Interview with Chloë Fitzmaurice
Director of For the Bees
Ahead of Pollinator Week, we caught up with Chloë Fitzmaurice, director of For the Bees, to ask how she got involved in this project and about the unique challenges of working with and filming bees. The award-winning short can now be streamed as part of our Pollinator Playlist.
How did you first connect with Khaled? What made you want to tell this story via a short film?
CF: We originally heard about Khaled’s honey shop through the Oakland community. One day I walked into Bee Healthy Honey Shop and we started talking — about 10 minutes into that conversation, I was convinced I needed to become a beekeeper. Unfortunately, my landlord wasn’t as excited about that idea so we decided to make this film instead. For the Bees is also part of a series of short films by Yelp called Behind the Business: an inside look into what it takes to turn one’s small business dream into a reality.
One day I walked into Bee Healthy Honey Shop and we started talking — about 10 minutes into that conversation, I was convinced I needed to become a beekeeper. Unfortunately, my landlord wasn’t as excited about that idea so we decided to make this film instead.
In the film we see Khaled conducting a workshop about his bees. We’ve seen this in other bee-focused shorts like Detroit Hives. What is it about beekeeping that makes it such a great opportunity for community education and engagement?
CF: Very true — beekeeping workshops are an incredible place to start many different types of conversations with our communities — about food production, pollination, our natural habitats and beyond. Similar to gardening, having that hands-on learning experience gives folks the opportunity to think deeper about the connections we have to our environment and our food. Nothing just just shows up on a shelf at a supermarket — everything has an origin story. Plus, honey is delicious so there is always a yummy treat at the end!
There’s some really great up-close shots of the bees and even within the hives themselves. How did you go about capturing this footage?
CF: I’ll let Dan Williams, the cinematographer, take this one!
DW: One of our goals for this project was to get up-close and personal with the honeybees, aiming to see things from their point of view. We captured exterior close-ups on the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro camera with a 90mm macro lens, and then we used a specialized Laowa 24mm probe lens for the shots invading the hive. Khaled set up a hive on its side and we lit the interior from the rear and dollied in between the frames on the opposite end. The wide angle of the probe lens gives a “bug-eye” perspective and allows for a quick glimpse into a secret world.
One of our goals for this project was to get up-close and personal with the honeybees, aiming to see things from their point of view.
Did your team have to take special precautions while filming to protect yourselves and the bees? If so, was this pretty simple to manage or was there a learning curve?
Great question — and one that many others have been curious about too. I was actually only stung once throughout the entire process. We wore bee suits while filming however most of the time we probably didn’t need to — the bees always seemed very calm around Khaled. Dan’s bee suit did have to be modified so he could look through the viewfinder. To do so, he cut out part of the mesh and glued on some goggles.
For the Bees won our Eric Moe Award for Best Short on Sustainability. What kind of impact has winning this award had for either of you? And what kind of impact has screening this film at festivals had on you generally?
CF: Winning the Eric Moe Award for Best Short on Sustainability was an incredible honor. In addition to being a beekeeper and business owner, Khaled is also a proud father of four children; and although the film suggests a profound devotion to his beloved bees, his children truly are the center of his universe. The honor of receiving an award that acknowledges a parent’s unconditional love for their child was a humbling experience that I will treasure forever.
As for other festivals, it was a joy to share For the Bees with so many folks all over the country. However, if I’m being honest, my favorite part was getting messages from folks after they saw the film saying, “I just ordered some honey from Khaled’s honey shop — I can’t wait to try it!”