From Chasing Celebrities to Tracking Down Industry Polluters

Erik Crown sampling water near the phosphate mining industry headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Stel Bailey

From Chasing Celebrities to Tracking Down Industry Polluters

He went from Hollywood chasing A-list celebrities to tracking down and documenting big industry polluters. Erik E Crown is a fearless filmmaker who shines a bright light on industries contaminating waterways, land, wildlife, and people across the globe. Crown began his career at a young age, learning video production and editing from his father, a lead editor at ABC News in Washington, D.C. He eventually found himself confined to the Los Angeles International Airport, where he regularly videoed various celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, and Jennifer Garner. The years he spent working with TMZ producing, interviewing, and capturing live events gave him the experience he needed to do investigative filmmaking and capture environmental catastrophes unfolding across the globe. 

Currently battling a rare form of cancer, Crown has been through 14 surgeries and numerous treatments and continues to be on medication to combat the masses that grow around his organs. His cancer diagnosis doesn't stop him from advocating or documenting polluters in action. Cancer has given him a unique perspective on how the environment plays a role in disease rates and an unlimited source of courage to tackle corporations ruining natural resources.

Crown often goes undercover, risking his safety so that the world can see the reality of how our ecosystems are being damaged by humankind. 

His projects take him into unfamiliar landscapes traveling across the globe with a few bags that possess his essential needs and camera equipment. He spends tireless hours staking out activities around industries putting his safety at risk as he captures strange activities hidden from the general public by hills, trees, and remote locations.  

While monitoring these activities, he has been exposed to harmful chemicals like radium, PFAS, cyanobacteria, and uranium. He has recorded reactions such as swollen lymph nodes, fever, sore throat, and a weakened body. He is forced to take time to recover during his work as most of these projects include high concentrations of toxins that trigger immune responses. He also continues to battle reoccurring tumors that never get completely eradicated, so he manages his cancer by doing maintenance treatments. Keeping the tumors in check, he continues to focus on highlighting environmental health exposures to bring awareness to protect others from having to treat their cancer as a chronic illness. 

Wearing hidden cameras at all times, Crown has captured white trucks with industry-hired security following him and odd behavior from local municipalities and other government agencies. He has approached agencies working alongside polluters who display a dismissive and agitated tone as Crown prods them with challenging questions regarding their role in protecting communities and the ecosystem they live in. He spends quality time in the town he investigates, meeting with community members, activists, government officials, and the industry. Most times, the industry and government agencies decline to meet.

His work entails him going undercover onto work sites, into exclusive events, onto secluded land and water, and into the offices of government agencies who have attempted to disregard his right to film in a public space. He has earned the trust of advocates and whistleblowers with insider information, some of whom face the effects of occupational exposure from the industries that employ them. 

Crown has been involved with well-known documentaries like Phosfate and has investigated the illegal pet trade in the Amazon rainforest, illegal fishing in South China, and corporate waste pollution causing cancer in America. He also runs a podcast, "The Conservation Conversation," where he has engaging and informative discussions with various environmentalists, experts, whistleblowers, and organizations. Determined to bring change, he works alongside advocates to help protect the environment, wildlife, and human health.

Before thousands of attendees marched to the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) headquarters to demand changes in regulations, Crown spoke at Freedom Plaza in Washington DC:

"All of us are touched by cancer and have taken that pain and turned it into something positive to change the future. My cancer diagnosis was a sharpening stone for my soul; it finally gave me a mission; once I lost everything, I gained everything. As I work on these movies, I find that every state has the same problem. Everyone is being poisoned; it's a business model, not a fluke. Our voice can and will be heard. We will no longer be silent. I do believe we can fight back and change the future. 

I have met some of the most amazing activists worldwide, where their communities are being poisoned and not being told or allowed to make informed decisions. Anyone getting cancer is a tragedy, but for a child, it's criminal. We cannot continue this executive immunity of these companies who know they are poisoning us and continue to have free range and big bonuses while they leave us sick.

Pain created this path, but love will determine the future."  


Stel Bailey

Stel Bailey, a cancer cluster survivor and environmental health advocate, is a researcher and journalist with more than two decades of multimedia experience, having been published globally.

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