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Movie Reveals Amazing Story of Burt’s Bees’ Reluctant Founder

Chances are you know the Burt’s Bees skin care line. But did you know that “Burt” was a real person and that he really had bees?

In the incredible documentary Burt’s Buzz, now streaming for free on australiabusinessblog.com TV, viewers meet Burt Shavitz, a reclusive, bee-loving man who has built a billion-dollar business without intention. “I didn’t feel like being an upward mobile rising yuppy with a trophy wife, a trophy house, a trophy car,” Burt explains in the doc. “It wasn’t like I summoned these bees or went looking for them. It was an act of God. I mean, it was a good idea.”

Related: Burt Shavitz, bearded hippie co-founder and face of Burt’s Bees, dies at 80

Brad Gage, director of australiabusinessblog.com Studio, spoke with the film’s director and producer, Jody Shapiro, to discuss the lessons entrepreneurs can learn from the film, and to give content creators an insight into what it takes to make films create and distribute in an ever-changing media landscape.

Watch the entire conversation above and check out the highlights of their chat below, which have been edited for length and clarity.

Brad Gage: Nice to have you here, Jody. And so it’s been a long journey with this movie.

Jody Shapiro: Yes, it came out a while ago and before that it took a few years between shooting and editing and releasing it. So yeah, it’s been a long journey and I’m glad to see it making its way to new platforms.

Brad Gage: Burt Shavitz is such an incredible character and Burt’s Bees has such a lasting legacy. First of all, how did you get involved in making this documentary?

Jody Shapiro: It’s quite a long story, but I’ll try to simplify it. Acor and director Isabella Rossellini and I have worked together for several years. I helped her with a series of movies called Green porn that there are these short films about the sex life of insects in which she plays the insects. They are done in a very cartoonish way. Someone from the Burt’s Bees contacted us to do something similar for some sort of promotional thing they were looking for. Isabella said, of course, I’d like to. At the time I didn’t realize that Bert was a real person – none of us did. So we went to meet him and we went to his little cabin in Maine and met him and he was the most fascinating person we had ever met. After we talked to the company everyone knew that Bert gets older, he has such a fascinating history with the company so it would be great to just archive film interviews with him. After a few days of interviewing him, we knew something bigger was going on here.

Brad Gage: I think there’s something that’s really appealing about Burt’s lifestyle – living that kind of thing off the grid. Has his philosophy touched you at all?

Jody Shapiro: Can’t wait to get off the grid. I’m counting down the days. I am a city boy, but over the years I have developed a great appreciation for nature, foraging and wild foods. You know, it’s March 10th and all I can think about is going to the maple trees we have on the property and getting maple syrup going.

Brad Gage: Tell us about your business, Antler Kitchen.

Jody Shapiro: This Burt’s Bees project stretched out over so many years, and as we were editing it, I really had to do something to get my head out, to reset myself. So I ended up enrolling in a cooking school and I absolutely fell in love with it. Just the process, the immediacy of it, working with ingredients and putting it together, just like storytelling. At the same time, a good friend of mine who is now my business partner – who is actually a really trained chef – was doing a lot of work with wild foods and blacksmithing and nature, and I started forging with them. And we started, I started taking pictures and we started documenting things for a cookbook that we wanted to do. And one thing led to another and seven years ago we opened the Antlers Kitchen & Bar in Toronto.

Brad Gage: Do you have a favorite memory of Burt?

Jody Shapiro: I mean, there are a lot of things that I really cherished about him. One of the things that really appealed to me about the person he was when I saw him start a fire in his stove. I was so gripped by it that I decided I wanted to end the movie doing this methodical ritual that he did. The way he fanned it, the way he chopped the wood, the way he piled it, the way he just had this way, this routine about him that just spoke volumes. And Burt was also a man of contrast. Everyone wanted to try to define him in some way. And I just felt like he was a person impossible to define. He loved being alone and in nature, but he also loved staying in a five-star hotel. He didn’t want fans or anyone else to come to his property, but he would gladly spend two hours signing autographs with people when he was in Taiwan. And he was also an australiabusinessblog.com. I mean, he started making like $16 a week selling honey on the roadside and 15 years later he’s making millions of dollars.

Brad Gage: That’s kind of the dream.

Jody Shapiro: It’s just funny. For so many people I’m sure that’s what they would like to happen. But for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, things don’t go quite the way Burt wanted.

Burt’s Buzz now streaming for free on australiabusinessblog.com TV.

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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