LONG BEACH ISLAND - The Oyster Farmers, a feature length documentary centering on coastal life in New Jersey, was officially released March 19 via Virgil Films.
Jetty decided to fund the film via its Jetty Rock Foundation, the 501(C)3 nonprofit arm of the brand, in 2016, but the ethos of the film truly begins with Superstorm Sandy.
Director Corinne Ruff was emotionally torn in 2013. The Long Beach Island Region had been dismantled by the historic hurricane leaving mounds of sand and wreckage everywhere. Ruff was focused on the Barnegat Bay though, with boats strewn, sunken debris and tackling water quality issues.
She dove into researching how the once prolific Eastern Oyster, an economic and cultural keystone, had been decimated. The world had been left with about 10% of its oyster reefs due to over-fishing and pollution, but where did the oysters go?
Families like the Maxwell’s & Parsons, both featured in the film, have worked the Jersey waters for the last 100 years. An oyster renaissance was imminent, as Matt Gregg and Scott Lennox (40 North, Barnegat Oyster Collective) infused the industry with a fresh approach to oyster farming. The dichotomy between them and the old school is presented throughout the film, but the community revolving around the water is the true ethos.
Jetty makes apparel for people that thrive in coastal communities and it made a lot of sense to fund a film through their nonprofit which focuses on environmental initiatives.
One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day - that fact alone was enough to draw the brand into an entirely new world with the intent to restore the special bivalves.
“We didn’t know a thing about oysters being little water filters. We grew up fishing and enjoying the Bay, but clams were more of the cornerstone. When we dove into this film we pretty much answered the call to action before the film was even screened,” said Jetty CEO Jeremy DeFilippis.
That call to action was to initiate an Oyster Recycling Program which puts shell back onto the bottom of the Bay. Oyster spat (“babies”) need a hard substrate to land and grow on (“home”). The naturally occurring spat in present day water columns have limited “housing options”.
The film aims to raise awareness of the lost oyster culture and to preserve the baymen heritage. Ruff initiated the local movement back in 2013 when she conceptualized the film and ran an “oyster soiree” event.
She partnered with Oak Leaf Films and brought in Angela Andersen as an environmental consultant and producer. Jetty rounded out the project with design, marketing and financing assistance. It has been screened regionally, at film festivals (it premiered at the Lighthouse International Film Festival in 2017), received several laurels and even reached venues in London and California.
A hard copy DVD is also available at select retailers as well as at Jettylife.com and in the Jetty Flagship Store. @TheJettyLife