Meet New Day: Kate Schermerhorn

A woman is riding on a vehicle that looks like a cooler with wheels.

I am an Emmy-winning filmmaker and photographer, mother, and also a 2023 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. I have directed 100s of videos, won 3 Tellies, 1 Emmy, and been nominated for 1 more. I have published 1 book of photographs, lived in 4 countries, speak 4 languages, have jumped out of a plane 27 times, and on my own raised 2 humans and 60,000 bees. The New Yorker said of my work, “In Kate’s work, nothing seems wasted, nothing’s excessive."

Do I Need This? is a documentary film about consumerism, excess, and the stuff from which happiness is truly made. This quirky, relatable, and profound award-winning film delicately interweaves my complicated relationship to my family possessions during the late stages of my parents’ lives, together with a journey into the homes and minds of fellow Americans. On the surface, Do I Need This? is a joy ride through our excessive consumption habits, but at its core, it is a deep and genuine reflection on happiness and aging, materialism, and mortality.

Do I Need This? was motivated by my concern for the dire environmental challenges facing our planet, and how our consumption habits fuel them. Yet, I didn’t want to make a film to preach to the converted, or, for that matter - one that preaches in any way. The film’s focus is very intentionally not on our impact on nature (although it gets a short and powerful mention), and instead draws attention to our human nature to consume. As filming went on, my mother started showing signs of dementia and my parents moved into assisted living, leaving me attached to, and overwhelmed by, a lifetime of 'stuff'. I learned that I am not alone in those feelings! Do I Need This? provokes audiences to evaluate their own consumption habits for the sake of their personal well-being, and in doing so, guides them to consider more conscious consumption habits that will benefit the planet, as well.

When I started production on Do I Need This? I had no intention of including myself in the story. I was going to look at the way OTHER people consume, and at the way their 'stuff' impacts their lives. I wanted to show the impact our excessive consumption habits have on our lives, and in doing so, encourage viewers to think more carefully about the way they consume. But when my mom started showing signs of dementia, and my parents downsized into assisted living, I became a perfect example of the impact 'stuff' can have on our emotional life and well-being. It was then that I started turning the camera on my own life.

I'm very proud of the impact the film is having so far. Viewers tell me they can't buy anything new without asking themselves if they really 'need this'. I hope the film will continue to have more and more impact on the way people consume.

I invite you to watch the trailer and learn more about the film:

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