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OWC CEO Larry O’Connor Helps Filmmaker Kiss the Ground on Netflix

This week we saw the debut of Josh and Rebecca Tickell’s feature documentary, Kiss the Ground on Netflix. It is both illuminating and inspiring. It provides an important look at the state of climate change and our environment. But whereas many documentaries of this nature leave you feeling depressed and scared to death, Kiss the Ground is a film that will leave you filled with hope.

What’s even more interesting is that there’s a story behind the story. An example of how business interests and corporate success do not have to be mutually exclusive to caring for the environment. The story of Kiss the Ground is also the story of how OWC was able to apply its passion for making old things new again – to our very planet. It’s a story that provides a valuable lesson to any company or organization looking to make a difference in its community or even the world.

A story about the future starts with a past

What do almost all post-apocalyptic stories about the future have in common? They almost all tell of some ecological catastrophe that has profoundly changed the face of the planet. Either the earth becomes a desert (think “Mad Max”); the earth’s land becomes covered in global floods (“Waterworld”); or the garbage on the planet is so horrible, we have to take to living the skies or space (“Wall E” or “Elysium”). It’s like the sci-fi storytellers of the world have for years known in their core that at the rate we humans are going, Mother Earth will be transformed beyond belief.

Larry O'Connor, OWC CEO
Larry O’Connor, OWC CEO

It is not just narrative storytellers giving us this warning, it’s also scientists, politicians, and even inspirational teen girls.

All of these modern-day climatological prophets have been screaming from the mountain tops that climate change and global warming are real, and if we don’t make considerable changes in how we live our lives, we will leave our children and grandchildren with a world that is literally poisonous to them.

For these reasons, right from the outset, OWC has been invested in creating a work environment that is helpful to the planet.

“When we expanded the campus, we made it dependent on solar energy and wind power,” says OWC founder and CEO Larry O’Connor. “Growing up in rural Illinois, amidst trees and farmlands, gave me a natural affinity for land and preservation.”

Having started OWC in his teens amidst this environment, it’s understandable why Larry would want the OWC headquarters based where it is, taking advantage of technologies like solar power, geothermal, and heat exchange (which powers OWC air conditioning in the summer). OWC’s headquarters have even become LEED Certified—this is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings, requiring the strictest guidelines. 

Larry has also been a contributor to Charity Water, and as the father of four, he’s very much concerned with how the state of this planet will be left for his kids.

OWC Green LEED Campus
OWC HQ in rural Woodstock, IL.

Introducing Kiss the Ground

Given OWC’s interest in green technology, it is no surprise then that they would be interested in a documentary like Kiss the Ground. This inspiring film includes everyone from actors like Woody Harrelson, Patricia Arquette, and Ian Somerhalder (even star quarterback Tom Brady makes an appearance); to corporate visionaries like David Bronner of Dr. Bronners; to the world’s leading scientists and the nation’s top agriculture farmers. (Oh, and OWC plays a part too. But we’ll get to that in a bit.)

"Kiss the Ground" Narrator, Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson narrates Kiss the Ground.

The basis of the film is simple: focusing on reducing carbon emissions to reduce greenhouse gases is really just one key part of the fight against saving our environment from one of the aforementioned apocalyptic futures. Another essential part, one that everyone can get involved in (even you), is what’s called “regenerative farming” and “bio sequestering.” This is where we farm the land in such a way that the very ground itself will “drink in” and absorb the high levels of CO2 in the air, then “feed” the roots and micro-biological ecosystems in the ground. This will, in turn, lead to healthier plants, cattle, chickens, and other farm life that feed us. (Needless to say, this is a gross over-simplification of what the 82-minute film shows). Everything from how we till the ground (hint: we don’t) to how we raise and herd our cattle, to what we do with our waste; all of these techniques become part of a vital “circle of life” that yields cleaner air and healthier food.

“I’ve been on a multi-decade quest to address environmental problems,” says co-director Josh Tickell (pronounced Tick-ELL). He and his wife Rebecca started their production company Big Picture Ranch to tell these kinds of stories.

They even converted their ranch home/production HQ into a regenerative farm. “We are in a time when people are so conditioned to bad news. We wanted to make a hopeful film. One that can break down the solutions into bite-sized parts. “Kiss the Ground” is positive news. It’s a way to make our bodies better, and make the earth healthier. It’s a playbook to get ourselves out of the climatological mess we find ourselves in.”

But before Josh and Rebecca could show us how to get ourselves out of the mess we’re in, they needed help out of their own “mess.” A production one.

Enter OWC and Jupiter.

Jupiter Rising (to the occasion)

Kiss the Ground co-director, Josh Tickell
Kiss the Ground co-director, Josh Tickell

“We wanted to finish the movie in 4K,” says Josh. “When you have four people working on 4K 4:4:4 footage at the same time, stuff doesn’t work well anymore.”

OWC Product Manager for Network Solutions, Luke Engstrom, comments, “They were running into bottlenecks using the system they were using. The proxy server software was causing all sorts of problems that extended to the very hardware. To bring in the stability they needed, I flew down to their ranch with a Jupiter NAS (Network Attached System).”

Josh continues. “We did color in DaVinci Resolve and conforming in Avid and Resolve. We were doing footage interpolations, and pulling footage in at 29.97 and bringing them down to 23.98. Big studios have problems with this, not to mention a small environmental film studio like us. Despite the massive constraints, Jupiter was rock solid.”

Josh was surprised and thrilled at the service OWC provided. “Luke from OWC came out to help the production. He discovered things even the software developers of the proxies didn’t know. Despite being only two hours from L.A., we’ve never had a tech from another hardware manufacturer come out to help us.”

Larry comments on what got OWC involved with the production. “They were at a critical production stage and needed to get these things out of a loop. We came in with Jupiter, which was an ideal solution. It supercharged their production workflow and worked with their existing network.”

Jupiter NAS

This aspect of working with a multitude of systems is a core part of OWC’s product strategy. “We use top of the line hardware that is not proprietary,” said Luke, “so you’re never left in the lurch. And we do it at a great price. We were able to provide them with truly tested hardware systems.”

Josh commented that they’ve never had support like what they got from OWC, and they’ve used all the “big guys” in hardware and software. “Even though Kiss the Ground was a well-funded documentary (as documentaries go), you still have to keep your eye on every dollar. It would not be uncommon for us to get used computers that needed to be editing machines. If you try to upgrade RAM for a Mac through Apple authorized service centers and dealers, you’re back in the ballpark of buying a new computer. Without OWC, I have no idea how we would’ve delivered this film in the way we wanted to with the budget we had.”

A brighter future

It’s not often that a company has the opportunity to invest time, energy, and its products and services in something that has the potential to create real, lasting change in the world. Because a tech geek from rural Illinois had a dream to provide superior products and services while being good stewards of the earth and contributors to their community, OWC has created a legacy where conservation and capitalism do not have to be mortal enemies.

Perhaps what makes OWC’s involvement with Kiss the Ground so much more profound is that in many ways, regenerative farming—bringing the ground back to where it was to begin with—is akin to what OWC does with computer hardware: taking old Mac systems and bringing them back to where they were to begin with. Or even better.

“Every day, it’s a great feeling knowing that our technology is helping stories like these be told,” Larry commented. “Kiss the Ground is entertaining, well-made, and after watching it, you leave inspired to make a difference. It’s a great watch, and I hope it can spark a few debates and bring people to action. Because inspiration and hope are what drives the future.”

Watch the Kiss the Ground Trailer

Streaming Now

Watch Kiss the Ground on Netflix

Director Interview

OWC RADiO Flare Logo
Check out our OWC Radio podcast interview with filmmaker Josh Tickell.

Ron Dawson
the authorRon Dawson
For over 20 years, Ron Dawson has been a professional video producer, content marketer, and influencer in the visual arts industry. He's written for such sites and publications as the Artlist blog, EventDV, Professional Photographer, Peachpit, Planet5D, Zacuto, Animoto, PhotoFocus, The Photo Collective, Pro Photo Resource, and the blog, where he was managing editor and senior content marketing manager. He is the founder of the content marketing agency Blade Ronner Media.
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