Vancouver filmmaker explores co-operative businesses across Canada

A New Economy screens Nov. 15 at the Rio Theatre

Whether it was through nature or nurture, Trevor Meier had little choice but to co-operate from the time before he could walk.

The Vancouver-based filmmaker was born and raised in a tiny, unincorporated farming community outside of Prince George where sharing and cooperation weren’t just niceties — they were a means to survival.

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“The open space, and the time you deal with — a lot of which is spent wrestling survival — is very different,” he said. “These are people who I wouldn’t necessarily choose at first blush to be close friends or people I depended on. But that’s the situation you find yourself in.”

That imprint has stayed with Meier for three decades and is at the root of his newly-released documentary film, A New Economy. The film screens Nov. 15 at the Rio Theatre, and plans are afoot for other showings across Metro Vancouver by the end of the year.

A New Economy focuses on how different co-operative models are employed across Canada: a craft beer start-up, an open source tech firm, a farming company and even a string quartet, among others.

Over the course of its 85 minutes, the narrative explores companies not reacting out of crisis or absolute need, but as a means to strive for something better.

“Capitalism has created an incredible amount of freedom in the world,” said Meier, 36. “As we’ve pursued that, we’ve advanced our quality of life and standard of living. But there is something more that can be done.”

One of the groups examined in the film is a tech company called Sensoirca. Based in Montreal, engineers from across the globe contribute to open-source hardware projects. Once that product is sold, those who participated in its creation get a proportionate share based on the work they put in.

The film also follows the co-operative efforts of Vancouver’s Solefood Street Farms and the Borealis String Quartet. Solefood is in the business of adapting urban spaces into food-producing spaces, while the Borealis angle speaks to the heart of musical co-operation through performance pieces sprinkled throughout the film. 

Meier’s film debuted to a sold-out Vancouver audience in October, and its upcoming screening is an encore. The film has been shown across B.C. and Canada, and more local screenings in the works for before the end of 2016.

“I hope the film prompts conversation because these are all things that somebody walking into the theatre, they can go away and do themselves,” Meier said. “A lot of this stuff happens from those kinds of conversations.”

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