Documentary on Potsdam toilet gardens coming to streaming services in August

·2 min read

May 15—POTSDAM — The documentary film "Potty Town: Where Protest Meets Porcelain" will debut on major streaming services in August.

C.J. Wallis, one of the film's executive producers, said the exact date hasn't been nailed down, but it will be announced in the near future.

"We do not have a specific date as of yet as we are in the early process of delivering all the assets. Outside of getting an exclusive with Netflix or Studio, which we won't know for another month or so, the film will be on all major streaming services, satellite providers and cable PPV," Mr. Wallis said.

The documentary chronicles the emergence of Potsdam's toilet gardens, the community in which they grow and Frederick J. "Hank" Robar Sr., the man behind the internationally recognized floral privies.

Morgan D. Elliott, the film's director, is a Canton native who graduated with a bachelor's degree in video production from SUNY Plattsburgh. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Boston University. Mr. Elliott has headed photography for festival short films, but "Potty Town" is his directorial debut.

Working as a videographer for SUNY Canton in 2017, Mr. Elliott had no intention of crafting a feature-length film about the toilet gardens at the time. His curiosity led him to interview Mr. Robar, and after talking with the then 76-year-old for two hours, he realized: "There's definitely more to this than I thought."

In a 2021 interview with the Times, Mr. Elliott said a development in the ongoing saga that happened in 2020 — the third time the village unsuccessfully attempted to uproot the toilets — prompted him to revisit the initial interviews and B-roll he filmed in 2017.

"From there," he said, "it became toilets all the time."

Production has involved interviewing a few dozen people central to the unfinished story, and Mr. Elliott has cultivated a friendship with Mr. Robar. The players include former village code enforcement officers, SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University professors, journalists and neighbors. All have a vision for what the village could and should be, staggeringly varied visions, Mr. Elliott said.

This story's "enemy," he said, is neither the village board nor Mr. Robar. It's not St. Lawrence Health System or Clarkson University — both institutions having been staunchly opposed to Mr. Robar's gardens over the last decade. Perhaps the story doesn't even have an "enemy" and is better understood through the community's evolving sense of identity.

"It's one of those iceberg stories," Mr. Elliott said. "All the themes are below the surface."

Go to wdt.me/nswYcc to read an earlier interview with Mr. Elliott.