‘Bill Nye: Science Guy’ comes to Nevada City Film Festival | TheUnion.com

‘Bill Nye: Science Guy’ comes to Nevada City Film Festival

"Bill Nye: Science Guy" on location in Greenland talking about climate change and what effect it has on our enviroment.
Submitted photo to Prospector |

Jason Sussberg, a returning filmmaker to the Nevada City Film Festival, has made an extraordinary documentary about a childhood hero, Bill Nye the Science Guy.

The film is titled, “Bill Nye: Science Guy.”

If you are not recognizing the name, Nye is the guy with the bow tie who has been teaching kids science since the 1990s.

“I wouldn’t be a documentary filmmaker if it wasn’t for Bill Nye.”Jason Sussberg

THE Origin

Sussberg has a ton of gratitude for the Grass Valley/Nevada City area. Like many, he said he didn’t learn to appreciate the area until later in his life, but looking back he is incredibly gracious.

He is especially grateful for the instruction of his photography teacher, helping him learn editing software, which he still uses today.

Sussberg’s career in film started while playing with video cameras in high school. It can all be traced back to those days heading to the Yuba River and making short films with friends.

Sussberg graduated Nevada Union in 2000 and went to the University of Santa Cruz to study film. He eventually moved to San Francisco, spending a few years as a TV sports editor — during the latter days of Barry Bonds with the San Francisco Giants and also when the Golden State Warriors were not the powerhouse we see today.

During his time in the Bay Area, Sussberg worked as a producer doing the in-game entertainment and after a short stint there he went to graduate school at Stanford.

“I have way more film school than anyone has ever needed,” Sussberg said with a laugh.

Sussberg and colleague David Alvarado had finished a project called “The Immortalists” in 2014, about two biologists trying to find a way to cure aging.

Looking for a new project, he and Alvarado pitched producer Seth Gordon on a feature film about Bill Nye. At the time there were rumors that Nye had died or that he had been forced into retirement. Around that time, Nye had just finished a debate in Kentucky with creationist supporter Ken Ham about the ideas on creation versus evolution. Given the debate that had happened, it seemed like the perfect time to reach out to Nye.

Gordon set up a meeting for Sussberg and Alvarado to meet with Nye and his agent.

Nye loved the idea so much that they started filming right after the meeting.

“Seth has a long history of doing amazing character profile stories,” said Sussberg. “Having him as our ally was great from a storytelling point of view. He was instrumental in brokering the beginning of the relationship with Bill and mentoring us along the way.”

The film

The project was funded entirely by a Kickstarter campaign. This was a passion project without the help of a studio or a major broadcast company.

“We were incredibly lucky … a totally perfect situation. This really was a once in a lifetime opportunity to make this film entirely on our own,” said Sussberg.

Science documentaries have certainly been around for a while but in light of current affairs science seems to be under attack.

“We saw Bill as our champion. Our warrior of science,” said Sussberg. “When we initially approached him that was the angle we wanted. A sort of happy warrior. What we saw was Bill taking on the bad guys.”

People like Ken Ham and Joe Bastardi, who have opposing views on evolution and climate change than Nye, are featured in the film. The documentary follows Nye on his journey to educate and inspire everyone, especially children, to learn more about science and find the truth in the current issues.

“Science is under assault; truth itself is under assault,” said Sussberg. “We live in an era where everyone has a super computer in their pockets.

“At the end of the day the film is about the issues. It’s about science literacy in this country. It’s about space exploration and the potential that science has to solve big world problems. However, at the end of the day it’s a profile about a comedian who was our childhood hero, our science warrior, who dedicated his life to science education.”

The message

The goal of the film isn’t focused just on science or talking about issues. It’s about Nye’s life and the legacy he is leaving behind. Sussberg hopes people can watch this film and enjoy the story about this incredible man.

“I wouldn’t be a documentary filmmaker if it wasn’t for Bill Nye,” said Sussberg. “He taught David and I so much about science and storytelling and that anyone can do what he was doing. We have a incredible debt of gratitude to give him for the huge influence he had on our filmmaking.”

The Nevada City Film Festival is on the tail end of the festival tour for Sussberg. The film will be in theaters in November and on PBS in spring 2018. It’s more of a homecoming for Sussberg at the festival and Festival Director Jesse Locks said she has always been a big supporter of his film career.

“We are so proud of Jason and all that he has achieved as a filmmaker,” says Locks. “We’ve screened nearly every one of his films, from little shorts he made while at Nevada Union High School to his master’s thesis from Stanford. So for us to screen this film, which premiered at South by Southwest, and bring Bill Nye, the man himself, to the festival, we’ve come full circle. It’s a real treat and honor!”

The Nevada City Film Festival will run from Sept. 8-15 and you can learn more and get tickets at http://www.nevadacityfilmfestival.com.

Contact Prospector Editor Sean Jordan at sjordan@theunion.com or 530-477-4219.

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