by Ivy Knight

Richard Paradiso and Declan O'Driscoll on May 6 upon winning the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Television Special/Documentary for Milk War. Photo:

Declan O’Driscoll was born in Toronto but spent most of his childhood in Ireland before heading out into the world to live in Iceland and the Kootenays of British Columbia until returning to Canada. He majored in theatre and minored in film at Concordia and has since shot the Iceland Airwaves Festival for four years running and completed a documentary about Icelandic immigration to Canada called The Path to Gimli. He now works as a music television producer for BPM TV, the Montreal-based dance and club culture digital TV channel.

So, why am I interviewing him for Good Food Revolution?

36 year-old Declan is also the brilliant producer of Milk War, a documentary about Michael Schmidt’s battle to be legally allowed to sell raw milk. His little documentary just won a James Beard Award.

Good Food Revolution: Your background is in music and film, how did you find out about Michael Schmidt?

Declan O’Driscoll: My mother is very good friends with him, she’s a cow share member. When his farm got raided in 2006, she told me about it and said that Jamie Kennedy would be holding a press conference. She suggested I go down and film it, so I did. I brought along Richard Paradiso, he’s the associate producer. That’s where it started and we just kept following his story.

GFR: What drew you to the story?

DO’D: Richard doesn’t even drink milk, for him this was about human rights and whether or not the government should have control over what people eat. For me, I knew that raw milk was healthy and nutritious but this was also personal for me because this was happening to someone I know. I’ve known Michael since the 90’s.

GFR: Are you a raw milk advocate now?

DO’D: I’ve always been into organic and biodynamic farming. I’ve been drinking raw milk, when I can get it, for twenty years or so and I drank it exclusively when I lived in Argenta, BC.

GFR: During the filming did you interview anyone who reported a bad experience with raw milk?

DO’D: That was crazy. We searched high and low for someone who’d gotten sick from raw milk. We only found one case. It was on the Health Canada website, a case from 2005 where a boy from Barrie got sick. We contacted the family and set up an interview.

DO’D: During the interview, to our amazement, they said that he hadn’t gotten sick from the raw milk but that he actually got sick from a fast food hamburger. We kept searching but that was the closest we got to finding any cases in Ontario.

GFR: How long did this documentary project take?

DO’D: Michael got raided in November 2006 and that’s when we started shooting. When Michael went to court in 2009 we had a production company on board, Stornoway, and that’s when we brought in Kevin O’Keefe, from iChannel, as director. We wrapped in February 2009 and it aired on iChannel in September 2010.

GFR: How did you come to submit the documentary to the James Beard Awards?

DO’D: We heard that they were looking for documentaries about food so we submitted Milk War. We were in a category up against Emeril Lagasse. Have you heard of him? He’s pretty big! We were sitting at a table with producers from 60 Minutes and we ended up winning. We beat Emeril! Totally unexpected and hilarious.

CBC Radio won that night as well, which was great.

GFR: What is your next project?

DO’D: I’m working on a project called Deconstructing Dinner with John Steinman as the host. He already has a radio show by the same name so we’re looking to make it into a television series.

Declan O’Driscoll and Kevin O’Keefe will be screening Milk War in the Drake Lounge on June 6th at 7pm. Both men will be available for questions after the documentary airs. The screening is free and open to the public. Copies of the documentary will be sold at half price for this night only.

Ivy Knight is a Toronto-based food writer and journalist, as well as the host of  host of 86′d Mondays at the Drake Hotel. Follow Ivy at