Political History was made recently on Maui and Small Wonder Video Services was on the front lines. Sam Small served as the principle Creative Director and Small Wonder Video Services as the principle Production Company for the SHAKA Movement (Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the ‘Aina).
SHAKA made history collecting over 19,000 petition signatures to get the first ever Citizen’s Initiative on a Maui County ballot. The “GMO Moratorium” temporarily suspends genetically modified crop production and associated open-field chemical testing until an Environmental Public Health Impact Statement shows no harm is being done to the people or any of the Public Trust natural resources.
History was also made when Monsanto and Dow, the only Chemical Companies impacted by the moratorium, contributed nearly $8 Million for local advertising, the most spent in any campaign ever in Hawaii.
In all, only 46,005 votes were cast, 22,005 against the moratorium, so Big Ag spent around $360 for each “No” vote.
“They couldn’t have spent more if they tried” say Small, “They had TV spots on every channel, on every show, half-hour infomercials multiple times daily on multiple channels, and as much radio as a political campaign can legally buy. Every few days everybody’s mailbox was stuffed with another color, glossy, oversized mailing too. ”
23,082 people voted “Yes”, so SHAKA spent all of $3.70 for each of it’s votes.
“Monsanto and Dow outspent us nearly 100-to-1 and still they lost.” says Small. “Our total budget, for production and placement, across all media, was just $86,000.”
Small Wonder Video Services functioned as a full service agency, generating and placing four TV and a dozen radio spots as well as press releases, bumper stickers, yard signs, brand logos, websites, web banner ads and print ads. They covered a slew of live events with multi-camera setups and Sam hosted 13 weekly, hour-long interview shows on Akaku, Maui’s Public Access TV.
“I’ve three favorite moments from the campaign”, says Small, “When KITV ran a news piece about a staged P.R. event where Monsanto paid employees to show up at the county building to wave signs, the reporter opened with “The big dogs in Public Relations are out in Maui County over the GMO voter initiative.” I just sat back and gave a one-word response: “Woof”.
“The second was the day after we actually got our voter initiative on the ballot. A big P.R. firm called from LA asking to shoot interviews on Maui and Oahu. We got pretty far into the planning when they added Molokai to the list. That got me suspicious, as there’s not a lot of reasons to shoot interviews on Molokai.
When I asked he paused and said “I probably should have asked up front where you stand on the whole GMO thing, our client is the Groceries Manufacturers Association. “ The GMA is the lobbying group that Monsanto and the other Agro-Chemical companies fund to fight GMO labeling.
“I laughed and told him I was the Chair of SHAKA’s Media Content and Production Committee and since I hosted a weekly TV show that consistently pounded Monsanto for the environmental and heath risks they create, if I showed up on his shoot we’d both be fired on the spot. It was nice to be asked for such a high profile gig but not one I could take.” said Small.
“My most favorite moment though was when it was announced that we had won the election. I was so focused on everything leading up to Election Day that I really didn’t have it on my mind what to do if we won or lost. I was in shock. And I was filming the proceedings, so I basically worked during the ensuing celebration. It didn’t really hit me till later, then I cried.”
“What an extraordinary community effort to go up against these corporate giants on such an important and controversial issue, and win. The dedication and love of life and the land shown here, especially by those who reached into Maui’s diverse communities to talk story was humbling. Media helped but people created Maui’s GMO Miracle.” said Small.
Small Wonder also produced 30 second TV spots for Mayoral Candidate Tamara Paltin and a :60 for State Senatorial Candidate Terez Amato.
Predictably, lawsuits were filed two days after the election. The ripple effects of Maui’s Miracle Victory will continue to spread, perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court.
Fueled by Maui’s community activism Sam created a new local initiative called Maui Causes. Maui Causes is a crowd-funded media group providing production services to not-for-profit, environmental and progressive causes on Maui.
The Maui Causes weekly TV show airs on Akaku’s Channel 55 with new episodes every Monday at 7PM and replays on Sunday at 7PM. View it too at www.MauiCauses.org. Maui Causes is currently seeking underwriters, so it’s a great opportunity to get your company name in front of this community and support Maui’s causes that make a difference.