When "Entourage" star Adrian Grenier was introduced to indie film producer Peter Glatzer a number of years back, their mutual commitment to eco-friendliness and sustainability compelled them to work together. They put together the show “Alter Eco” for Discovery’s Planet Green channel in 2008, a reality show about folks moving the needle on sustainability. The pair saw a hunger for solutions, but realized they needed a new platform that could grow as they grew. SHFT was born.
Yes, SHFT.com is a website, but Grenier and Glatzer have already proved it can be more than that. It’s an honest attempt to move ideas into the culture. The “Watch” section has five original video series that continue to expand, including the “Eat LACMA” series on food and community, and “Lighten Up,” about green touring strategies for bands on the road. Like “Alter Eco,” the shows are about beautiful people making a difference. But the site is also a pretty impressive resource for sustainable products as varied as electronics and art, and a connection to lifestyle news and information.
SHFT is creating an entity that’s pretty rare for famous Hollywood types: a community.
“We’re looking to permeate the culture and change the perception of what it means to be environmentally friendly,” Grenier says by phone from New York. “Because, for so long, it’s been a marginalized cause. But we don’t see it as a cause. We see it as a way to improve your quality of life.”
Glatzer, speaking from L.A., takes it further: “The notion of ‘environmentalism’ was just antiquated and anachronistic to the world we live in now. To think of environmentalism as a movement or a separate category of things that we do that are Earth-friendly is not the way to think about it. It has to be folded into the fabric of our lives and into the small choices that we make every day.”
In October, the site manifested briefly as a pop-up gallery and shop on La Brea Avenue, something the pair has been doing in New York for years at Christmastime, and the opening was packed with people pawing over the bikes, art, furniture and housewares. The products on the website are made real at these events, and SHFT may soon develop a bricks-and-mortar entity in partnership with a mainstream retailer.
Mainstream, by the way, is where they want to be. These are people who make movies and TV, so of course the first thing they did was make a show. And they are still making shows. But “Alter Eco” confirmed that Hollywood is mostly allergic to this kind of thing, and for good reason: do-gooding is not (usually) hot media.
“Media is very tricky because it thrives on conflict,” Grenier acknowledges. “Really, the environmental notion is the opposite -- it’s something that is full or harmony and goodwill amongst people and collaboration, so it’s difficult to dramatize.”
Glatzer thinks the ideas just have to be worked into the groundwork of everything they make. “I watch movies all the time, like ‘The Descendents,’ for example, Alexander Payne’s new film. It really does have an environmental component to it that isn’t overt at all. It’s an appropriate dollop of environmentalism,” he says.
“If it’s a background, context-setting thing, great, but otherwise, I don’t know,” Glatzer adds.
None of this, by the way, is overtly political. They’re looking to change the culture through everyday choices.
“We like market-driven solutions,” says Glatzer. “As much as we’d love to see policies change and see the public sector do various things that we’re actually quite passionate about, having consumers be aware of what their options were was one of our big goals. And to make it fun.”
“Yeah, I found that my snarky, condescending glances at people, when I walked around the set, were totally ineffective,” chuckles Grenier. “I find that being able to take someone by the shoulders and say, ‘Hey, check out SHFT,’ or ‘Do you want to come to this pop-up store?’ is much more enjoyable for the both of us.”
Speaking of which, their first SHFT brand product? A red wine made in Paso Robles, SHFT House Wines. Because, yeah, it’s organic and all that; but it’s also a party in a bottle. Available on the site in the coming weeks.
-- Dean Kuipers
Photo: Adrian Grenier, left, and Peter Glatzer at the opening of the SHFT pop-up gallery and shop on La Brea Avenue in October. Credit: Brent Harrison for Guest of a Guest L.A.