At the top of 2011, I watched my friends step out on faith to invest in their many talents. In place of traditional careers they chose to follow their hearts. Writing, dancing, acting, sewing, styling, entrepreneurship.

Paint on Walls is their story.

All We Need is Green Space and Opportunity

"How Can I Help? - San Diego" - Watch the Season Premiere!

Ronnie Das didn’t know the first thing about producing a television show. He had no idea how to use FinalCut Pro, and definitely had no plans to become the host of his own TV show.

Inexperience aside, in just three months, Ronnie launched RDF Productions, interviewed Bill Clinton, and filmed the entire first season of his cable TV show, “How Can I Help?”

“How Can I Help?” is a weekly cable series on ITV-Cable 16. Ronnie seeks out sustainable business owners and radical inventions around San Diego in hopes of introducing new products and practices into the homes of San Diego residents.

“We don’t want people, at any point, to go out of their way to be sustainable,” says Das. 
“People generally, would like to do the right thing, but they also want to do what’s easier, more economical, and socially convenient.” He advocates for the consumer experience. “By showing accessibility, availability and variety, I’m not saying, ‘Hey, do this!’ I’m saying ‘Here are more choices.’”

The show had a rough start. After being turned down by every possible network from MTV to PBS, “How Can I Help?” found a home with the San Diego County of Education.

The first episode featured poor sound quality, a fuzzy screen, and a first-hand look at sustainable farming and local markets. “We were so new at this, we never wiped the lens of the camera, so there’s always a smudge,” chuckles Das.

Despite a few beginner’s mistakes, it was a finished product with a clear message: “The environment is not about right or wrong, bad or good. It’s about, [being] efficient and using our resources wisely.”

The 30-minute show carries like a conversation; local talents share their stories, and Das, like a young Huell Howser, dives right in – preparing food, brewing all natural hops, and sailing away on hydra-terra seal tours – all in an effort to better understand the sustainable experience.

Noticeably nervous in the first episode, Ronnie gradually eases into a more comfortable stance as the season progresses. His advice to aspiring creatives: “It’s never going to be perfect. You’re never going to have a million dollars funding to start. You’re never going to have everything you need. You just need to go out and get it done and you’ll learn the mistakes as you go along.”

Now entering his second season, Ronnie manages the growing production company from home, yet exudes the contagious confidence of a full-time TV exec.
“You have to represent yourself like you’re 3,000 people,” Ronnie says. “Be clear and direct. Then you start getting results.”
Funding for the pilot episode – as well as the first season – stemmed largely from Das’ personal savings. Friends, enrolled at UCSD, rented free HD cameras and AV equipment. By October 2011, the San Diego County of Education – who owns ITV – and other private sources had donated an HD Camera and a state-of-the-art wireless microphone.

Good fortune didn’t stop there. RDF Productions secured admission into the Clinton Global Initiative and ultimately, 3 minutes of uninterrupted interview time with former President Bill Clinton.

Ronnie attended CGI as both a student delegate and a press representative. Swapping credentials throughout the day to gain access to various events, and of course, to the free food; he eventually walked right into a press conference with Bill Clinton. Amongst the frenzy, he was selected to deliver the final question. Clinton answered and it’s all on tape.

“I almost froze,” he laughs. “As an immigrant – I came here in 1986 – most of my memories are of him [Clinton] as our president.” Ronnie shared the experience with his parents. He could feel them beaming through the phone.

“It really opened my eyes to the possibilities.”

Since that moment, Ronnie has gone beyond small businesses to approach some of the major decision makers in San Diego County including green execs from the San Diego International Airport, one of the first major airports to adopt sustainable policies.
“You don’t have to beg, you just have to know what you have to offer. Believe in it, take full ownership,” he says.
There’s almost no trace of the nervous host we first encountered on June 3, 2011. With hundreds of hours of footage, over 15 articles published online and a second season that began on December 1st, “How Can I Help,” as a business, embodies the sustainable message embedded into every episode.

“We have 85 episode ideas. If we do 10 episodes per season, we have at least 4 years of material.”

Learning to do more with less, Ronnie has created a kind of production co-op. Former classmates and current UCSD students staff the production crew; they volunteer their time and expertise to earn letters of recommendation and the chance to develop a diverse portfolio of film and production material.

Although this means the schedule is slightly unpredictable, Ronnie has learned the importance of trusting his team. He values their opinions and enjoys allowing them to take the lead in their creative fields.

The entire model is, well, sustainable.

“If another company is using a $30,000 camera and I’m using a $300 camera that means we’re doing the same things, but my budget is a tenth of what his is…if you buy him a camera, you could have 10 seasons of my show.”

Taking things one day at a time, RDF productions launched Season 2 on December 1st. This season will feature a 3-part series on the old adage, “Reduce, Recycle, Re-Use.” If it sounds a little backwards, that’s because it is. As of 2011, green gurus recommend reducing the amount of waste we produce. Not a bad idea.

It’s amazing to watch the tremendous amount of growth that takes place when you start a project and see it through until the end. You find talents and skills you never thought were real and even the most insurmountable challenges pale in comparison to the dream.

Ronnie knows this is only the beginning. An Environental Systems grad, each episode sparks interest in a new area of green living and sustainable energy. Perhaps one day he’ll pursue a graduate degree or land that show on MTV. Ronnie remains open and optimistic.

“It’s a crazy, connected world. It’s an amazing time to live…none of us knows what’s next and anyone can plan it.”

San Diego Residents: Catch the next episode, "Electro-Go" this Thursday at 6:00pm
COX: Ch. 16 | Time Warner: Ch. 16 | AT&T: Ch. 99
(Also Available on YouTube after Dec. 8)