Husband and wife team support grassroots nonprofits through film

Cary and Grace Kanoy, the husband and wife team behind GeoCore Films, are driven first and foremost by their emotional connection to the organizations they feature.  GeoCore Films is a documentary film making company that is based on the goal of helping nonprofits grow and promote themselves through optimized media and marketing opportunities. The benefit of film as a source for sharing information about a company has long been known to trump static images alone and GeoCore Films use it to the advantage of the organizations they partner with. Specifically, GeoCore Films use their unique approach to film-making and their vast knowledge and passion for grassroots organizations to ensure the mission and vision of each organization shines through in the films they create.  As our loyal followers, you have probably noticed the Peaks Over Poverty films that have emerged in recent months.  GeoCore Films has been working with us to produce all of our video media and marketing materials. So far, the results have been amazing and we are excited to continue sharing these personalized experiences with all of you!

I was lucky enough to catch up with Cary Kanoy in a recent telephone conversation during which I learned the background story of how he and Grace created their incredible company and I must say – his enthusiasm is contagious and their story is rather inspiring.

Peaks Over Poverty: Cary, together with your partner and wife, Grace, you started Core Expeditions, and more recently GeoCore Films.  Let’s start at the beginning – how did you two come up with the ideas for these companies? Can you tell us a bit about how you got started?

Cary Kanoy: To understand how we got started, I think first I ought to give you a little background information.  For starters, about 20+ years ago, I was studying and climbing in Ecuador, and then started guiding.  We were the first to sponsor certified wilderness medical courses for Ecuadorian guides. Eventually, I became a wilderness medicine instructor myself, which then led to organizing medical relief programs in Ecuador.

The medical relief programs led us to our current relationship with many of the non-profits that we work with today. Based on that experience, I decided I wanted to create a career for myself that was associated with non-profits. During that same time, I worked in West Virginia in the summer and fall, shooting whitewater-rafting trips, which were then edited and finished into a final product within the hour.  This not only taught me a lot about creating films, but it truly seeded my interest in film.

The final piece to the puzzle was meeting my wife in South Korea.  Grace had worked in the film industry in Vancouver – creating indie films and documentaries. Our first step was to build Core Expeditions, a customized adventure travel company with an emphasis on sustainable travel in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Whenever we’d take groups on these trips, we’d document the trips with video and digital photography.  Starting GeoCore Films was a natural progression for us.

Peaks Over Poverty: That’s a pretty amazing snapshot of entrepreneurial ingenuity and some serious guts! What would you say drives you in this adventure?

Cary Kanoy: We want to believe in what we’re doing, and we have two kids we want to share those values with.  We prefer to work on projects we believe in, so the value we see in these nonprofits really comes through in the quality of the films we create.  Film is such a powerful medium – it allows the viewer to see the lives of people in a way that feels truly personal and perhaps makes the situations more “real” to those who have not experienced it first-hand. We want to use the power of this medium in a positive way.

Peaks Over Poverty: Aside from your commitment to grassroots nonprofits, what would you say differentiates you from other documentary film making companies out there?

Cary Kanoy: I’d have to say it’s a few things, first, the combination of our broad travel experiences and traditional and unorthodox film and video background.  We approach our stories from a holistic perspective, taking into consideration an outsider’s point of view and the local point of view. When shooting in remote regions, we have learned to improvise and be creative using less. These conditions have taught us to be resourceful and innovative.

Not only do we want to produce meaningful documentaries, but also we want to empower others to be able to tell their own stories. I must give credit to our good friend Chris Sacco who encouraged us to pursue our idea of participatory video. Through our participatory video workshop, people can learn basic photography and video skills, and more importantly how to tell a story, simply.

A good example of this is the film Emma Kirwan created for Peaks Over Poverty (see link below). Like in Emma’s case, we then work together to edit their story.  Having the participant shoot their own experiences often creates a raw and personal relationship between viewer and subject.  There are no full film crews and we believe this breeds innovation and that’s the fun of it.

Peaks Over Poverty: Aside from the work you have done with Peaks, can you tell us about some other projects you are excited to be involved with?

Cary Kanoy: We are currently developing a video campaign that will focus on sustainable farming in North Carolina, and are looking for sponsorship funding. The campaign is designed to feature short stories about farmers, introducing seasonal produce and farmers markets as well as, teaching farmers how to video/shoot their own stories.

We are also currently working on a documentary that follows a Haitian-born priest and a team of medical volunteers who set up clinics in the tent cities in Haiti.  Through their experiences, we capture the ongoing problems and issues in these tent cities and in greater Port-au-Prince.

Cary and Grace Kanoy’s passion for life is ever-present in their work, I encourage you to all keep your eyes out for these soon-to-be-released films from GeoCore, and to enjoy the work they’ve done with Peaks Over Poverty: Summit Volcano Cotopaxi and The Story of Peaks Over Poverty.

Please visit GeoCore Films’ website here.

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    In partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension, PEAKS supports changemakers working in five program areas.