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Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Geoffrey Gaspard & Honest to Goodness Are Helping To Change Our World

It is very important for individuals to take steps for the environment, even at a small scale — making conscious choices about your consumption every day is important. I make conscious decisions to support brands making a positive impact on society and encourage others to do the same.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Geoffrey Gaspard, Honest to Goodness Partner, Freelance Photographer and Filmmaker.

Geoffrey Gaspard is a freelance filmmaker and photographer based in Madagascar. Born and bred in Diego Suarez, a city situated in the northern part of the island, Geoffrey is now a freelance photographer and filmmaker who has worked for various international brands, including National Geographic, and has created a handful of international films, short films and music videos. His work is centered on creating stories to push the limits of Malagasy cinema and to promote his vibrant country. He studied in Cape Town for events management and Mumbai for filmmaking. Geoffrey is also the founder of @igersmadagascar, an Instagram account with over 60,000 followers aimed to showcase the rich culture of his country, and Koezy Company, a film and tourism company in Madagascar.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I was born and bred in Diego Suarez, also known as Antsiranana, in the extreme Northern tip of Madagascar. It is through windsurfing that I discovered photography, while learning how to do new windsurfing moves, and I am self-taught. Then came my dream to become a filmmaker because of my passion to tell Malagasy stories.

I’m both French and Malagasy, studying in a French High School in Diego Suarez — I went on to study for 2 years in Cape Town, South Africa to study English and Event Management. Following my studies, I felt the need to pursue my real passion which is filmmaking and I did so in Mumbai, India, for 3 years. Most recently, I came back to Madagascar to settle here and work as a freelance photographer and filmmaker. I’ve completed several short films, documentaries, music videos and two feature films.

I was honored to be chosen by Honest to Goodness to work on this great campaign for the launch of their new creamer brand, and give consumers an intimate look into the brand’s mindful vanilla sourcing practices in Madagascar as well as its impact on the community via a lookbook titled, “Our Madagascar Vanilla Bean Story”.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

I have always taken into consideration my environment throughout the years. Every year I organize beach clean-ups in my city and organize mangrove reforestation on the coasts of my region. When first hearing about Honest to Goodness, I was thankful to be contacted to collaborate with the brand as part of their launch to help share the story behind the community who sources the Honest to Goodness vanilla in Madagascar.

As part of the B Corp movement®, Honest to Goodness is committed to working with partners who aim to be a force for good — from their employees, customers and suppliers to myself. Honest to Goodness is on a journey to help create goodness in the communities that make their ingredients, by sourcing materials differently — in a way that better supports the people and environments that produce their ingredients.

What Honest to Goodness is bringing to the table is giving back to the communities in Madagascar, where the brand sources its vanilla. Through Honest to Goodness’ partnership with The Canopy Project in Madagascar, they work with local tree planting partners to directly engage with the community to promote agroforestry best practices, environmental literacy, and economic development. When brands value their employees and suppliers, it makes all the difference. I was honored to team up with Honest to Goodness to shine a spotlight on the work they are doing to support my country.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this partnership?

As a native who dedicates his career to uplifting my local community through film and art, I was honored when Honest to Goodness chose to partner with me to help tell their vanilla sourcing story in Madagascar. Vanilla is fascinating to me as it’s very important to Madagascar’s economy — we are proud to be the number one producers in the world! As I never had the opportunity to work on this subject, I was thrilled to take on this project and join Honest to Goodness’ journey. I had never been so far on the Eastern Madagascar coast, and it was an epic adventure and I learned a lot along the way about vanilla production and the impactful work Honest to Goodness is doing to uplift and support its vanilla suppliers.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

To embark on this excursion to the Eastern Coast of Madagascar in Manompana — one of the villages where the brand sources its vanilla — it required meticulous planning and a bit of luck with the weather as its cyclone season in Madagascar during December, my time spent working on this project.

I worked directly with Honest to Goodness and local partners throughout the entire planning process every step of the way. Checking the weather is a must because you are unable to shoot in the rain and the equipment has to be looked after. Honest to Goodness ensured I was fully prepared and equipped for the journey — and we were so thankful the mission was smooth and successful.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Honest to Goodness is on a journey to create goodness in the communities that make their ingredients. By the end of the year, the brand intends to source all of its vanilla from Madagascar through Tambatra, a community-owned cooperative created with support from the Livelihoods Funds, located in the small village of Manompana, Madagascar — a ten-hour drive from the nearest city.

I was excited to take on this journey and could not have done it without the amazing local partners who guided me through the beautiful, and oftentimes rough landscape, to safely travel me to Manompana. As I mentioned before, the weather in Madagascar during December is very unpredictable, but I was proud to have the best team in the country for such a mission to navigate the remote lands of this region.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

The funniest mistake happened to me and to my team when I made my second music video and shot a scene in a 4 stars hotel in which the president of Madagascar was one of the shareholders. We had the authorization to shoot there from the management and because I knew the owner. As the director, I asked the cook to prepare some bananes flambées for us to add some impressive shots in the music video. We went into the restaurant, close to the swimming pool and he started cooking under a traditional Malagasy rooftop made of natural leaves. We had some great shots and the flames were quite impressive. Then came out of nowhere a second cook who took the bottle of alcohol and poured some more in the stove. There it was, the fire went into the bottle and it exploded sending the bottle meters away, the explosion sent some flames to the rooftop and the 2 cooks ran away! The gas under the table was still on and everybody fled! I was even ready to jump into the swimming pool! The rooftop was on fire at different places, we screamed for somebody to bring an extinguisher! Thankfully everything came under control, nobody was hurt, no material burnt or broken and the rooftop was all right. We got the shot and we completed the music video!

Last thing: my cinematographer who was lying on the floor for our shot and caught all the action stayed on the floor there all along! So during the edit, we had some fun, we made the shot in slow motion and we saw exactly how it happened, it was a real explosion!

It was in 2014, I still have the video. If the President of that time gets to see it, we’re in for a good laughter ahahaha! … Or not! Ahahah!

Regarding my partnership with Honest to Goodness, I had never ventured to the lush Eastern region of Madagascar and I was not sure what to expect! There was a lot of coordination involved and Honest to Goodness was in constant communication with me every step of the way making sure all details were clear and understood between us. The biggest lesson in film and photography is that communication is key between your partners!

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The main reason I partnered with Honest to Goodness is the brand’s commitment to making a positive impact in the communities where it sources its ingredients — from reforestation efforts in Madagascar to mindful ingredient sourcing practices supporting economic development. When brands value their employees and suppliers, it makes all the difference. I think it starts with making small mindful choices in your everyday life, and supporting brands you can feel good about.

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?

It is very important for individuals to take steps for the environment, even at a small scale — making conscious choices about your consumption every day is important. I make conscious decisions to support brands making a positive impact on society and encourage others to do the same.

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

“Those who don’t believe in Magic will never see it.” Roald Dahl

As a photographer and filmmaker, I get compliments about my work and sometimes I wonder how is my job difficult? It’s only when I notice how hard I try, again and again, to get the best of shots possible that I realize that in our photographers, filmmakers’ activities, we need to believe strongly in creation. And creation requires Magic to take place. You have to believe in magic to capture or create those wonderful moments of life.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow me on my Instagram account @igersmadagascar or on Facebook at FB.com/igersmadagascar .

They can also follow me on my personal Instagram @geoffrey_gaspard.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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