Sundance Film Festival premieres story of Wrightsville’s butts

by Marimar McNaughton
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lumina News file photo

Danielle Richardet is interviewed during production of the Brita-sponsored Filter For Good environmental film, "My Daily Ocean: A Story of Butts," on Dec. 3, 2010 at Public Beach Access No. 4.

A slightly jet-lagged yet euphoric Danielle Richardet has come down for a landing this week after a world-class weekend in Park City, Utah, for the premiere of her film "It Starts With Me" (previously titled My Daily Ocean: A Story of Butts) during the Sundance Film Festival which continues this week.

The film features Richardet, of Wilmington; her husband, Aaron; and their three children, Chase, 8, Claire, 6, and Henri, 4, who canvass Wrightsville Beach in 20-minute increments for the sole purpose of sweeping the strand of its cigarette butts. Richardet’s role model Sara Bayles, of Santa Monica, Calif., is also interviewed as is Mark Armen, designer of The BaitTank, an artfully designed cigarette butt receptacle, and Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti. Local surfers led by Kevin Murphy of Ocean Cure were filmed by award-winning Sundance director Destin Daniel Cretton who brought a crew to Wrightsville Beach for the filming last month.

Richardet was one of three women whose story was told by professional filmmakers bankrolled by Brita’s Filter for Good short film campaign. "A Plastic Tide" is about plastic trash calved from the Pacific Gyre that washes up on Hawaiian beaches. The other is about a Boston-area charter school that is America’s greenest school.

Richardet said she befriended some amazing people throughout the entire experience.

"Park City itself is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been," Richardet said. "The film festival itself is very laid back—we saw some really amazing films—and the Brita FilterForGood event is where my film was screened," she said.

Brita, she added, was one of the event’s biggest sponsors.

"They give out 40,000 reusable water bottles during that event. They have their fill-up stations … instead of a water cooler they’re directly hooked up to the tap with their filter," she explained. "They eliminate a lot of plastic water bottles."

Cretton’s documentary of Richardet’s Wrightsville Beach experiment—picking up discarded cigarette filters, counting them, weighing them, storing them in recycled plastic containers and marinating one butt in water—includes statistical data. It was a perfect fit for the Brita company whose message is to eliminate single use plastic water bottles through an investment in its water filtration system.

The Richardets also purchased one of Armen’s BaitTanks and donated it to the Town of Wrightsville Beach for installation at the Trolley Stop. Mounted on a pole, the rectangular metal box is scored with perforations that resemble fish gills. A shark fin mounted to the top of the box should help draw attention to it along with the message across the front: "Save some fish, feed me butts. The toxins in littered cigarette butts leach into oceans, rivers and lakes killing marine life. You can help prevent this."

Richardet said that Bayles and Armen will be visiting Wrightsville Beach this summer to participate in her routine beach sweeps.

"I just love Wrightsville Beach and I hate to see it trashed," she said. "Until there’re some major changes . . . I just want some education in place, something that’s going to make what’s there now, better. I never expect for perfect, I just want to get to better."

She said as long as there was litter, she would pick it up.

"There’s some people in the community, we’re talking about a plastic bag ban. We’d really like to. . . move forward with that … not just for Wrightsville Beach, but Wilmington," Richardet said.

Meanwhile for Facebook fans, "My Daily Ocean: A Story of Butts" can be screened online at and on the Sundance Channel now through April.

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