Capturing the Market Basket Boycott on Film
Nick Buzzell started his entertainment career as a Winnacunnet High School student, working at Prescott Park and creating Next Level Productions, a student-run theatre production company. Soon he was interning at “Inside Edition,” working for MTV and nabbing a plum spot with “The Late Show with David Letterman” (even appearing on the show a few times). In 2008 he partnered with his father to start NBTV, a “next-generation media company,” which put him in the perfect spot to act when news broke of a true grassroots boycott of the popular Market Basket grocery store chain. The resulting documentary, “We the People: The Market Basket Effect,” will be released worldwide this year. Visit themarketbasketeffect.com for updates and local area screenings.
When did the light go on that you needed to produce this documentary? Mid-summer 2014, I got a call from a good friend, mentor and NH restaurateur, John Tinios, who said, “You’ve got to see what’s happening up here with Market Basket; the whole state is talking about it.” I immediately looked on the local news as the story hadn’t gone national yet. I quickly assembled a “production SWAT team” of local filmmakers, and we started shooting the rallies.
The Market Basket saga seems pretty unique. Are there any historical (or contemporary) stories like it? The Bread and Roses textile strike during 1912, centered in Lawrence, Mass., had similar undertones and there are more contemporary examples like Occupy Wall Street. What I believe set the Market Basket boycott apart is that this was not about better wages or better working conditions; this was about people who said, “Enough, I’m not going to take it anymore” and refused to let their company be dismantled.
The narrative that evolved during the boycott was pretty black and white in terms of who the good guys were. Does the story get more complicated? The story is certainly intricate and complex, and there are many layers to the history of Market Basket. There are of course three sides to every story — yours, mine and the truth.
The boycott must have cost millions. Do you think it was a net positive for the company in the long run? They have a stronger brand name than ever, in part due to their boycott, but mostly due to their business model. I have a feeling that once they service their debt to buy back the company, they will expand in a big way.
There was certainly a lot of passion in the process. Did you discover any humor? Some of the slogans and illustrations used on the protest signs were hysterical, especially the one saying that the interim CEOs had their heads up their … well, you get the point.
Who was the most memorable character encountered in the process of making the film? There are so many, it’s hard to choose. In particular were two ladies who had shopped at Market Basket for 40 years and would set up lawn chairs every day to boycott in front of the Seabrook store. They were so passionate and down to earth and mixed with witty sayings and a no-nonsense approach, it was laugh-out-loud funny.
What did you learn as a theatre kid in Hampton that still serves you today? Live theatre taught me many valuable life lessons; one thing in particular that I apply to everything I produce is “know your audience.” In live theatre you know instantly, and if all you hear is crickets while you’re on stage, you’re in trouble.
What’s next for Market Basket? Do you think the story may have another chapter yet to play out? I think the company is stable and their focus is laser. That said, with this story, anything is possible.