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Matthew Palmer, who is repped by Avocados and Coconuts for commercials and branded content, is set to debut his latest feature documentary, This Land. A film exploring seven groups of Americans as they experience Election Day across the U.S., the politically-skewed documentary feature premiered In Competition at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Executive produced by Sundance and SXSW winner Jim Cummings (Thunder Road, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow), This Land will be available to stream on September 6th on digital platforms, including Amazon Prime, Apple TV/iTunes, and On Demand.
This Land is a ground-level look at several diverse individuals across the country as they participate in a pivotal election day. Among the Americans profiled by Palmer is a Native American voter who grapples with systemic oppression, a same-sex couple that finds themselves on opposite sides of the political divide, and a rodeo clown whose primary concern is just being a good father. Palmer’s camera aims to document quiet and human moments along the way, while history is made in voting booths across the nation.
“Traveling for my commercial work, I often get to see different cultures, and interview people who are on the opposite political spectrum from me, across the country and even in California alone,” recalls Palmer. “For This Land, people were interested in participating because the election was pivotal for so many. We wanted to take a fly-on-the-wall approach, as opposed to fanning the flames of divisiveness. People live more in the gray than the black and white.”
To prepare for filming, Palmer and his team spent over a year from 2018 - 2019 researching and contacting different potential subjects across America. Eventually, these were narrowed down to seven groups across different states, each with vastly different positions on the election cycle, or simply their own compelling stories. From there, things geared up with producers coming on board, including Brian Gagliardi and Undine Buka, and Avocados and Coconuts as an associate producer. Everything was falling into place to document the 2020 election... until a pandemic happened.
“Our initial goal was to spend time in person with each featured individual, but COVID made that impossible,” says Palmer. “We were able to connect with each extensively over Zoom and, eventually, put out an open call to anyone who could film in states in which we weren't focusing on a specific individual. In the end, 42 states were represented in the final film.”
Known for his stylized and cinematic documentary style, Palmer’s work has been screened around the world and has been featured in The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Aeon, and more. “A lot of the branded work I’m drawn to is more about the tonality and visuals, combining moments together that paint a greater picture overall,” says Palmer. “This is something I tried to bring to This Land. I’m drawn to real people and working to approach them objectively, letting them tell their own stories. By helping them bring more of their lives to the surface, I’m more of a conduit for their personal stories and perspectives.”
This approach is what Palmer credits with allowing him to capture some of the most intimate moments in the documentary. One storyline follows a father who voted for Trump, while another features a mother who voted for Biden and whose child has special needs. Towards the end of Election Day 2020, Palmer’s cameras caught both politically-opposed parents putting their children to bed and each singing the same lullaby.
“Things naturally came up, and it was so surprising how many things mirrored each other,” recalls Palmer. “As the election got tenser, Biden and Trump are saying all these things, and yet here we are watching two parents sing the same lullaby.”
While Palmer makes no predictions about where the future of the country will lead, he is proud of the vision presented in This Land. “Letting the subjects share what they want with the world, that was always our goal,” concludes Palmer. “I was inspired by films like Hale County This Morning, This Evening, and Slacker, which were a bit more experimental, but ultimately, we aimed to be a portrait of a place.”
About Avocados and Coconuts:
Avocados and Coconuts is a creative production agency that produces content that’s worth watching and re-watching. With a deep bench of in-house talent and resources, we connect the heart of creativity and the brain of production to help brands we love tell cinematic stories — from bite-sized content to epic brand films. Nike, Google, Apple, Instagram, Facebook, Adobe, and Airbnb are just a handful of those brands. www.avocadosandcoconuts.com