How Ooky Can a Revelation Be? [On the Trail with Miss Snail Pail]
My favorite of more than 100 films in the 9th Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival is “On the Trail with Miss Snail Pail.” Certainly, there are more important films, more impactful films. However, this 12-minute experience thinks outside the box in a way that deserves special respect.
Colleen Flanigan (Miss Snail Pail) deflects some of the intense light focused on matters of huge scope and portent. She “shines a little light” on snails.
Escargot -- its fancy French name -- is a delicacy. One person’s ooky is another person’s delicious and nutritious. Snails are low in saturated fat, high in protein and potassium. Miss Snail Pail eats snails straight up, but relishes in such recipes as broccoli snail soup and gingerbread snailmen cookies.
Rather than “waste life,” Flanigan exemplifies acting on insights and opportunities that surround us. Flanigan, an artist, was short on money. Now, people call her to handle the snail problems in their gardens, and Miss Snail Pail also reaps a bountiful source of food. Not incidentally, her services provide an alternative to pesticide.
Director Greg Young seasons his film with creatively lit shots of snails, lots of slinking snails, all waggling their creepy antennae. Fun crawls throughout the film, with a mild flavor of meaningful context. Giggly, techno-kid voices add to the soundtrack, and of course, there’s Miss Snail Pail. Clad in high boots, striped tights, short skirt, yarn wig, and a head lamp under her big hat, she plucks snails in the night. She cooks her alternative revelation.
If you can sublimate the ooky factor, this may be a favorite film for you, too.
- - - - - - Q and A with “On the Trail with Miss Snail Pail” director Greg Young - - - - - -
Chuck Jaffee: Miss Snail Pail’s costume is a trip, but it frames a question: how much of her devotion is a put-on, and how else is she committed to alternative sanity?
Greg Young: Miss Snail Pail emerged after she (Colleen Flanigan) returned from [being] a volunteer with the Global Coral Reef Alliance [helping to install] artificial reefs to rebuild marine habitat. Colleen is an artist who views everything as useful, looks at resources through a new lens, and invites others to imagine unconventional solutions. She is a Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Senior Fellow selected for her art, science, and environment work.
CJ: You make snails playfully cinematic, but you seem intentionally to heighten their ookiness. Can snail ookiness be overcome such that they could be a widely accepted food?
GY: My interest in doing this film was definitely affected by the contrast of Colleen’s appearance and the ookiness factor of the snails. At a deeper level, Colleen’s approach is to harvest a food source readily available and use that action to direct our culture beyond the normal to unique sustainable food sources for the future.
CJ: Where are you on the snails-as-food spectrum?
GY: Lots of garlic helps. I tried the brochette prepared in the film, but I’m not quite ready for the crispy chips and cookies.
CJ: What's the biggest challenge making a film with live snails?
GY: They do not travel in straight lines, ever. I had the idea of a minute or two sequence of snails marching to the cooking pot. They didn’t cooperate. After several weeks of on and off filming, I gave up.