SPECIAL FEATURE: High Tail the Hybrid to Greentopia

By on September 4, 2012
Linda Moroney
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Much like consumers have individual payment preferences (cash versus credit), individuals have developed their preferred method of learning. Whether a reader, watcher, or do-er, Greentopia Festival is poised to percolate minds at is annual celebration of wide-open thinking. Greentopia, which will commence September 10 – 16 in the historic-yet-progressive High Falls district, offers an array of opportunities to connect with Mama Earth and her 7-billion roommates.

Meeting Linda Moroney, documentary filmmaker and director of Greentopia | FILM, has all of us at Rochester Woman swept up in the buzz leading up to this festival with a loftier purpose. Having grown to seven days of intellectually-stimulating films from last year’s two, Moroney – an otherwise modest, redheaded, pixie-like woman – can’t help but declare herself “the luckiest girl in the world” to be in her position.

“My passion is documentary filmmaking and I get to program nothing but nonfiction films,” says Moroney. “I’m so excited about what we’re doing here at Greentopia this year and I feel it’s a new way of thinking in a certain regard.”

The final schedule of films was unavailable at press time, but Moroney hinted at the topics she’s excited to present, particularly because she has taken the liberty to apply sustainability concepts beyond the realm of environmentalism and agriculture and expand into topics like urban revitalization and public health care.

“We strive to create a carnival-like atmosphere since our mission is rooted in some pretty heavy topics,” says Moroney. “[Greentopia] is all about excitement – who wants to go to a green-living festival if it’s all ‘the-end-is-near’ brow-beating?”

It’s an attitude Moroney has applied to parenting as well. Alongside her husband, WXXI producer Todd McCammon, Moroney has immersed her 4-and-7-year-old sons in an environment that has built a foundation for lifelong learning and curiosity. Both are already well-versed in what Mommy and Daddy do, filming short Lego-centric stories with their help. Moroney has looked to her sons for insight for her current project, a documentary telling the story of a literacy program at Ontario County Jail. “The Storybook Project” is the working title of her film, which follows a group of volunteers who assist incarcerated parents in recording a series of bedtime stories that are sent to their children. As a human being as well as a parent, the film has evoked harrowing gratitude.

“Making [The Storybook Project] has been a love letter to my children,” says Moroney. “While my life is relatively boring in this scale and I will hopefully never need a program like this … anything can happen and I’m not above the law. I am grateful for how lucky I am and inevitably call my father after every visit [to the jail] and thank him for being a good dad.”

Like an investigative journalist, Moroney’s curious nature and love of learning serve well in her arena. “Documentary filmmaking is the only game in town to me because of the puzzle you put yourself in,” says Moroney. “You think you know the story that’s going to come out, but during the interview process you begin to uncover something more fascinating than what you were expecting. The challenge is when you, the filmmaker, the storyteller, are forced to bend in another direction.”

Six years ago, Moroney and her family were faced with that same kind of idea adjusting. Arriving in Rochester from New York City and settling in West Irondequoit, she found it less challenging than anticipated to adapt to the perks, almost idiosyncrasies, of upstate life from backyards to snow days. As what many do when starting over in a new place, Moroney almost immediately aligned herself with like-minded individuals and worked at the High Falls Film Festival. She enrolled her sons in early childhood education camps at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

“This is a fantastic and forward-thinking place for raising families because of the great arts and culture there is to offer here. I didn’t know much about Rochester outside of Kodak – if you’re a filmmaker, you know Kodak – but when we came up here we made the most of what there is to offer. Now I don’t want to leave this area. With this exquisite landscape and plethora of festivals and activities, why would I want to go anywhere else?”

Greentopia | FILM is only a fraction of what is in store at the 2012 Greentopia Festival. Moroney invites everyone to celebrate the opening of this year’s edition on Tuesday, September 11 at “Short Courses,” a unique pairing of food and film at Restaurant Good Luck. For more information, visit www.greentopiafestival.com or call 287-5560.

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