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Each year, the Openlands Annual Luncheon draws over 1,000 people in the largest gathering of the regional conservation community, also serving as a significant fundraiser for Openlands.  As active members of the conservation and Openlands community, Curmudgeon Group was thrilled to direct and produce two high quality, compelling films for use in the 2020 virtual luncheon.  This year’s theme revolved around large landscape preservation, in celebration of the keynote speaker, Dr. Avecity Chicchón, and the conservation leadership award honoree, Debra Moskovits, as well as the vital role the protection of green spaces of all size plays in conservation today. 



Environmental Services

Natural Resources Conservation

Land Restoration

Policy and Advocacy

Non Profit


Film Production

Creative Development


Branded Content

Environmental Advertising

About the Client

Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives.  Openlands is one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation and the only such group with a regional scope in the greater Chicago region.  Openlands unites the people and resources of the diverse Chicago metropolitan region around the goal of land and water protection, providing a healthy vibrant space to live and work. 



Josie and her team were such a pleasure to work with.  Everyone they interviewed shared the same positive comments.  Most importantly, the pieces they produced were beautiful, powerful, and moving – first rate in every way.  I can’t thank them enough for generating such wonderful products and for being a delightful group with which to work.  We look forward to collaborating with Curmudgeon Group again in the future. 

Jerry Adelmann, President and CEO

The Challenge

Our goal was three-fold:  to produce compelling, relatable, cinematic content that allowed the Openlands community to come together virtually and resulted in a renewed appreciation for landscape preservation, while inspiring donors and volunteers to make actionable impact; second, to help audiences connect to the Amazon and Chicago’s green vision by capturing the stories of people working together around the world to preserve our environment; and third, to celebrate the leadership of two extraordinary women and the vital role of landscape preservation, both large and small, on conservation and on people.  

One challenge we faced was the broad scope of programmatic work underway within the organization, and the task of capturing that scope in a clear, definitive way without losing sight of the larger narrative.  While Openlands is highly respected within the conservation community, they faced limited brand awareness due to inconsistent messaging.  As a result, they were looking to hone their brand messaging around three areas – land preservation, forestry, and green solutions; the films, then, became an opportunity to kickstart the Openlands brand in this new direction.

The virtual campaign targeted a number of audience segments, from Openlands members, funders, and volunteers, to conservationists and “climate consumers.”  The challenge here was to tap into and connect the core values of each segment – from building a more climate resilient and environmentally just future and highlighting the bonds between people and nature, to the importance of collaboration across sectors and program innovation, and last but not least, action-based education, training, and volunteer programs.  

During film production, our biggest obstacle was accounting for and scheduling the number of locations and talent we sought to get on camera with a limited, two-person crew in a relatively short period of time.  Due to the Covid pandemic, permits and access to locations, and corresponding on-camera talent shifted up to the very last minute.  

Our Approach

We felt it was important to viscerally explore Debby’s work in the Andes-Amazon region while underlining the importance of Openlands’ work in the Chicago area as it related to global conservation.   Once we identified our locations and film production schedule, we drafted questions and talking points for interview subjects, building off of background information provided by program staff. 

We held a series of pre-production interviews with both Debby Moskovits and Avecita Chicchón, learning more about their relationship and life’s work in the Amazon.  At the same time, we worked with staff at The Field Museum to secure safe, on-site access for filming Debby along with testimonials from colleagues at the Museum’s Action Science Center and b-roll in the Museum’s Native Gardens.  The Museum also provided a generous supply of archival images which we incorporated into the final piece.  We also collaborated with Avecita on a script which she recorded remotely from her home in California.  

For this film in particular, we highlighted Debby’s work transforming how the Field Museum views and treats conservation as a strategic priority, and the vital role of collaboration in conservation and climate change action.  We wanted the piece to leave audiences feeling inspired by Chicago’s incredible contribution to the world through Debby’s life-long achievements.    

For the Openlands short documentary, we wanted to convey the importance of these landscapes and how they connect to one another and feed into the larger mission and model of Openlands, while capturing the stories of people directly impacted by Openlands’ work, whether students, conservation easement owners, or Openlands volunteers.  We saw the film as a way to inspire audiences to get outside, with renewed appreciation for green spaces of all sizes and new knowledge on what it takes to preserve these incredible landscapes.  

The Results

Over a period of four days, we captured 15 interviews at 10 different locations across Illinois and the Chicago metropolitan area.  Sites that could not be captured on camera were later filled in using still images from the Openlands archives.  Footage of Avecita Chiccón was directed remotely and filmed using Ave’s iphone from her home in California during pre-production.  

During post-production, we sifted through 8 terabytes of raw footage, including ground shots, drone footage, and interviews.  Final delivery included a 15-minute tribute film honoring the life and work of Debby Moskovits, with testimonials from Field Museum colleagues, Openlands leadership, and keynote speaker Avecita Chiccón; and a 25-minute short-documentary film capturing the accomplishments and impact of Openlands in preserving and shaping landscapes, both large and small, throughout the Illinois and Chicago metropolitan area.  

While our primary deliverable centered around the creative production of these two films, we also provided Openlands with an extensive content library of raw footage for use in subsequent integrated marketing communications. 

15 Interviews

10 Landscapes

4 Shoot Days

2 Films

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