Burt’s Buzz at the Gibraltar Room Saturday afternoon.

Burt’s Buzz at the Gibraltar Room Saturday afternoon.

Burt’s Buzz wraps film club matinees

The film club screens Burt's Buzz Saturday at the Gibraltar Room.

We will be showing our last matinée for this season on Saturday, April 12.

Burt’s Buzz will be shown at the Gibraltar Room at 2 p.m. Back doors open at 1:30 p.m. Admission is $5 each, kids under 12 are free.

I have not had a chance to see this documentary as it is very hard to get.

So I have to rely on what I have been sent by the Toronto International Film Festival. Director Jody Shapiro and Burt Shavitz sat down with Marlow Stern at TIFF to discuss Burt’s journey, and how he was screwed out of the company fortune.

You have seen Burt Shavitz before. The bounteous beard, the tilted cap, the soulful eyes.

Products bearing his iconic image have graced the lips, hair, and faces of millions of men and women across the world.

But the septuagenarian co-founder of Burt’s Bees, the eco-friendly personal care products company, isn’t too keen on seeing you.

“A good day is when no one shows up and you don’t have to go anywhere,” he says.

Burt is a paragon of rustic. He spends his days shacked up in a 400-square-foot converted turkey coop in the backwoods of Maine.

He doesn’t own a television and, ever since his water heater broke years ago, heats water on a wood stove.

Now, the accidental entrepreneur is getting the documentary treatment in Jody Shapiro’s film Burt’s Buzz, which made its world premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

The film traces Burt’s journey from wayward hippie-news photographer in the 60s to co-founder of a multimillion dollar company, and his current gig as brand ambassador for the company he was forced out of.

“He’s like Colonel Sanders, you know?” says his assistant, Trevor, in the film. “And to him, he just does not understand that.”

Burt was born in Great Neck, New York. Since following in his father’s footsteps as a factory worker was of no interest to him, Burt took to photography, snapping pictures of “bums on the Bowery,” as he puts it. He was eventually hired as a staff photographer for a Jewish weekly and then, after they purchased some of his photographs, acquired a press pass for Time.

He worked as a freelancer for publications like The New York Times and Life, photographing anti-war rallies, pollution, and popular figures of the period like Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, and Allen Ginsberg.

But when the television started to become popular, Burt realized that there was no longer much of a market for his photos.

“I saw the handwriting on the wall and decided it was the right time to leave,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, it was a good time to be in New York back then. Anything went. Anything. But the good time was over.”

In 1970, Burt threw his mattress in his Volkswagen van and, along with a few buddies, drove upstate to the High Falls, New York, area. After a series of heavy rainstorms, Burt decided to drive around and survey the damage. He stumbled upon a swarm of bees on a fencepost.

The year before, a guy that I’d been buying honey fro, who was a beekeeper, had given me everything I needed to be a beekeeper except the bees—a hive, a mask, gloves, a smoker, a hive tool, everything,” Burt recalls. “So, there was this fencepost, and I said, ‘My lord, this is an act of God! I can’t turn this down.’”

Burt called on his beekeeper pal, who scooped up the bees from the fencepost with his bare hands, and dumped them into a hive. They plugged all the openings with torn underwear, and took the booty back to his home in Alligerville, New York. Before long, he had amassed 26 beehives, dripping with honey.

The rest of the story is history, as you might say and this you just have to see for yourself. This Saturday, at the Gibraltar Room, 2 p.m.

Remember, proceeds from our film screenings help to support the LDA, the Williams Lake Chapter of the Association for Students with Learning Disabilities for one-on-one tutoring. The LDA has now partnered with the WL Child Development Centre. Your support is greatly appreciated!

You have fun, you learn something new, you help your community – it cannot get much better.


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