Meet Nina Messinger, Director of “Life-Changing” Vegan Film that’s Free to WatchNovember 16, 2018
Austrian author and speaker, Nina Messinger, didn’t have any filmmaking experience when she set out to make her inspirational and highly-acclaimed vegan documentary – H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters – but that didn’t stop her.
Nina’s dedication to her vision to create a free documentary to reach as many people as possible and show them the short-term and long-term effects of our eating habits, helped her secure the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Prof. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., Dr. Melanie Joy, Dr. Will Tuttle, Benjamin Zephaniah and many more.
We spoke with Nina to find out more about the film and supporting project and how you can use this fantastic free resource yourself for vegan outreach.
Tell us about yourself… why vegan?
For me, being vegan is not only incredibly healthy, as I eat a whole food, purely plant-based diet, but it’s also the most sustainable and kindest way to eat. Knowing what I do about the impact the meat and dairy industries are having on our health, on deforestation, wildlife and the eco-system, and on the lives of billions of farmed animals annually, I consider veganism a moral responsibility. And I love the food!
You’ve been a speaker and an author; how did you find the transition to filmmaker?
After my German-language book Du sollst nicht töten! Plädoyer für eine gewaltfreie Ernährung (Thou shalt not kill! Plea for a non-violent diet) was published in 2011, I felt I needed to do more to spread awareness of the numerous benefits of a whole food plant-based diet and highlight the dangers of the mass consumption of animal products and relentless animal agriculture machine.
I believe film to be an incredibly impactful medium for sharing ideas and information, and found that, despite having no former film experience, I had a strong and clear vision of the documentary I would go on to make.
I was lucky enough to work with incredibly talented individuals, to whom I am very grateful, that taught me a great deal and helped me realise my vision. It was not an easy transition, but it was a very rewarding process which delivered very rewarding results.
What challenges did you face in creating the documentary and how did you overcome them?
I faced many challenges during the making of H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters, the most difficult being that I was a complete newcomer in the industry, all I had was the vision of my film and the strong desire to realise it, so I had to learn the ropes very quickly.
In terms of filming practicalities, it was hard gaining permission to film at factory farms and slaughterhouses, which was not something we experienced with the fruit and vegetable farms that feature in the film.
I genuinely found this surprising. Shouldn’t all consumers have the right to see where their food comes from and what happens to it before it ends up on the shelves of a supermarket?
It begs the question, if we’re not allowed to see how our food is produced, do we really want to eat it?
Fortunately, we were able to overcome this issue and film some footage through persistence, perseverance and helpful contacts, but we also made use of archive material.
There were also financial challenges as I decided to produce the film without the aid of subsidies. H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters was produced through private funding and donations, and I also borrowed money from my family and friends.
My team and I experienced many more challenges throughout the making of the documentary, but the determination to see it out in the world made these easier to deal with. My experience is that, He who burns for something, finds a way to carry it out into the world. I believe my film is evidence of that.
How long has this documentary been in the making?
I started work on the film shortly after the publication of my book and continued work on it for three years between 2012 and 2015. The German version of the film had its nationwide theatrical release in 2016 under the name Hope for All. Unsere Nahrung – Unsere Hoffnung. The English version, H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters, was released in March of this year.
It is free to watch, is available on our website and on YouTube, and we’ve also made all screenings completely free. It was very important to me that there be no obstacles to access the film, because I want H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters to reach as many people as possible.
As part of this, we’re regularly adding new subtitle languages, and the film is currently available in 10 languages.
You’ve featured interviews with so many inspiring people in the film. What were some of your favourite moments?
I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to interview many world-renowned experts for the film, including Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Marc Bekoff, as well as individuals whose lives have been changed by adopting a whole food, plant-based diet. They were all wonderful interviewees, and I am very grateful to all of them for sharing their time, wisdom, passion and ideas with me. I don’t have a favourite moment as such, creating a film that features so many people that I admire was so special that I just can’t pick!
What kind of feedback/support has the documentary received so far?
The support and feedback we’ve had about the film so far has been heart-warming. I want to thank every individual who has taken the time to speak to me about the film in person, has sent me emails, has left comments on our social media posts and has helped spread our message by sharing the film.
I’ve had countless messages saying, ‘this film has changed my life forever’ and ‘I’ve been moved to tears’, it’s gratifying to know that the work that has gone into the film has paid off and that people are touched, and ultimately changed, by it.
We’ve also had support and praise from influencers in the movement, including John Robbins, Dr. Neal Barnard and Sir Paul McCartney who described H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters as an “important film that highlights the choices we must make to help protect this planet and all its inhabitants.”
H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters has also been featured on major organisations and news outlets including One Green Planet, Food Matters, Veg Source, Plant Based News, LIVEKINDLY and Vegan Life magazine.
The film has been shown at many film festivals worldwide (including Sedona International Film Festival, Peace on Earth Film Festival and South African Eco Film Festival) and events like VegFest, Viva! Festivals and Yogific’s Yoga & Vegan Festival. I am so pleased the film has resonated with viewers and am deeply touched by the continuing response.
There’s essentially two parts to your work – the film and the supporting project.
What are your plans for both of these going forward?
Our plan for the film, H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters, is to continue to spread the film and its messages. The film’s main aim is to educate individuals about the important issues of our time; the healthcare epidemic, the irreversible destruction of our earth and the persistent violence inflicted upon innocent beings every second of every day, so that they can feel empowered to make an informed choice about their lifestyle.
Our plan for H.O.P.E. The Project is to continue creating unique and effective videos and films to inform, entertain and inspire. I am currently in the middle of shooting a series of short films, which will feature individuals from all walks of life, whose lives have been utterly transformed by cutting out animal products and adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet. Myself and my team are incredibly excited to share the new content with members of our community, and beyond, early next year.
How can someone use this fantastic resource that you’ve created to help others?
Share it. Share it with your family, your friends, your community. If I created the most powerful and affecting film ever made and no one saw it, it’s not going to make any difference in the world!
So, if you’ve enjoyed the film and found it educational and beneficial, please do share it and encourage others to watch it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes, do not think because you are just one person that your actions don’t make a difference.
They do. In this consumer society one of our most powerful tools we have is our shopping basket, if you don’t want to support it, then don’t buy it. That goes for animal products, single use plastics, unsustainable fashion, whatever, if we don’t support these industries with our money and, instead, encourage the alternatives, then there will be change.
For more information on the H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters film and project, visit www.hope-theproject.com.
As a writer, Emma’s work has been featured in other popular well-being and spiritual websites such as Elephant Journal, IVORY magazine, and she’s part of the Huffington Post’s team of regular bloggers. Her writing was also included in the Tiny Buddha book 365 Love Challenges from Tiny Buddha,released in 2015 by HarperCollins.
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