. We played it at 23 festivals and it won a bunch of awards. Starting in May  we began doing community screenings, which was a really important part of our distribution because we find when people watch documentary late night on their laptop as they are going to bed, they are less likely to have an impact on the community, or on themselves.
“It took three years, not because the film needed to take three years, but I personally subsidized the film for the last year-and-a-half by producing commercials.”
The film was just released digitally and it’s doing quite well. We’re getting a lot of good publicity and hopefully that will revive the community screenings. I also realize that not everybody can get to those so it’s good to have it mobile.
KP: We really wanted to get people together, have a dialogue of people and have a conversation of what is going on in their local communities. The best way to do that was to bring people together around the movie. So, we did that for nine months or so, but it’s a very laborious project. It takes an enormous amount of work for people to do it. It’s usually non-profits and they are understaffed and they aren’t properly funded.
We ended up launching on iTunes, and it’s on Direct TV, Verizon, and a bunch of other cable carriers right now. We’re still going to be doing the community screenings, but I think now groups are going to be hearing about it. We had no advertising or marketing budget so the word of mouth is starting to flow more.
KP: There was never a theatrical release [planned]. It was going to be an expensive prospect for us that we thought was not going to be beneficial. It took three years, not because the film needed to take three years, but I personally subsidized the film for the last year-and-a-half by producing commercials. I just had to stop working on it for six months at a time so that I could subsidize the film. So, when you come to the end, you’ve spent it all on post-production. I have a huge investment in the launching of it.
KP: A lot of things. I’m still directing and producing commercials and music videos and I started working on the next feature documentary [Where is Away?] that deals with toxicity and people. There will be some overlap with the pesticides we did In Organic We Trust like household products—cleaners, deodorizers, toothpaste, shampoos, and what the impact is on us.
Research is coming out this year that hasn’t been published yet, but what’s happened is the amount of plastic and petro-chemical based products in our lives are finding their way into us and the fish are eating the plastic, the bigger fish are eating the smaller fish and the bioaccumulation, bio magnification… and then we eat the fish. Some of these chemicals break down in our system, but others stay in our fatty tissues and are stored. They haven’t really figured out what these are going to do to us.
Have some feedback for our editors? Contact Us