There’s a good chance you’re familiar with Burt’s Bees skincare line. But did you know that “Burt” was a real person and that he really had bees?
In the amazing documentary Buzz Burt, now streaming free on Entrepreneur TV, viewers meet Burt Shavitz, a loner, bee-loving man who built a billion-dollar company without intending to. “I didn’t want to be a mobile, soaring yuppy with a trophy wife, trophy house, trophy car,” Burt explains in the documentary. “It wasn’t like I called these bees or went looking for them. It was an act of God, I mean, it was obvious.”
Related: Burt Shavitz, Bearded Hippie Co-Founder and Face of Burt’s Bees, Dies at 80
Brad Gage, Director of Entrepreneur Studio, met with the film’s director and producer, Jody Shapiro, to discuss the lessons entrepreneurs can learn from the film, as well as give content creators an insight into what it takes to create and distribute films indefinitely – changing the media landscape.
Watch the entire conversation above and see the highlights of their chat below which have been edited for length and clarity.
Brad Gage: It’s great you’re here, Jody. And yes, it’s been a long journey with this film.
Jody Shapiro: Yes, it came out a while ago, and before that it was a good few years between filming, editing and release. So yeah, it’s been a long journey and I’m glad to see it hitting new platforms.
Brad Gage: Burt Shavitz is such an amazing character and Burt’s Bees has such a lasting legacy. First, how did you get involved in creating this document?
Jody Shapiro: It’s a bit of a long story, but I’ll try to simplify it. Acor and director Isabella Rossellini and I have worked together for many years. I helped her with a series of videos called Green Porno, which are these short videos about the sex lives of insects where she plays insects. They are made in a very caricature way. Someone from Burt’s Bees contacted us to do something similar to a little commercial they were going to do. Isabella said, of course I’d be interested in doing it. At that point, I didn’t realize Bert was a real person – none of us did. So we went to meet him and we went to his little cabin in Maine and we met him and he was the most fascinating person we’ve ever met. After talking to the company, everyone knew Bert was getting old, he has such a fascinating history with the company, so it would be great to film interviews with him for the archive. After a few days of talking to him, we knew it was about something bigger.
Brad Gage: I think there’s something very appealing about Burt’s lifestyle – it’s off-grid. Did his philosophy grab you at all?
Jody Shapiro: I can’t wait to get off the grid. I’m counting down the days. I’m a city boy, but over the years I’ve greatly appreciated nature, gathering and wild food. You know, it’s March 10th and all I can think of is go over to the maple trees that grow on our property and make maple syrup.
Brad Gage: Tell us about your Antler Kitchen business.
Jody Shapiro: This Burt’s Bees project has been stretching for so many years, and when we edited it, I really had to do something to knock my head out of it, to reset myself. I ended up enrolling in a cooking school and fell in love with it. Just the process itself, its directness, working with the ingredients and putting them together, just like telling a story. At the same time, a good friend of mine who is now my business partner – who is a really trained chef – did a lot of work with wild food, forging and nature, and I started forging with them. And we started, I started taking pictures and we started documenting things for the cookbook that we wanted to do. And one thing led to another, and seven years ago we opened Antler Kitchen & Bar in Toronto.
Brad Gage: Do you have a favorite Burt memory?
Jody Shapiro: I mean, there’s a lot of things I really appreciated about him. One of the things that really kind of spoke to me about the person he was when I saw him start a fire in his stove. I was so moved by this that I decided I wanted to end the film with him performing this methodical ritual that he did. The way he fanned it, the way he chopped wood, the way he stacked it, the way he just had that way about him, this routine about him that just talked. And Burt was also a man of contrast. Everyone wanted to try to define it in some way. And I just felt that he was an undefinable person. He loved being alone and in nature, but he also loved being in a five-star hotel. He didn’t want fans or anyone else coming to his property, but he would have been more than happy to spend two hours signing people’s autographs while he was in Taiwan. And he was also an entrepreneur. I mean, he started making like 16 bucks a week selling honey down the road, and 15 years later he’s making millions of dollars.
Brad Gage: It’s a kind of dream.
Jody Shapiro: It’s just funny. I’m sure so many people would like that to happen. But for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it doesn’t go the way Burt wanted.
Buzz Burt is now streaming for free on Entrepreneur TV.