The home renovation genre has become one of the most popular in television, making it hard for shows to make an impact. That’s not the case with Go Green, which is the first eco-friendly home makeover series. The first two episodes of the show are now online and it’s completely different from anything viewers have seen before. Oh, and you might recognize a few people in it.
What does it exactly mean to make an eco-friendly renovation series? The story behind the camera is its own interesting journey. I spoke to Lucia Entertainment co-founders Nicole Winters and Eric Lindhjem, the folks behind Go Green, to talk about how these two pilots came together and what made them interested in putting on such a unique project in the first place.
Brittany Frederick: What was the genesis of this series? Tell me a little bit about your company and why you decided to head in this direction.
Nicole Winters: Lucia Entertainment was created by my husband, Leif and I. Leif works in traditional film and television, and I came from media advertising sales, so we both worked in entertainment but on opposite sides. When digital content started growing and audiences were using mobile more and more every day, we felt that there was a need to create Lucia Entertainment in order to fill the gap between traditional film and television and digital media.
Lucia Entertainment is a premium content production company that creates video content for brands and develops original IP for digital distribution. Our intent was to work with all different types of companies that put storytelling first, while simultaneously telling our own.
It all began for Go Green when we were asked by a solar company to produce their brand story. It sounded interesting, and through the process we learned so much about solar and its energy efficiencies for a home. As we finished the project we asked each other, “This is really interesting. Is there a home renovation show that touches on energy-efficient solutions, green, and/or redesign?”
We started doing some background research and realized that while there was some content—from hour-long shows on green homes to YouTube videos that shared eco-tips—there wasn’t anything about what you could do to make your home green in a digestible and entertaining way. Leif and I just decided, “This is interesting. We can make this!” So that’s the impetus of the project—a need for something new and fresh, while also tackling global issues with accessible solutions.
BF: You’re entering into such a crowded space creatively. What else would you say makes Go Green stand apart from other home makeover projects, outside of simply being environmentally friendly? Why should we watch?
Leif Lindhjem: When you look at clean-energy renovations, there’s nothing sexy or inherently entertaining about them. Obviously they’re very helpful and you can gain a plethora of benefits from them, but I knew coming into it, we needed to have human interest stories. We needed to have that human element, and I wanted to make sure we leaned into that aspect of the storytelling to connect with an audience.
I think a lot of people enjoy the home renovation space, because they can apply it to their own home. You watch Flip or Flop or you watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition [and] it gives you some insight on “Oh, I can put this kitchen in my house” or “I can do this flooring.” You can do that with clean energy renovations, but it’s putting in a new efficient water heater or changing your HVAC system or doing installation. The process is not necessarily fun or aesthetically enjoyable.
So Nicole and I knew we needed to apply it to somebody that was either in need or somebody that you could connect with. Somebody that was aspirational, adding in the human element that you could associate and relate. And then personalize it—say “If they can do it, I can do it,” or “That’s something that I’m aspiring to apply to my own home.” We wanted to put the homeowner front and center. I think that differentiates Go Green a little bit; we can make the actual renovation a little more connected, because we don’t necessarily have these huge visual renovations.
NW: We never knew how big the project could be because COVID hadn’t occurred yet. As soon as COVID hit, everyone’s stuck in their home and the project became more important. All of a sudden people are looking around their home, asking themselves “What can I do to make my home comfortable? Is my home healthy? Is my home safe for my kids? How can I save 50 or 100 dollars per month?” Go Green really became a very poignant focal point of conversation that everybody was asking themselves. And I think because the project was also inspirational and relatable, interest ticked up and different partners gravitated to the do-good, feel-good aspect of the project.
BF: You had a lot of people involved that came together to make these episodes, whether it was brands or government agencies, or Mark Ruffalo and Don Cheadle, who each appear in different episodes. How did you bring all these folks together?
NW: I knew Mark Ruffalo’s publicist. I knew Mark was in the climate space, but I didn’t know how involved he was until now. So she suggested “You really need to talk to his nonprofit, The Solutions Project.” She got me in touch with the executive director, Sarah Shanley Hope. From the get-go they were like, “This is really authentic.”
You can imagine how many people come to Mark Ruffalo’s nonprofit wanting to do projects; we took Mark out of the equation in terms of the celebrity aspect, and focused on The Solutions Project’s work in the community. They’re a solutions-driven organization that supports and funds minority groups doing the work in their community. The Solutions Project gave us credibility in the clean energy space and helped us communicate the messaging that was at times very complex. Lucia was the entertainment vehicle and they were the boots-on-the-ground partner that we needed to get to the next step.
The next step was who’s going to finance this? Who’s going to install this? Who’s going to be our partners from a product perspective? We went a non-traditional route and targeted public and municipal entities, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. LADWP had a bunch of energy-efficient initiatives that they wanted to market to consumers, including rebate programs on electric vehicles, heating and cooling, but they really didn’t know how to do that at that. They immediately attached themselves to the project and supported us all the way through the process, giving us flexibility to make sure we told the right stories that would connect to the L.A. community.
LL: It’s all about access and affordability for everyone. Nicole and I wanted to make sure we could run the gamut, from telling stories in underserved communities all the way up to aspirational communities. Everybody deserves access. Everybody deserves to have solutions that are affordable.
NW: We needed partners to come in and help us make this possible, so we brought on Mitsubishi Electric to partner on our HVAC episode and Juicebox for our electric vehicle episode. PCS Energy, a company that only does commercial contracts, came on board and donated an electric vehicle. [Then] we needed the installation partners to upgrade and install these energy-efficient solutions.
Our hosts had to have hands-on experience in either design, woodworking, carpentry experience to not only carry the show from a host perspective, but make sure it’s authentic. There’s a big team involved. And Eric, our PR lead, got us into SeriesFest and guided us in the right direction to tell our story. About a million pieces needed to fall into place to make this happen, and they did! We were really lucky and fortunate to get as far as we did.
BF: Were there particular things that resonated with you as you filmed the first two Go Green installments? Or things that you want to highlight to people before they watch?
LL: I take the approach that everybody has a story to tell, and it’s why we chose these two particular cast members; they each have multi-layered stories. So [it would be] just to understand the journey that they’ve been on and get to this point. Right at the top of each episode, I think we have something that’s very connected and emotional from a human perspective. That’s one of my favorite aspects of the episodes.
My favorite moment on set was Sonja’s reaction to her new home office. They had a space that was unusable, that had been unusable for 20 years. We were able to install an HVAC system, put some air in there, make it more efficient, make it comfortable, give her a home office when she had been basically working at the kitchen table. That was pretty special.
NW: The really tangible aspects, they’re not that big a deal, in terms of cost or commitment. There are things you can do right away to “go green.” Right now, we’re in a heat wave on the West Coast. This is serious, this is now. This isn’t in five years, this isn’t in 10 years.
BF: How can viewers support Go Green if they want to see more episodes? What can we do to get these two installments turned into a full series?
NW: Go Green was intended to be a half-season with six short-form episodes, but when COVID hit and we couldn’t travel, we decided to pilot the series with our first two in Los Angeles.
LL: We would love for our fans to contact potential programmers on cable and streaming and request Go Green. Just because in the show space, no matter the network, no matter the production company, no matter the clout, you have to have proof of concept and you have to demonstrate that you have an audience. The number one thing that we can have right now is people go to YouTube or go to the landing page and they watch it. If they watch it, we have the data, it supports our proof of concept and shows that we have traction, that we have an audience. We’re currently positioning it with network pitches and execs right now. So the more of that that we have, the better for us.
To Nicole’s credit, the strategy to release the pilots is not something that I came up with. She 100 percent came up with that and leveraged her expertise in the industry. I come from more of the television side where you keep things confidential, and you do your pitch meetings and you have your network, and you build it internally. She’s like “No, let’s go out wide. Let’s prove that we have an audience. Let’s show it. It’s a different age now. Let’s use the digital space and leverage the digital space.” And that’s given us a much larger platform than we would have if we kept everything internal at the moment. It’s naturally expanded our network.
NW: I don’t think there’s been a deal built this way as a proof of concept to launch pilot episodes. The deal-making is very intricate and includes a non-profit organization, public entity, brands, and celebrities. It’s unique and sophisticated and it’s not straightforward. That’s what’s interesting about it.
BF: And Go Green has truly been a labor of love for both of you—in one way literally given that you are not only co-founders of Lucia Entertainment, but also married.
LL: From a production standpoint, Nicole and I really bootstrapped this. We might’ve appeared as a larger organization at the time, but it was in the midst of COVID, I had just come off an HBO Max show, [and] we had a very limited pocket of time—fewer than three weeks to get everything together. So in about 21 days, we secured everything. We had a number of things fall out, come back in. We shot for six days, and we were one of the first productions back after the shutdown in Los Angeles. We produced it ourselves. It was the two of us and then we brought in a team of about, I want to say, 25. As Nicole said, everything that needed to fall into place did.
NW: I was eight months pregnant, too!
LL: We have a lot of entities or support from outside of the industry, which is completely atypical. People that didn’t necessarily understand production, that didn’t understand the television space entrusted to us not only their own labor, but their financing and all that kind of thing. It was a very unique situation, in my opinion. And it was a very difficult production, and we literally held it together at the seams with some very close relationships.
NW: We basically produced two babies at the same time! We had an actual baby a month before we launched our Go Green baby. Personally and professionally our worlds collided, and Go Green became a part of our legacy for our two daughters. And honestly, the dire need to communicate the story and what we need to do on a human level was just that more important at the time, and it still is.
BF: How much does that intersection of professional and personal affect you? Is it helpful to have a significant other who’s also your business partner and therefore is on that journey with you?
NW: Yes and no. It’s always hard to work with your significant other. The best part of Leif and I is we stay in our own lanes. He’s as good as it gets when it comes to telling a story, and I think I’m as good as it gets to putting a deal together. And that’s why Lucia’s been very successful working with all different types of companies, because they get a personal touch with us. And together, we are a really good team and we surround ourselves with people that support our mission.
LL: I’m also a big believer in if you tell the right story in the right way, people will come. I think this is a testament to that.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.