THE 14TH ANNUAL SHORTY AWARDS

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Special Project

Special Project

Beyond Zero

Entered in Feature Film

Objective

The environmental transformation of Interface, a global carpet manufacturer, is one of the most inspiring case studies in modern business history.  It has enormous potential to inspire business leaders to enthusiastically commit their own companies to solving the major environmental challenges of our age.  One problem, relatively few people have ever heard the story.  

 

Previously, I had used the Interface story to inspire many business leaders in speeches and workshops.  But these venues were never going to achieve the scale of impact the world needs to accelerate the global transition to sustainability and the regeneration of Earth’s life support systems.  To reach enough of the business world to have a meaningful impact, this story would need a broadly distributed and highly engaging medium. 

 

So, in 2019, I decided to make a feature-length documentary film that would screen to current and aspiring business leaders in the world’s top 20 economies.  One problem, I had never made or distributed a film before.   I had no budget, and no team.  But I decided to get to work.

 

Strategy

To bring the film to the screen I turned to the small production company founded by my father.  Though their previous work was mainly historical documentaries, I asked if they would consider taking on the Interface story.  Intrigued by the possibilities, my father agreed to produce the film.  If I could raise the budget.  

 

Next I approached Interface and pitched them the film.  I told them that I didn’t want a dime of funding, and they wouldn’t have any editorial control, but I needed unfettered access to the company’s extensive film archives.  To my great surprise, they said yes.  

 

Now I needed capital, so I approached the  Co-CEO’s of BIGGBY COFFEE, a company that had been inspired by the Interface story to begin their own purpose transformation.  They agreed to provide seed funding -- but only as matching funds for another investor. Independent documentary films might be among the worst investments, from a financial perspective, and unsurprisingly I got a lot of ‘No’s’.  Months later, during an unrelated production meeting, one of my father’s investors heard the pitch, was inspired by the story, and gave us the other ½ of that match.  We finally had enough funding to start production.

 

Our first shoot yielded a trailer and a test scene.  With the those in hand, I attended a major 3-day business conference hoping to meet more investors.  Late on the 2nd day, feeling like I hadn’t made any progress, I decided to throw caution and humility to the wind and asked the conference organizer if she would show the test scene on the main stage.  She said she’d think about it, and I could smell defeat.  Instead, she shocked me by agreeing to screen the scene five minutes later.  After the screening, a man approached me and said that he had previously been inspired by the Interface story to transform his own company.  He asked how much I needed to finish the film.  I told him our bare minimum budget number to complete the film, and he agreed to fund it.

 

Six months later, we submitted the finished film to dozens of festivals.  All of them declined except for Boston and Denver, where we won major honors.    While many in Hollywood told us they were impressed by the film, no one wanted to distribute it. So, we decided to get to work.

 

Results

We began organizing city-level premiere screenings, hosted by “business as a force for good” advocacy groups.  We created a system where corporate sponsors could host screenings, which funded curriculum development, making the film accessible for educators.  To date, scores of companies, such as Target, JLL, and KKR, have used the film to inspire tens of thousands of their employees and Beyond Zero has generated roughly $500,000 in revenue.  

These funds completed the film’s deferred budget and facilitated the completion of the complementary educator curriculum.  These tools are now in use in hundreds of business classrooms around the world including at many fo the world's most prominent business schools - all for free.

The film has also attracted international partners who are building on this model to distribute the film across Europe, Mexico, Hong Kong, China, Australia, Thailand, Korea, Turkey, Dubai, Canada, and South Africa.  Thanks to these efforts, Beyond Zero is now subtitled in 12 languages.

In the Spring of 2024, Beyond Zero was picked up by Delta, KLM, United, Emirates Air and Jet Blue for their inflight entertainment systems.  Subsequently, web traffic on the official film page went from a few hundred hits per month, to more than 13,000. Monthly viewership of the film is now estimated in the hundreds of thousands.  

Beyond Zero has now reached business leaders in 15 of the world’s top 20 economies.  All of this has been achieved with $0 in ad spend and only word-of-mouth, strategic partnerships, and volunteer-driven outreach.

Media

Video for Beyond Zero

Entrant Company / Organization Name

HaveyPro Cinema

Links

Entry Credits