For immediate release
October 14, 2022
Chapel Hill: Film producer Karen Akins has won a “Healthy Soundscape” award from Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet for producing a forthcoming documentary, “The Quietest Year.” The Vermont filmmaker has launched a crowdfunding drive to complete the documentary about noise and health.
The film, set in Vermont during the pandemic, is intended to change the way we think about noise. “It’s not just an annoyance, but a major public health problem too long ignored,” says Akins. In addition to our hearing, noise affects our bodies through a stress response that creates harmful effects to our heart, vascular system, and produces neurotoxins that affect our brains. “It’s not just about hearing anymore,” Akins said. “There is a direct link between noise and health that is now clearly understood.”
On October 6th, the documentary filmmaker announced the launch of a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds on Seed a Spark, a platform for independent filmmakers. The campaign will run for 45 days with the goal of raising funds for post-production to complete the film by early 2023. The campaign raised 30 percent of its goal in the first 12 hours, showing that “there is a great interest in this topic and people are ready to use the film to spark a bigger discussion about noise in our country,” according to Akins. https://seedandspark.com/fund/thequietestyear
The film’s featured experts include:
- Les Blomberg, Director of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse
- Dan Gauger, retired Distinguished Engineer at Bose Corporation
- Ethan Bourdeau, Acoustician with Quiet Parks International
- Rosanne Greco, Save Our Skies Vermont
- Dr. Michael Osborne, cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital
- Dr. Peter Bingham, pediatric neurologist at the University of Vermont.
Rounding out this lineup are heartfelt stories from around Vermont, once considered a bastion of peace and quiet, of people experiencing a variety of noise-related issues.
Karen Akins is an award-winning documentary director with a passion for public health, whose previous film, El Susto, about the politics of sugary drink consumption and Type 2 diabetes in Mexico, was embraced by both the public health community and documentary fans and is now streaming on major platforms, such as Amazon, YouTube, and AppleTV.
Production of “The Quietest Year” began in 2020, shot primarily in and around Vermont, with a team of talented filmmakers. “This is my pandemic project,” says Akins, who says there is a wealth of expertise on this topic in Vermont, but this is unfortunately not reflected in the state’s laws and regulations.
In the film, Les Blomberg of the Montpelier, Vermont-based Noise Pollution Clearinghouse recounts the history of noise control in the U.S., reminding us that the main method of escaping noise in the last half century was to move. “We can’t flee the noise anymore,” he states, noting that small towns and rural areas are often beset by excessive noise. “We must as a country deal with noise pollution and regain our leadership position on this issue. US leadership was lost in the 1980’s when deregulation shifted noise control to the state and local level, where officials have little understanding or training on this important public health issue.”
Motivated by her own personal experience, the film’s director draws upon experts and thought leaders on the topic. “People move to escape noise, and by moving they always find it,” according to Vermonter Garret Keizer, author of The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise. That’s what Akins found when she moved to the resort community of Stowe and discovered Vermont has some of the weakest muffler laws of any state, the town of Stowe did not have a noise ordinance, and that a new fighter jet (the loudest jet ever produced) might soon be coming to the state’s only major commercial airport.
For anyone who’s frustrated about noise in their lives, Akins hopes her film will help give them a voice and start to change the way we think about noise issues. To learn more about the project’s backstory, see the campaign’s progress, or support the project, go to https://seedandspark.com/fund/thequietestyear
Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet is a national citizens’ organization devoted to noise reduction. Past winners of the Healthy Soundscape award include the California state legislature; Representative Don Beyer; and Knoxville, Tennessee.