Ever wondered about the man who is the namesake of Burt’s Bees lip balm? There’s a story behind the face, and director Jody Shapiro tells that story in the new documentary Burt’s Buzz. The film intimately chronicles the life of Burt Shavitz, a co-founder of Burt’s Bees and the iconic face on the company’s label, tracing his path from a reclusive Maine beekeeper to reluctant personal-care tycoon. As the name of the company implies, Burt’s Bees started as a man named Burt who sold honey out of the back of his bright yellow truck. When he meets single mother and struggling waitress Roxanne Quimby, the two become business partners. Quimby proves to be a shrewd businesswomen, expanding and transforming Shavitz’s modest honey sales into the empire of lotions, soaps, candles, and lip balms it is known for today.
Shapiro paints the portrait of Shavitz as a man steadfastly committed to preserving his life of rustic simplicity in spite of his business mogul status. The film central arc explores this tension between his desire to keep true to his humble beginnings and the expectations that come with celebrity status that were thrust upon him as the company took off. Shavitz is visibly uncomfortable in the spotlight, yet dutifully goes on promotional Burt’s Bees tours across Taiwan to be greeted by hoards of screaming fans dressed like bumblebees and begging for autographs. “A good day is when no one shows up and you don’t have to go anywhere,” he drawls at one point in the film. For Shavitz, such days seem to be few and far in between.