Back to Blog List
Director Oliver English Feeding Tomorrow at 2023 Woodstock Film Festival

2023 Woodstock Film Festival: A Conversation with Director Oliver English about “Feeding Tomorrow”

By inside + out | September 6, 2023

In celebration of the 24th Annual Woodstock Film Festival, INSIDE+OUT presents a series of interviews with filmmakers in this year’s festival. Today we catch up with director Oliver English to talk about his upcoming film, Feeding Tomorrow, a powerful and hopeful documentary about the future of food.

Food influences every part of our lives, yet our national agricultural system is going terribly wrong. From our emphasis on cattle farming and chemical fertilization to wasteful distribution, there is a direct connection between unhealthy soil and unhealthy people. Feeding Tomorrow poses one of the most important questions of our time: How can we feed the earth’s population of 8 billion people in a just, sustainable, and environmentally responsible way?

Gorgeously photographed and lushly scored, Feeding Tomorrow provides a visual feast while explaining the history of modern growing practices. The film offers inspiring, in-depth interviews with experts applying radical change, literally sowing the seeds for our future, including an organic farmer implementing regenerative agriculture, a teacher incorporating food awareness into a well-rounded education, and a nutritionist healing patients and changing hospital menu practices by growing healthy food on site. Feeding Tomorrow prescribes individual as well as collective work toward a new economy that can reduce food insecurity, disease, and suffering across our planet


Oliver English Is a filmmaker, food advocate, and former restaurant developer. Growing up in his family’s restaurant business, Oliver became intimately involved in the world of food, and has been ever since. He is the cofounder and CEO of Common Table Creative (CTC), an impact-driven production company specializing in advancing global food, sustainability, and social justice issues. Oliver co-directed and produced CTC’s film, We Unite with the United Nations and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. As an expert in food systems storytelling, he and CTC have been featured at the EAT Stockholm food forum and at COP 27, the UN’s Climate Conference.

So, without further adieu, let’s meet Oliver English (we LOVE what you are doing!)

INSIDE+OUT: Tell us about your latest film, which will be shown at this year’s festival.

Oliver English: Feeding Tomorrow is a powerful and hopeful documentary about the future of food. While it is rooted in growing a more just and regenerative food system, the film is also about systems change. It’s about the need to change our food, healthcare and education systems. To illustrate the bigger change we need to see, our film follows visionary leaders in farming, healthcare and education as they work to create new models in their own communities and share those new models with the country and the world. These models are rooted in the ideas of stewardship, interconnection and the positive impact we can all have. We look at systems change as well as sharing individual impacts people can make on a daily basis to be part of a more sustainable world.


What inspired you to choose a career in the film business, and what was your journey?

About seven years ago, a chance encounter with a farmer in the Bahamas would radically change the trajectory of my life. I grew up in the restaurant business, studied hospitality at Cornell, and worked as a restaurant developer and operator for many chefs and hospitality companies around the world for years. Despite my background in the world of food, while opening a restaurant in Abu Dhabi, I realized that I had never really asked the question, “Where does our food come from?” or thought it might have a bigger impact on the world around us.

While opening a restaurant in the Bahamas a few months later, I went into the walk-in refrigerator to find much of the produce was wilted and tired since much of the production was coming from the US and went through the extensive distribution chain. Realizing we wouldn’t be able to serve it at scale, I sought out a local farmer to source some local produce for the restaurant.

The farmer, Sekani, whom I ended up meeting, was the first person to explain to me how interconnected our food system is with all aspects of our lives, from our health and the environment to society at large, education and food access.

I was so inspired by this meeting and thought, “Everyone needs to meet a farmer.”

If it took me this long, perhaps others had not met one either. I called my brother Simon, who was at the New York Film Academy, who suggested that we film an interview with him. We returned three months later to film our first interview with Sekani, now featured in our documentary, about the future of food. So inspired by that interview, we started interviewing other leaders working on creating a healthier food system – farmers, educators, climate scientists, nutritionists, entrepreneurs, etc. With the goal of sharing a positive, hopeful vision for the future of food, Feeding Tomorrow was born.

The film would ultimately lead to us starting a full-scale production company called Common Table Creative, where we now work with some of the world’s leading food companies, nonprofits and NGOs to share stories about the future of food and sustainability more broadly.


What was your most rewarding or the most challenging project to date?

Feeding Tomorrow has been both our most rewarding and challenging project to date. While we have created around 30 short-form projects and short films through our production company, Common Table Creative, with Feeding Tomorrow being our first feature documentary. Although my brother went to film school, I did not, so we really learned on the fly. Over the years, we also built an incredible team of more experienced producers and executive producers who helped guide us and make it happen.

But honestly, learning how to make a film while making a film was incredibly difficult. That being said, there was never a question in my mind that we would make it happen – it would only be a matter of time. And it was the people we met with and filmed with along the way that kept us going. Meeting and getting to know the visionaries in our film – Mark Shepard, Lisa Mcdowell, Thabiti Brown – and so many more – inspired us more than I ever could have imagined. Seeing firsthand the kind of change they were able to make in their communities with their limited resources gave me and our entire team incredible strength and fortitude to continue the project. We knew their stories deserved to be shared with the world.

As we saw the challenges we were talking about in the film – climate change, ecosystem and soil destruction, health and inequality epidemics sweeping the nation – in the news every day, we knew we had to keep going. We knew that these stories – of interconnectedness and systems change – were the kinds of stories more of the world needed to see, hear and be inspired by.

Director Oliver English Feeding Tomorrow at 2023 Woodstock Film Festival

What are your thoughts on technology and the changing landscape of the TV and film industry?

Technology has allowed storytelling to become a bit more democratized and decentralized, which I think is a good thing. Over the past few years, we have all experienced the transition to streaming and the oversaturation of content, including social media, in some ways. There is some incredible work being done, from short-form series to films and documentaries produced by networks as well.

We have also seen much of the allocated entertainment “budget” or “attention span” go to social media, particularly Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Essentially, if young people have an hour of “screen time” at night, they are increasingly choosing to “scroll” or get their various types of entertainment from TikTok or YouTube versus TV. More recently, even a streaming service.

While these changes pose challenges for traditional TV, it does provide an opportunity for younger creators to produce great content that is moving and impactful. Rather than needing a studio, filmmakers and producers can create shorter-form content for YouTube and TikTok that speaks to viewers. I think this is particularly important in the worlds of positive and sustainable-oriented storytelling.

I am also very curious to see what happens with AI and the writers and actors strike. With so much changing so quickly, replacing people with AI or various technologies becomes easier. So, I think it’s important to protect those people and workers in the creative fields. Without the proper protection, people can and likely will be taken advantage of. As a fellow creative who runs a small business, I fully support these various actors, writers and producers in the larger film and TV industry who work hard every day to bring us the incredible portfolio of entertainment options we enjoy every day.

What is one question you’re constantly asked or what’s the biggest misconception about what you do?

“What are the most impactful things people can do to be healthier or more sustainable when it comes to food?”

It’s really about going back to basics – eating whole foods, mostly plants, that are in season and sourced as locally as possible. When you can put plants at the center of your plate, eat as minimally processed foods as possible and compost. Support your local farmers by buying locally at the grocery store or restaurants or especially going to the farmers market and buying directly from them.

Now I realize that our current food system is not set up to make these changes always easy or affordable, and that is by design. So when you can, as much as you can, work towards these steps. We know from visiting farms all over the world that the same food from the same farms that will heal our bodies and fight disease will help heal the planet. Those are the farms that focus on organic and regenerative farming practices and, in particular, soil health—the healthier the soil, the healthier the plants, animals and humans who eat from that chain.

Can you put your finger on what makes a great Director and who inspires you?

There is a wonderful, well-known quote from Maya Angelou that we would always reference in the hospitality business:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I have come to realize and appreciate the same is true for great film directors. It is not any one aspect of the technical production or execution; it’s that je ne sais qua, that intangible when everything is brought together. In the world of food, you might call it the Umami. It’s the extra lever of feel and taste achieved when all of the elements – story, cast, script, locations, etc. are brought together. It’s a certain style or taste that one exhibits. For me, I love Christopher Nolan and David Gelb. They both have incredible style and attention to detail and are so dedicated to the craft. The level of appreciation for detail and style comes through and puts them on a totally different level. Nolan, overall. And Gelb with respect to storytelling around food. Both have been big sources of inspiration for me and my team.

What are you working on now that you’re excited about?

We are excited to launch the film to the public in December of this year. Along with the film release, we are launching an impact campaign to help support people and our broader society towards transitioning to a more sustainable food system. We will launch a dynamic impact campaign website that will provide ongoing support and opportunities for people to engage in sustainability. We will also continue to support our regenerative school farm project, a pilot project we launched at a public middle school in Santa Monica. Aside from Feeding Tomorrow, we are working on a few short-form projects about the future of food through our production company, Common Table Creative.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to craft and implement a fully regenerative world. A world where we put the prosperity of all people and the planet at the center. In this new paradigm, human health and welfare are deeply connected with the health of the planet. A world where we as humans learn to live in harmony with the earth and see ourselves as a fundamental part and connected to nature. Not one where we constantly, endlessly extract and degrade in the name of progress.

In this new world, regeneration is central to everything we do. We transition to food, fiber, health and energy systems that actively work to regenerate and enhance our ecosystems through time. Through our more modest consumption and production, we actually build healthy soils, biodiversity, clean air and forests. We think of cities more like the forest, where every resource, organic or inorganic, is circular and recycled. Our sidewalks, buildings, homes and schools have a negative carbon footprint.

Every school and home has a farm or garden that contributes to and supports healthier food systems. Everybody in every community has access to healthy, affordable, nutrient-dense food. This new, localized food system forms the cornerstone of an enhanced community connection, leading to greater levels of human happiness, health and prosperity.

The beautiful thing is that this is the world we have the capacity to create and build together and so much more. Let’s start with the way we eat and then the way we see the world.

Director Oliver English Feeding Tomorrow at 2023 Woodstock Film Festival

+ + +

About the Woodstock Film Festival
Connect > Website | Facebook| @woostockfilmfestival | INSIDE+OUT Premium Page

 2023 Woodstock Film Festival

Founded in 2000, the Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that nurtures and supports emerging and established filmmakers, sharing their creative voices through an annual festival and year-round programming to promote culture, diversity, community, educational opportunities and economic growth.

WFF provides innovative mentoring and inspired educational programs benefitting filmmakers, students and diverse audiences while serving as a powerful cultural and economic engine for New York’s Hudson Valley and beyond. Such efforts have consistently resulted in the festival being hailed as one of the top regional film festivals worldwide. The Woodstock Film Festival is an Oscar®-qualifying festival in the short film categories – Live Action Short Film, Animated Short Film, and Documentary Short Film.

Now in its 24th year, 2023 promises to as exciting as ever! 2023 lineup and Tickets HERE.
Full and Weekend Festival Passes are available – Get Your Festival Passes HERE

Write a Comment


Have an account?