Nic Esposito, head of Mayor Jim Kenney’s Zero Waste and Litter cabinet, isn't shy about the amount of work it will take to de-trashify Philadelphia's notoriously filthy streets.
“This is a hard job,” Esposito, who lives next to a litter-strewn empty lot in Kensington, said. “Everyday it hits me in the face, I have to live this reality of trash around our city. I take my son over and drop him off in the Temple area for his Pre-K program and there’s trash all over those streets. And it’s almost like, a 'if you don’t laugh, you cry' kind of thing.”
And so when facing the task of creating a training video for city employees working on the cabinet’s Litter Index — a city-wide survey that grades streets on the scale of their waste problem — Esposito and his team chose to have some fun.
“We wanted something that was really going to stick in the minds of our employees,” Esposito said. “Something a little over-the-top, something memorable.”
If over-the-top was the goal, Esposito achieved it. The three-minute video stars the city employee as “Ric Resposito,” a character inspired by “The Simpsons’” Troy McClure — an infomercial host voiced in the animated sitcom by Phil Hartman.
Esposito, who also wrote the script, took the creative liberty of adding a 1970s look for his character. Decked out in a funky suit inherited from his late grandfather and wearing his wife’s gold chain over his own hairy chest, he explains the anti-litter-and-dumping tool. For every scene, Esposito dons a different fake mustache. The video includes an all-too-brief disco dance scene.
“Sometimes you have to sacrifice your dignity for the public good,” said Esposito, who’s not new to performance and storytelling.
The “Litter Index Training!” video was released one week ago and has 6.4K views on CleanPHL’s Facebook pages. Comments go from “Great job!,” to “I AM DROWNING IN THIS FILTH.”
The Philly311 video team — David Kisleiko, Michael Vivas, John Ryan, and Allison Miller — produced the video. The team used two DSLR cameras, vintage props such as a Electro-Voice 635A microphone from 1965 and archival material from “A Song of Philadelphia,” produced for the Office of the City Representative in 1961. Post-production work added to the vintage feel. Esposito — author of a novel and an essay collection, and founder of the local independent publishing company The Head & The Hand Press — got some editing help from his team at City Hall. Aside from staff time, there was no budget associated with the work of art, said city spokeswoman Kelly Cofrancisco.
Esposito said the feedback they got among city employees was so good that they decided to use it publicly to bring awareness to the program.
“People thought it was hilarious and it stuck in their minds,” Esposito said. “So any embarrassment that I have pales in comparison on how excited I am that people just know about the initiative and, you know, I thought it was funny.”
By the end of the year, Esposito’s team will have a second year of litter data to compare with the baseline done last year. That data will allow them to prove the effectiveness of some of the neighborhood programs implemented this year, and to determine where to put more resources.
Esposito said cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago do litter index to understand the litter conditions their cities face and plan from there. He plans to have a comparative report from the 2017-2018 litter index by next winter.
“This is a major part of the work, the work is really hard, and like I said, just to go have a little bit of fun while you’re doing it, while at the same time progressing your message, is the best situation you can be in,” Esposito said.