Aaron Perry



Michael Cain discusses EarthX Film, which he co-founded with Trammell Crow to share movies that cause people to make positive change. The EarthX Film community provides a network that links film experiences to philanthropic causes, and, as Michael describes, “makes it easy for people to make small changes and see the positive impacts of those changes.” A father of daughters, Michael also describes the importance of female perspectives in these times, and encourages us to engage in collaborative efforts within our communities. He advocates eating a whole food diet, knowing farmers, sweating every day, and the importance of self-care in maintaining health and well-being in the context of a very demanding career and responsibility laden position of leadership. A commencement speaker and recipient of an MFA from the American Film Institute (AFI), Michael has produced and executive produced over 25 feature-length films, 30 commercials and 10s of music videos, many of them award winning projects, many following his mission to change the world for the better, including his directorial debut, TV Junkie, which was awarded the Sundance Special Jury Prize and premiered on HBO. Michael founded the non-profit Arts Fighting Cancer (AFC) which raised funds for cancer relief through the Deep Ellum Film Festival (DE/F2), Lone Star Drive-In and the Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier among others. He was Founding Artistic Director, CEO, Chairman of the Board and President of The Dallas Film Society which hosts the Dallas International Film Festival (Formerly AFI DALLAS) one of the top 30 film festivals in North America. In 2017, he co-founded the EarthxFilm Festival with Trammell Crow as part of the largest eco-expo, conference and film festival, EarthX, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020 – coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Michael calls us to sign up for the EarthX newsletter at earthx.org, to volunteer at the EarthX Film Festival and Expo in April 2020, and to join the EarthX League.


(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes - grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

Welcome to the YonEarth Communities Stewardship and Sustainability Podcasts series.

Today we are at EarthX Film visiting with Michael Cain.

Hi, Michael.

Hi, how are you doing?


How are you doing today?


Thanks for having me on.

Well, we're really excited to have this opportunity to visit with you.

And I know we're at a big event that you guys hosted last night here in Dallas, Texas,

and appreciate you taking the time in your busy schedule today to visit with us a bit.

And before we dive into our conversation, let me just tell our audience a little about

you and who you are.


So Michael Cain is the president and co-founder of EarthX Film.

His mission is to change the world for the better through storytelling, which led him

to co-found EarthX Film in 2017.

EarthX Film is an environmental festival which showcases films and emerging interactive

media that explore conservation, climate change, and the environment.

EarthX Film is a division of the nonprofit organization EarthX, which was founded by

Tramble S. Crow in 2011.

EarthX is the world's largest environmental expo conference and provides and film festival

excuse me, which takes place every April in Dallas, Texas.

The event and year round activities provide a non-partisan platform for all parties to

openly discuss environmental problems and work towards solutions.

In 2019, over 177,000 attendees, 650 organizations, 6,500 youth, and 400 speakers participated.

Michael received his Master of Fine Arts from the American Film Institute in producing

where he was granted the honor of commencement speaker.

Cain has produced and executive produced over 25 feature-length films, 30 commercials,

and music videos.

Many of them award-winning projects, which align with the mission of using media to inspire

and create social change, including his directorial debut TV junkie, which was awarded the Sundance

Special Jury Prize and premiered on HBO.

And Michael, I know you've also worked as producer on jobs, on tower, and now you're working

on a piece called Bigger Than Water than I'm really excited about.

I want to dive in by asking you, how did you get into film as a way to work toward social

change as a way to work on many of these environmental and cultural challenges that we're facing?

I ran the and started the Dallas Film Society in the AFI Dallas International Film Festival.

I started in the Deepellin Film Festival.

Deepellin Film Festival was a Film Festival raised money for cancer relief.

So I began to understand the fact that you could link these sort of experiences with philanthropic


And so through programming Dallas International Film Festival, we began to see great movies

like The Cove come along with Luis Sohoius, and we didn't understand that there was some connection

that if we could figure out the impact piece of it, that movies could change the world.

And I always got involved with films because I believe they could change the world.

It's just the environmental piece of it.

It's the one that I came really late to the table on.

And I'd even give credit for Luis Sohoius and his film Race and Extinction.

They approached Tramble about coming on, Chip Cummings, and group approached Tramble about

coming on.

I saw a cut of the movie, loved it, and then helped negotiate the deal, helped make it so

that it was a win-win for Tramble and for Luis.

And so the film got in Sundance after that and then helped educate Tramble to see the

fact that these movies could be used as a tool to go along with the conferences and the

expo, but to create social change and also just changes within government.

You know, if they don't know about it, how are they going to change it?

And I think film has that power to be the catharsis for everything.

Yeah, absolutely.

Last night we watched together Sea of Shadows.

And I was wondering if you might share with the audience just, you know, a quick synopsis

of what we saw last night and why you think that's so powerful to share with the community


Sure, absolutely.

And that was a film we played during the film festival and it received an impact award

which meant the money didn't go to the film.

I went to the cause behind the film because that's the other thing.

People don't make movies to show them to people.

They make them to create change within people and they make them to promote the causes

that they're actually filming.

So it's not enough just to watch a movie.

You've got to actually create impact.

So that movie does a great job.

Set in Mexico begins with an investigative reporter Carlos Lorette who was there with

us last night and follows his investigative journey to find out why this particular

fish, Lord, I'm going to blow the name of a natural toroaba was being used basically

called the cocaine of the sea because in Asia it's so expensive to have and unfortunately

the small group of 3,000 fishermen in the Baja of Mexico are using illegal fishing methods

that are causing the Vakites to go extinct.

So you have multiple environmental stories, you have economic impact, you've got a crime


So the movie does a great job of tying it all together to realize that none of these

problems are simple to solve but they have to be solved.

Yeah, absolutely.

One of the things I really appreciate about the movie is that it really shows how our

consumer demand in various parts of the planet is having massive and profound effects

on ecosystems and communities of people in other parts of the world and it's very clear

to us at the Y-Earth community that this is one of the mechanisms we really each need

to understand and wield appropriately for the healing of our world.

And so all of the movies that we show and that movie is a great indicator and shows you

what these movies can do, they're using it, getting in front of government officials

and as government officials are saying, one, we need to move on this because this is


You know, if I don't get ahead of this, I could find myself on the bad side of history

being the group who did not do something about it once there, the facts were laid out.

And I think that's another piece of it, it's education, but it's a wedge.

You know, it's a tool to be able to go to these people and say, you better do something

because the rest of the world is going to know you didn't do something.

Yeah, that's really powerful.

Speaking of powerful, you've been at this a while, right?

Earth X and Earth X film has really beautiful momentum and critical mass at this point.

2020 is going to be a really important and powerful year.


What's going on in 2020?

The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is coming around.

That's the last night, you know, it was the half-hour day which is basically a kickoff

to six months leading up to this 50th anniversary and, as Tramwell has said, oftentimes, if you

don't get people involved on the 50th anniversary, they're not getting involved on the 51st.

You know, it's one of those whether it's a corporation or a nonprofit or an educational

institution or government entity, just to walk in and say 50th celebration, 50th commensuration

of this movement, what are we going to do?

How are we going to work together?

How are we going to create an alliance?

Now, let's think about 2030.

How do we create an alliance that in 10 years we're looking back and saying we fix something.

We solve something.

We solve the problem where we learn about the problem during that time and then we work

together because it's not enough to get one billion of the people on the planet engaged.

You know, when you look at it, eight billion coming up shortly, we have to figure out a

way to look beyond the barriers that exist and look for ways that we work together.

And I said, film and media, you know, if you watch a child or an adult watching virtual

reality, like there were last night, we had the largest eco virtual reality festival in

the world also that runs in tandem with 49 pieces last year.

It moves you.

It makes you come off there and you're like, I love those animals.

I love that part of the world.

I'm afraid for this.

What do I do?

And so that's excited.

This 50th anniversary is a great spot for us to reach out to people and say, get on board.

How do you want to do it?

How do we get you involved?

I really love this and I love how you're looking ahead to 2030 and thinking about alliances.

In fact, I got to give a shout out.

So, Joni Klaw, one of our premier ambassadors and global advisory board members is here

with us off camera, hi, Joni.

And you know, she and I, we were just talking earlier today and we often talk about and

envision and work toward increasing partnerships and collaborations to help with many of these

complex and seemingly intractable challenges that we're facing.

And I'm just curious, Michael, for you, when you're thinking about what's coming in 2020

and when you're thinking about the next decade of work that we can all be doing together,

what is it that comes to mind for you and what is it that you know, you're holding

in your heart with this work that you're doing?

I want to make it so that it's easy for people to see the small changes that they can make

in their life to create a big difference and to not be overwhelmed by the negativity.

You know, it's a complicated situation.

There's no moment that you can think about almost anything where you just go, we can

solve that.

The point is what we can do is create collaborations to solve that.

We can, I think the planet has the ability to heal itself in many ways, not every way,

and we shouldn't take that for granted if we get out of the way.

If we just do what we can, do positively, but we quit doing the bad we're doing to it.

If we look at single-use plastics, just a really small example, if you think about what

happened with plastic straws and how there's a movement, but there's a long way to go there.

If you think of materials, then the fact that what things are made of is a big part of

don't buy something that ultimately you have to look at the 360 of where's it going to

end up, is there a plan for it?

Everything ends up somewhere.

Think about clubs, are you buying new clubs, are you buying second-hand clubs, are you

buying better clubs?

Gently worn.


You're looking for things that are going to be around for the rest of your life.

You're buying shoes made out of recycled plastic for the ocean.

I think just one small, educated decision after another, and no shame, no blame, but looking

for the ways that we can be a part of the positive change.

I really love this, and you know, the durability and quality and thinking about whole systems


Of course, with the why-north community, we really emphasize two key things, detoxification,

and of course, decarbonizing atmosphere, bringing those levels back into balance, and detoxification

has to do with virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives, and it's one of the

reasons I love Patagonia just to segue a little bit to remind folks, this is the why-north

community stewardship and sustainability podcast series, and we're visiting with Michael

Cain at the EarthX film Headquarters here in Dallas, Texas, and I just want to give a quick

shout-out to our sponsors and partners, which includes Patagonia, Weila Waters, Purim,

the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, the LIDGE Family Foundation,

Beauty Counter, and the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, of course, I'd

be remiss not to mention also Earth Coast Productions, a huge thanks to all of you for your

support of this work, not only with the digital media and communication work that we're doing,

but also, of course, with the community mobilization work we're doing in communities all over,

and also a huge thanks to our friends and ambassadors out there who have joined our monthly

giving program, your donations really help all of this work, and if you haven't yet joined,

it's very easy to do.

You can just go to whyoners.org and click on the donate button or whyoners.org slash support,

and you can join the monthly giving program at any level that works for you.

When you do that, I will send you an email with a very special code to unlock all of our

e-book and audiobook resources for free, which you can share with your friends and family,

and we really encourage that support.

2020, I often mentioned to folks, might be one of the most important years in our species

history and story, given all that's at stake, and Michael, I'm just wondering, I know you've

got two daughters, and I overheard you chatting a bit last night about how having daughters

has somewhat reoriented or transformed or impacted, certainly, your approach to all

of this work you're doing.

I'm wondering if you might share a little with us about how that's affected your journey

and experience becoming a father and having daughters.

Yeah, it was a few years ago, actually, my first daughter, I have Athena and Delphine,

they're six and four, wife Molina, who did a great job raising them while I'm traveling

a lot.

I was in Harbor Island and I was on the beach and I was standing there and I was looking

at my daughter who was in front of me on the beach with the waves coming up in front of

her and she was standing there and she stopped and she walked over and picked up a piece

of trash and walked over and put it in a trash can that she could barely reach into.

I was like, at that level, it's already ingrained in her to take care of this.

So I have to use the power that I have with limited that is and if anything, I feel like

I'm a connector and I can get good people together and I can figure out a way to help

them meet and know each other.

I've got to use that.

I've got to encourage and support storytellers and get them telling the right stories or even

maybe more importantly, children's stories, things that are youth oriented and a big part

of what you even see behind us, we have a youth film competition that we do and that's

come out of the fact that my two daughters, what age and not four and six, but what age

can they start to make content?

At one point, can they start telling their stories and their perspectives and we've got

the March Versight Youth Summit that's coming up this year at Earth X and we're working

also with good media and upwardly and Instagram and Facebook and creative visions, part of

a planet 911 coalition to help them tell stories from around the world that we showcase

here but then we showcase them again to the world.

How do we get those out?

My daughters influence and the female perspective, to be honest, I've always had a great admiration

for women and respect and now to see them, I want to make sure they have every opportunity

in the world equally to be what they want to be and do what they want to be and a lot

of that means how do I give them the opportunity to be a part of the solution and I have to

leave by example, I have to up my game and that's what's been going on.

I bought a Tesla that hasn't arrived yet after I just finished this last lease on my car

because I said, you know what, I want them every day to get into a car that is electric.

I want them to think that way so that they'll never think the fact that they have to have

be limited to options and we're 98% fossil fuel economy right now anyway, that's not going

away in the orders that have to go away completely in the short term but we have to be smart

doing, you know, we can't change industry overnight, right, right, it's about incremental

changes, it's about accelerating change where we can and yeah, I'm curious given how busy

your lifestyle is and how much you travel and so on, what are some of your personal practices

that help keep you healthy and imbalanced, you know, well-being is so important with

all this work that we're doing and I'm curious if you might share with us.

Sure, I just, I've only watched Louis Soho's films, I watched The Game Changers and my wife

and I went whole food plant-based based on that.

We'd always been the kind of people who knew we bought our food from a farmer's market,

we knew the people who raised the chickens, when we were eating chicken or the beef, when

we were eating beef and the eggs and you know where our produce comes from and the fact

that it's organic, those are some of the choices besides just being healthy and trying to

sweat every day, you know, it's that once again, don't tear yourself down, it's the way

the planet is, if you don't tear yourself down then the body will take care of itself

and so, and I would love to say that I have time to take mental time to enjoy everything

but I enjoyed this, I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed the people I get to meet, the environmentalist,

the storyteller, the ones who are much smarter than I am, I get to be around really cool

people all the time and that's healthy.

Absolutely, love that Michael.

Well I know that today we've got a very tight schedule with you and I want to make sure

we're being respectful of that.

I'm asking my team to make sure that when the, my next group, sorry, is true.

Yeah, before we sign off, I want to make sure we're giving everybody the URLs where they

can go to find out more how to get involved with EarthX film, how to best support any of

these calls to action you want to share with our audience.

Sure, everything I think starts at the earthx.org site, I think that's a great place to

get involved and people can volunteer and there's a film drop down in category in there,

the same way there's conferences and expo, you know, download the app, download the earthx.org

app and it's got a lot of great tips, the earthx league which is an initiative where we're

doing where we're creating a space for people to collaborate and work together, come to

our year round screenings, you know, that's something we do is we do at least one a month,

one times this, this month we're doing three, next month we're doing four, we thought

November would be an easy one, but the red is there's so many great stories that need

to be told and we just need, we have to get them out there, it films like The Ghost Fleet,

that, you know, important film about the fishing industry and even slavery, you know, the

river in the wall, a great film about the environmental impact of what's going on, if

you build a wall of the Rio Grande, then taking away the political and going into the nature

piece of it, those are the kind of movies we see all year round, yeah, earthx.org, earthx

film on social media, Instagram, Facebook, if we don't have Pinterest I'd be surprised,

but those are great ways to keep up and then sign up to our newsletter and then let

us know if you have a better idea than us, we're fine with feedback and people coming

to us to say and have you thought of this, because we don't expect that we know everything

and we don't want to be the people who know everything, we don't want to get comfortable.

We created with Tramol a safe space to have awkward conversations, I love it, and that's

where change happens, change is about preaching to the choir, that's not having the same

group of environmentalists, how bless us, in a room, we already got it, we need the

people who are the ones who don't know it yet, and once we educate them to choose a language

of love, so find a way to talk to people without putting them down and say here's an idea

of something to do, so all those sites connect you to a community, I think that's the important

thing about what you're doing and what we're doing, it's absolutely beautiful, the collaboration

of the community, I really, I really love it and appreciate it, but I believe we're co-pettidors

not competitors, co-pettidors, yeah, like this, working to create a larger pool of people

who need to know about what we do, absolutely beautiful, Michael, thanks for taking the

time to visit with us today and before we sign off, is there anything else you'd like

to share with us with our audience?

I think what's important, it's so interesting, and if your audience is an audience of environmentalist,

people who care about the planet, it's different than the message when you speak to a conservative,

and as Tramble, who is a Republican, we have conservative conservationists in our audience,

be open to the dialogue, be, you know, don't walk in with the closed mind, don't walk

in with a, because you believe this, I don't want to talk to you, that isn't how change happens,

you know, like I said, if you get to a church, if you get to a university, the whole reason

that whoever's up front is speaking is because the assumption is that the people that they're

talking to need what's coming out of them, you know, the dialogue, and if you don't just

get to a church and preach to the choir, you don't necessarily go into teachers, don't teach

teachers, teachers teach students, and so I just think is to be open to that, as an I don't know

it all, and I want to know more, and I want to get to know your side of the story, because I may not

agree with you, but we all agree that we best want clean water, and clean air, and a better

future for our children. Yeah, beautiful. Well, thank you, Michael. Thank you, I appreciate it.

I appreciate it. Thank you. Have a nice day. Yeah, good job. Wonderful. Thank you. See you later,

everybody. The YonEarth Community Stewardship and Sustainability podcast series is hosted by

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Y On Earth - Podcast Cover
Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 61 - Michael Cain, President, EarthX Film

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