February 18, 2014

Brewconomy: An Interview with Camden Watts

In North Carolina, a small group of filmmakers are exploring what makes our local beer economy so vibrant. Set for release in 2015, Brewconomy will reveal the people and the passion behind North Carolina craft beer. If you'd like to learn more about the project and meet the filmmakers, there is an information session tomorrow, Feb. 19th at the Bull City Burger & Brewery in Durham, NC. To get a behind the scenes look at the project, I asked producer and director Camden Watts a few questions...

1. Camden, what inspired you to create this film?

Craft beer and I have had a slow-burning romance since Pop the Cap legislation was signed in 2005. This film is essentially a love letter to craft beer and the people making it. I’m a huge fan. The more I learn, the more I fall in love with it.

The idea began at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, N.C., after Ignite Durham a few years ago. I had just listened to Shane Johnston give a talk about craft beer. (Watch the video here.) Since I was wrapping up my first feature-length documentary at the time, we jokingly talked about making a film about North Carolina craft beer. That turned into a few, more serious, conversations after my film wrapped. Now we’re actually making Brewconomy and I couldn’t be happier about it.

2. Is this your first documentary?

This is my third documentary and my fourth film. I keep a list of my films here if you’d like to learn more. I produce and direct, mostly on documentaries and comedies.

Filmmaking is something that makes me ridiculously happy. It’s challenging, complex, and collaborative. I also get a chance to meet interesting people and share their work with the world. My hope is that every film I make will help improve someone’s life a little, through awareness about something I believe in or a bit of comedy.

3. What experience do you have in film making?

I’ve always dreamt of being a filmmaker, even as a little girl. My background is in graphic design, photography, and communications. I’ve also worked in marketing and project management. But I never had a formal filmmaking education.

Much like home brewers testing their beers and improving each step of the way, I’ve been learning more with every film I make. The school of hard knocks is filled with unforgettable teachers. Those lessons aren’t easily forgotten.

Brewconomy is going to be my best film yet. We have an incredible team and very professional crew working on it. So that people can get an idea of what we’re working on, we’ve been posting clips on YouTube. I’m so proud of what we’ve captured and how it’s all coming together.

4. What's so special about local beer in general, and NC beer in particular?

Local craft beer is an incredible thing. It’ll be tough to keep this answer short.

Like a lot of folks, I was used to drinking watered-down beer that had very little flavor. Over the years -- and with a lot of help from friendly brewers and beer enthusiasts -- I’ve come to love the taste of just about any style of craft beer. Each one is so different, flavorful, and delicious.

A lot of breweries source locally, which is what makes North Carolinian beers so distinct. They reflect the area because they’re made from what’s available here. I prided myself on knowing the South well because I was born and raised here. Then we interviewed Sean Lilly Wilson at Fullsteam, and I was schooled pretty quickly. They make beers from fruits I never knew existed, like the paw paw. Check out their forager series of beers; they’re incredible.

We interviewed the folks at Riverbend Malt House who are helping brewers make distinctly Southern beer. They provide brewers with locally farmed, artisan malts. They’re doing such great work. Watch a clip from our interview with Riverbend Malt House here and learn more about their work with New Belgium here.

But, you know, it’s not just the beer, the experience of savoring each sip, or even pairing it with amazing food that keeps me fascinated. It’s much bigger than what’s in the pint. The craft beer industry is having a big positive impact on the state’s agriculture, community, and economy -- and that’s the focus of our documentary.

5. Why should someone support your Kickstarter campaign?

Beer enthusiasts should support the Brewconomy Kickstarter campaign because they believe in local brewers. We do. We want to share their story -- but we can’t do it alone.

The Kickstarter campaign is helping us fund the rest of production (equipment, travel, accommodations, talent, etc.), but it’s also building a community of supporters. That’s really important to us. We want the community to be a part of the filmmaking journey.

By contributing to the campaign, backers will get behind-the-scenes information about the making of Brewconomy in addition to rewards. Our backers will be with us every step of the way. When the film makes it into festivals and starts screening in 2015, our backers will be able to say, “I helped make that film!”

I’m so grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve already received. We’re very close to our $10,000 goal. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing site so if we don’t make the goal, we don’t have that cash to put into the production. Every dollar counts.


We need help. Please become a Kickstarter backer. Tell your family, friends, and co-workers about it. If they’re not familiar with how to use Kickstarter, walk them through the process. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as we continue making Brewconomy. Thank you!