After making three documentaries on oil, “Kiss the Ground” directors Josh Tickell and his wife Rebecca Tickell were looking for a more exciting topic to tackle. And what’s more exciting than oil than… soil? “Our community, a number of our friends, people in the environmental movement and climate movement said, ‘Look, you gotta make this movie on dirt,’” Josh Tickell shares during Gold Derby’s Meet the BTL Experts: Documentary panel (watch above). “And after making three movies on oil, we thought, ‘God, that’s a real downgrade!’ From oil to dirt.”
But the Tickells came around to dirt after studying all the data sets that showed that climate change could be reversed through a groundbreaking (no pun intended) process called regenerative agriculture, wherein carbon dioxide is sequestered in the soil to re-establish former food supplies and ecosystems. “That was the convincing factor. Once we saw the data, we were like, ‘OK, this is worthy of a film,’” he says.
The next challenge “from Day 1 until the very last final cut” was a big one: “How do we make this, what is strictly a scientific proposition, come alive for people?” The Tickells went about it two ways, first by peppering the doc with a wide range of personalities, from environmentalists and ranchers — “we looked for people that were both doing this and were relatable” — to famous faces like Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, who’s an executive producer, and Jason Mraz, who also penned an original song, “Kiss the Ground,” for the film.
The other was to animate the science behind the process in such a way that it’s a simple visual language people of all ages could understand. “We wanted that through line to be the animations and the graphics and the visual world where … people have the realization, ‘Oh! Oh, my gosh, we could totally reverse climate change.’ That was only possible through the visual storytelling tapestry we had to create,” Tickell notes.
Unlike some documentaries that are merely “doom and gloom,” “Kiss the Ground” presents a solution that everyone can partake in to ensure we still have a planet to live on for generations to come. To that end, starting this month, an educational version of the Netflix doc is being released. “It’ll be available free to every student in America, as well as parents, teachers and community organizers,” Tickell explains. “There’s an educational version of the film because we realized, wow, this is the backbone of a whole new education around how we deal with planet, how we deal with climate, how we deal with refugees, and ultimately how we’re gonna live on this planet.”