After spending his Monday evening following around members of Better Understanding Trash Through Service (B.U.T.T.S.), Chad Withers, a short filmmaker and Denton resident, directed a short film about the organization and its conservation efforts.
B.U.T.T.S. is a local organization that travels around the Denton Square and downtown every Monday to pick up cigarette butts littered during the previous week.
Withers’ interest in the organization was sparked after having hands-on experience volunteering with the group.
“I’m a documentary filmmaker and I’ve gone out a couple times with these guys to pick up butts, and I thought it was an interesting subject and thought the more people that knew about it, then we could raise awareness for their cause and that would be an interesting little watch,” Withers said.
Members of B.U.T.T.S. had the opportunity to be on camera while continuing their normal pickup routine.
“Chad seemed to want to capture B.U.T.T.S. in our ‘natural habitat,’” said Mary Poe, Denton resident and cofounder of B.U.T.T.S. “He asked us to ignore him and the camera as he documented our weekly trash pickup process. The film did a really great job of showing the ambulant meditative practice side of B.U.T.T.S., as well as the social camaraderie and friendships built during the pickup.”
The topic of the short film is important to Withers because of the impact B.U.T.T.S. has been able to have on the environment in Denton.
“I think it’s pretty gross the way that people litter sometimes and dispose of waste without thinking about what it is that they’re doing and the impact that they’re making on the environment,” Withers said. “I think it’s cool to see people being proactive to fight against that and raising awareness in the community about that in a productive way.”
Withers’ passion for filmmaking started with his interest in acting. He graduated from UNT with a theatre degree. After working on the other side of the camera, Withers discovered he enjoyed making films.
“I’ve always really liked movies and ended up working on a couple of sets for some shows and just got inspired,” Withers said. “There seems to be a lot of subjects out there, so it makes it pretty easy for me to find something to film.”
Withers draws from his community to create his films.
“Community [inspires my films],” Withers said. “People that I meet in the community or people that I find interesting or people’s stories that I think are interesting that should be told, but maybe otherwise would not be.”
When searching for subjects for his films, Withers often thinks of local community members or people he knows.
“I surround myself with interesting people most of the time, so I easily can just draw upon people in the community or people that I come in contact with, and just stick a camera on them, and that works pretty well,” Withers said.
Those who know Withers have seen him share important stories through his work.
“Chad is very attuned to his community and societal existence and change as a whole,” Poe said. “I think Chad can tell any story he wants in his films, and the stories will always change the mind and ask the viewers to reflect on their own personal critiques.”
Withers’ devotion to film and topics in the community is evident from his work ethic and final products, said Michael Kokkinakis, B.U.T.T.S. cofounder and Denton resident.
“He’s passionate about it,” Kokkinakis said. “I think anyone that has passion in something, somebody should pay attention. His energy is phenomenal — he keeps on coming out. He’s always asking about it.”
Past documentary subjects by Withers include Judy Smith, who runs Rose Costumes in Denton and Czech Stop in West, Texas.
“[I make films about] places that people interact with a lot but maybe don’t know what makes things tick or how things work,” Withers said. “Giving people [whose] stories aren’t heard — giving them an opportunity to tell their stories. Maybe people in the community will show more appreciation toward those people.”
After each film he makes, Withers learns more about the process and is able to improve from the last one.
“Just like with any sort of artist, somebody who makes stuff, the more you do it, the more confident you become in your artistry,” Withers said. “Like with this [film], I really liked the way that the filming and editing really all came together and came together naturally and kind of just looking the way that I envisioned myself wanting it to look, more so than the project before that.”
B.U.T.T.S. will be showed in Thin Line Festival this year, which will be held online as of March 25.
“I had a film in Thin Line a few years ago, and then I’ve had interactions with them before, then I just submitted this one — I kind of got it in at the last minute, but I submitted it, and it ended up I guess just fitting in with one of the other films to show together, so I got chosen,” Withers said.
Thin Line Festival gave Withers his initial exposure to documentary shorts, and it has inspired his work to this day, he said.
“I’ve been going to Thin Line since the very first year of it, and I didn’t really know that documentary shorts existed before going to Thin Line,” Withers said. “After going for a few years and seeing some of the awesome, amazing short films [and] short documentaries, it inspired me to want to pursue that more, so Thin Line has been a big part of my life, as far as mainly having my stuff there but also just as a participant, going and watching all of these films from around the world and the quality and interesting stories that are told.”
Those who are interested in viewing B.U.T.T.S. can register for the Thin Line Festival and tune in for the showings on March 27 at 6:30 p.m. or March 27 at 5:15 p.m.
“You’re coming in to hear voices from around the world and voices that you wouldn’t have had an opportunity,” Withers said. “We’re so lucky to have that festival. Even though it’s not going to be in person, I think having it online is going to add lots of opportunities for people to get to see these films as well, and just see as many of them as you can, because they all will offer something.”
Featured image: Courtesy Chad Withers