The show comes to Charleston in Season 2, which premieres next month
While traveling and researching for his Charleston-based start-up, Good Done Great, which helped companies select international philanthropies to support, Earl Bridges thought: “What if we film some of these places that we end up in?”
For the past two years, Bridges and Craig Martin have hosted PBS’ The Good Road, an “extreme travel” documentary that takes viewers to destinations around the world, introducing them to changemakers working to improve their communities—an idea Bridges coined “philanthropology,” which he defines as the study of how and why people help others.
In Season 2, which debuts in September, Bridges dedicates an episode to exploring Charleston’s do-gooders, including drummer Quentin Baxter and bladesmith Quintin Middleton. The entrepreneur-turned-producer who lives on Daniel Island says he approached the episode about his hometown by asking: “What are the voices that you haven‘t heard when you see Charleston in big travel publications? The idea is that you understand Charleston differently than [a list of] the top 10 places to go get shrimp and grits.” Here, he takes us behind the scenes of the show, which was recently nominated for a national daytime Emmy for multi-camera editing.
CM: What do you hope viewers take away from the show?
EB: The Good Road was always meant to be about how you celebrate this profession of doing good, whether it’s with a charity or some kind of social impact or even a for-profit company. How do you make it not feel contrived or agenda-driven? The formula we came up with is we allow our heroes to be Batman, not Superman; we don’t pretend that they’re saints. Telling stories about people really gives you a better idea about the places where they live, and so the travel format is where we arrived.
CM: What was the approach to telling Charleston’s story?
EB: I live in Charleston, so it’s high stakes for me. If you’re going to explain this place to anyone else, then what always sticks with you are the things that people don‘t know about the Holy City. We have one of the oldest Reform synagogues in America, a Jewish population that’s been here for a long time. We have an arts scene, so Spoleto, yes, but we also have one of the oldest opera houses in America. You have to talk about what the influences are from Western Africa and the slave trade and how that’s affected the city, as well as Gullah Geechee influences on music, food, and tradition. We also want people to understand that there’s so much more to Charleston than this fair facade that we put on it with rainbow colors. So, for us, the challenge was how do we tell a story that people don’t know, and how do you fall in love with this city more by getting deeper?
CM: Tell us about your coined term, “philanthropology.”
EB: It’s not really anthropology as much; we’re trying to find the good, so it’s more “philanthropology.” The beauty of adopting a term or creating one is that there are no expectations; it’s whatever you decide it’s going to be, so ours is very much: go somewhere, find someone, and then try to understand what this person is doing that is good. That‘s all we want to do is hang out with cool people and get to know them a little bit better, and it‘s cool if they‘re more like Batman, a flawed human, and not Superman.
CM: What can viewers of the Charleston episode expect to learn about philanthropology?
EB: There's a role that music has in helping us understand who we are as a community. So there's going to be an interesting segment with Quintin Baxter and Ranky Tanky; musicians are not often considered do-gooders, but he is very much that. There will be a little bit on Quintin Middleton, who is a bladesmith, and he'll explain what the historical influences are from Western Africa, and you'll start to understand why we have shrimp and grits and why we have this rice culture, and how that has manifested itself in our larger sensibilities. The old Charleston is much deeper and broader and richer than most people realize, so we look forward to exploring corners that fewer people have visited.
Lives: Daniel Island
Graduated: University of South Carolina, master’s in international finance
Family: Wife, Pam, and daughter, Lily, a junior at Bishop England
Favorite destination: Pemba Island, Tanzania