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Following Dreams

Airs Thursday, August 27 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Ivan Gayler's (pictured) dream to save the Amazon from deforestation prompted...

Credit: Iron Zeal Films

Above: Ivan Gayler's (pictured) dream to save the Amazon from deforestation prompted him to start the Nature and Culture Institute to increase conservation efforts for threatened ecosystems in southern Ecuador and northern Peru.

Following Dreams, a new documentary from Iron Zeal Films, tells the stories of men and women whose pursuit of happiness has led them down unconventional paths. One man’s quest to re-wild the planet took him to the Amazon basin to spread a message of conservation while respecting local traditions. A married couple leaves a comfortable life in Boston to restore a neglected Vermont dairy farm and rebuild their lives as cheese makers. A woman whose leg was amputated at age five never gives up on her dreams and becomes a paralympic silver medalist. All share an unyielding faith in themselves and a willingness to risk everything to fulfill their dreams.

Director Susan Schutz and her crew traveled across the United States and South America to document the lives of ordinary Americans and their extraordinary dreams.

The Dreamers

Ivan Gayler’s dream was to save the Amazon from deforestation. He started the Nature and Culture Institute to increase conservation efforts focusing on threatened ecosystems in southern Ecuador and northern Peru. Gayler was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and says his dream will live on because of the seed he planted.

Bonnie St. John knew from a very young age that she could do anything she wanted in spite of only having one leg. Her mother gave her a ski brochure at age seven and there began her dream. She went on to win a silver medal in the Paralympics. She says, “People fall down – winners get up, but sometimes the gold medal is just the person who gets up the fastest.”

Mary Hicks is an octogenarian wife and mother who always wanted to sing with a swing band. She married young and settled down to raise a family. She says “It’s never too late to follow your dreams,” and answered a want-ad for “a female vocalist who knows the old standards.” Her voice is angelic and her pure love for music is inspiring.

Michelle Ochs always wanted to own her own company. She started selling hairclips at trade shows and accidentally got into the pet clothing industry out of a need to keep her dog warm and comfortable at the same time. She sold her home to invest in her company and subsequently lost everything but continued to believe in herself. Eventually her passion paid off and her designs are now sold in stores nationwide.

John and Janine Putnam are husband and wife who left their high powered careers in Boston to buy a Vermont farm and eventually become cheese makers. John didn’t want to be in an office anymore, he wanted to “know how to do things.” The farm now produces Tarentaise cheese – organically produced from their Jersey cows’ milk.

David Ippolito, a New Yorker, hit emotional and financial rock bottom before discovering his true passion as a singer song-writer. He sings, weather permitting, on a hill by a lake in Central Park. Though he only earns enough to pay the bills he says he’s the luckiest man alive. This line from one of his songs speaks to the simple happy life he leads: use your uncommon sense and you’ll surely live an uncommonly sensible life.

Mari Morris works day and night creating dolls inspired by her imagination. Each doll is a work of art, bursting with color and personality. Although she’s met a lot of resistance, her love for her creations is palpable.

David Kwong, a recent college graduate moved to Hong Kong to pursue his calling as a magician. His dream is to be the next David Copperfield, to be on the stage. His confidence is shaky and his future is a bit more uncertain. He hasn’t been able to support himself as a professional magician and his self confidence waivers.

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