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Fraser Jones: “Be nice to every person you meet”

I’m currently focusing all my energy and resources on Where The Butterflies Go, a feature length comedic nature documentary. The film follows an idiot filmmaker (played by myself) as he traverses North America in a desperate attempt to save the Monarch Butterfly from extinction by following the species’ incredible 3,000 mile migration and interviewing Monarch […]

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I’m currently focusing all my energy and resources on Where The Butterflies Go, a feature length comedic nature documentary. The film follows an idiot filmmaker (played by myself) as he traverses North America in a desperate attempt to save the Monarch Butterfly from extinction by following the species’ incredible 3,000 mile migration and interviewing Monarch scientists and enthusiasts along the way.


As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Fraser Jones.

Fraser Jones is a documentary filmmaker living, creating, and gardening in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. He likes making his own films about the environment while also making people laugh. To pay rent, he has made documentaries for companies like Red Bull, written a show for Nickelodeon, and trapped possums.


Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

Well I grew up in Atlanta and was always either playing around with my family’s VHS camera or acting in plays. Naturally, this led me to study film at NYU. After graduating, I wandered the world with my camera and not much direction. I wrote a children’s show for Nickelodeon, made some environmental documentaries, directed a couple commercials, hiked a lot, and even went to clown school in France. I’m now trying my best to combine all those experiences and passions into one feature film, a comedic nature documentary called Where The Butterflies Go.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

While studying abroad in Prague, I cast a 90-year-old Czech actor to play the lead in my music video project. When the actor didn’t show up, the teachers said I had to cancel the shoot since there was no one to play the lead. I convinced them that I could take on the role, after putting on a lot of makeup and a blue suede suit. In the moment, this was a terrifying experience that seemed like the only option to pass the class but looking back, it has become a pivotal moment where I began to trust myself acting in my own films. Plus I realized how handsome I look in a blue suede suit.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

While creating this current film, I’ve been able to meet some of North America’s most renowned Monarch Butterfly scientists and enthusiasts. They’re all brilliant and I find their passion to be contageous. They’ve welcomed me into their homes and labratories and shared their immense love for this incredible creature. I even ended up getting invited to a backyard barbecue in Canada, with fellow Monarch-lovers, where I ended up accidentally falling in the pool and thoroughly embarassing myself.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m currently focusing all my energy and resources on Where The Butterflies Go, a feature length comedic nature documentary. The film follows an idiot filmmaker (played by myself) as he traverses North America in a desperate attempt to save the Monarch Butterfly from extinction by following the species’ incredible 3,000 mile migration and interviewing Monarch scientists and enthusiasts along the way.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

I think Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the funniest humans to have ever walked the earth. Whenever I’m trying to be funny, in my own films or just around friends, I often try and think of what he might do. I’ve even tried my best to follow in his footsteps by attending the same French clown school that he went to. He’s always a nice reminder to laugh at life, be productive, and don’t be afraid to be the butt of the joke.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I’m making this film to save the endangered Monarch Butterfly from extinction. It’s too pretty and majestic to loose or for future generations to never encounter, plain and simple. Sure, I’m making a very stupid and self-indulgent film in the process but the whole point is to raise awareness that we are killing this beautiful species in the midst of the global climate crisis. Once we recognize this reality, it’s then up to us, as both viewers of this film and caretakers of the earth, to go plant milkweed (the one plant the Monarch needs in order to survive) and hopefully change America’s current industrial-agricultural practices.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

I realized I had to make this film when I first witnessed the Monarch’s migration four years ago. I was walking alone during a mediation retreat in Northern California and noticed a giant tree that appeared to be moving, waving in the breeze. I soon realized the tree wasn’t moving but was entirely covered in fluttering Monarch Butterflies, thousands of them, and then realized how far they had migrated just to get to this tree. This moment sparked a fascination around the Monarch, soon followed by a depression once I realized how endangered the species truly is. I knew there was no choice but to try and help the Monarch, and cheer myself up along the way, by making a comedic film where I follow this incredible migration.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

So far, I don’t think anyone has been more impacted by my cause than myself. Since I started making this film, I take time each day to sit in nature, have become more aware of my environmental impact, started gardening, and have hopefully become an all around better person in the process. Of course, I’m still an idiot in a lot of ways and have plenty of room to grow but hey — the film isn’t done yet.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

We still need to finish the film in order to spread this important message and to do that, we need to raise a lot of money. Luckily, all donations towards the film are made tax-deductible through the support of our fiscal sponsors at The Redford Center. You can learn more about the film and make a donation here (https://redfordcenter.org/films/where-butterflies-go). And know that each and every dollar helps us significantly as we to try and save the Monarchs! If you aren’t able to donate at the moment, you can still join the cause by planting milkweed seeds in your community.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. You can’t get rich off documentary filmmmaking. A recoccuring lesson I’m reminded of each time I look at my bank account.

2. Try to be outside for atleast an hour every day. Your brain and body will feel better and more present, even if you get rained on.

3. Be nice to every person you meet. That person might get rich and you may need them to hire you someday. Or they might just become your best friend.

4. Buy an annual park pass, whether it’s for your State or Country. This will make you get in nature more often and you’ll also be supporting a vital public institution. If you go often enough or camp a few nights during a road trip, you might even save a few bucks in the end.

5. Use Dr. Bronner’s pure-castile liquid soap, particularly while traveling and camping. It’s sustainable and you’ll never need to buy additonal shampoo or dish soap ever again.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

We’re all stuck together on this one weird and beautiful planet, our shared home that gives us every thing we need to survive, so why not be as kind as we can to it and give back a little each day.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I’m still looking at you, Sacha Baron Cohen. You’re my clown-hero and I think being an Executive Producer on this film and giving me tips on how to be funnier would be an easy way to let the world know how much you love the earth and its butterflies.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life’s a garden, dig it.” — Joe Dirt

Mr. Dirt was exactly right when he said these beautiful words to me when I was six years old, watching a movie that was too inappropriate for my age. We might as well be happy in life and hey, digging in the garden is a good way to do that.

How can our readers follow you online?

Check out my instagram @fraserjones.tv for updates on my strange life and www.fraserjones.tv to view all my past and current films for free.

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