I’ve been to dozens of screenings over the past year, at film festivals, schools and community gatherings around the country and everyone always asks the same thing: “What can I do? How can I get involved?” And that’s exactly what Erin and I hoped for when we created the film, that people would be inspired and moved to take action.
So, we have changed the Opening Our Eyes website so that we can help answer that question instead of being a dead end. I wanted the film to be a jumping off point for people to take action, but that would only happen if we could direct that energy into tangible ways.
We’ve set up a “take action” page, with three different sections on ways that you can help make a positive difference in your community or on a more global scale. You can “become the power of one” and find out how Maggie Doyne used her babysitting earnings to make a difference or find explore volunteer travel opportunities. You can “multiply the power of one” and donate to our subjects’ causes or find out about volunteering for them or you can host a screening of the film and “showcase the power of one.”
Every time I start to step away from this project, something happens to pull me back into it. So I suppose that this journey isn’t over. I continue to be amazed by the collective power we all have in making change happen and making our world the world we want to live in. I still remember what one of our subjects, Robbin Moulds told us one rainy day in Sydney, Australia. She said, “At 211 degrees water is hot. At 212 degrees it boils. That’s a one degree difference.”
I challenge you all – what’s a one degree difference you can make?
I have been going to a lot of film festivals this past month and we’ve done quite well, winning Best Documentary at the Orlando Film Festival and Festival Theme Award at the Ojai Film Festival (theme was “Enriching the Human Spirit Through Film”). While I am truly honored that the film has done so well at festivals, I need to remind myself that I did not make this film to garner accolades.
Erin and I made this film to create awareness and inspire and motivate others, as to what they can do to make our world a better place. That will only happen if we utilize the power of film and get it seen. Whether it is seen at film festivals, broadcast or online, our goal is to reach people everywhere. Our hope is that we can create a “shift” and get people to realize the power they have as an individual in making the world – the world they want to live in.
When I talk to people in the audience at film festivals, I can see that happening. I hear it in their questions and comments. I see it in their eyes. But I always wish there were more people in the audience and more audiences to show it to and I get impatient waiting for it to “grow”. I have faith that it will because I know we aren’t the only ones who are thinking about the future of our planet or looking for a little “more” in their own lives.
I’m encouraged by the people in our film like Maggie Doyne, Letha Sandison and Gina Low who stay committed to their cause. I wish there were more people like them and maybe, just maybe someone will see our film and do something because of it. That is how I can make a difference – by using my craft to create awareness. So, please forgive me if I post too much on Facebook or send out too many emails about upcoming festivals. The film will only have the power to make a difference – if someone sees it.
“Speak a Foreign Language Fluently in 3 Months” was one of the workshops I attended this past weekend at the World Domination Summit. That workshop title probably smacks of a snake oil salesman’s pitch to most of you, and what the heck is a world domination summit anyway? Prior to leaving for this conference, I must say it was kind of tricky explaining to people what it was, but everyone was intrigued by the title.
Essentially, it was a weekend gathering of like-minded people who wanted to live remarkable lives in a conventional world. There were people of all ages, from all over the world and from all sorts of career paths. But we had one thing in common and that was we were open to possibilities and courageous enough to be vulnerable. Wow – that seems like an oxymoron “courageous enough to be vulnerable” but actually it’s not at all. One must be vulnerable in order to love, feel joy, hope, empathy, curiosity, and gratitude or be creative. One must be brave to be vulnerable.
It was a “community” of kindred spirits who were inspirational. Some were living remarkable lives and some had come because they had decided to makes changes in their live-s because they were not happy. One woman I met told me that she felt like she was living the lives of two different people – the person she was at her job and the person she really was – who was dying to get out. She told me that she was inspired by my courage and what I have done in my life and that she will remember me. The truth is I don’t perceive myself as courageous at all and in fact I’m terrified of doing most of the things that I do. I have a friend who made a life changing decision to move to another country where he didn’t have a job, nor spoke the language – now that took courage. I’m sure it had to be terrifying – I don’t think I could have done it. No doubt he was helped by friends and it became easier over time as he became part of the “community”.
That is what a community should be – people who connect in ways that help others realize their dreams. It can come from sharing thoughts on forums and blogs online but the real magic happens when they come together in a very “real” way.
You’re probably wondering about the workshop I took “Speak a Foreign Language Fluently in 3 Months”. It was given by a likable and very entertaining Irishman, Benny Lewis, who has managed to learn several languages. He said don’t learn a language from a book and don’t focus on the grammar. He said the best way is to be confident and “just” start speaking the language you want to learn with someone who speaks it. And these days you don’t need to go to Greece to learn Greek – one can find someone who speaks Greek on Couchsurfing.org or ITalkI.com and start having skype conversations with them. So I’m going to take his advice and depart from my Rosetta Stone and start skyping with someone in Spanish. That’s a scary thought to me – trying to talk to someone in a language I don’t know and humiliating myself in the process – but it’s a fear I’m willing to face.
Speaker Chris Brogan made a comment that resonated with me when he said:“the opposite of fear is not courage or bravery. The opposite of fear is surrender and giving up”. I will keep that in mind when I’m afraid to tackle the unknown – that to be fearful is being vulnerable and one has to experience that to be able to find joy.
It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve finally launched the redesign of the Opening Our Eyes website – or at least phase one. There will be a phase two which will make the site more interactive – but that will be down the road.
Here are a few cool changes that our fabulous designers have made:
• Total redesign from the “home” page and throughout.
• A list of upcoming screening and speaking dates.
• More photos everywhere, including on our “subjects” page
• Podcasts and behind the scenes videos uploaded
• A “store” with links to our book and ePubs
• A sign up button for news and updates
Of course the site will still contain our ongoing blog as well as the trailer for the film.
Please check out these new areas of our website and let us know what you like – or what you would like to see in the future.
In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted on any future film festivals that the film has been invited to.
Last Friday marked a milestone in my life and this project. It was two years ago, on May 25, 2010 that my daughter, Erin and I departed on our journey around the world. Our quest was to set foot on six continents, seeking the change makers – people who were making our world a better place. It seems like it was a lifetime ago.
Last week, I was almost too exhausted to remember the anniversary of our departure – I was still depleted from my month long sojourn in China – teaching. While I loved the “teaching” part of the trip, it had its challenges in other ways. It pushed me out of my norm in many ways. It is taking me a bit longer to bounce back this time after a long trip, but I’m not fighting my body’s natural instincts to rest.
So much has changed since that spring day in 2010 when Erin and I boarded a flight bound for Kampala, Uganda for the first leg of our 99-day journey around the world. There have been a lot of ups and downs and hits and misses since then. If I dwelled on the misses, I would only get myself down. I remember Maggie Doyne talking about her own trials and tribulations and how she tried to focus on the good and the positive. I try to adopt Maggie’s attitude but it’s not always easy, as I’m sure it’s not for Maggie.
When I do take time to look back over the last two years of my life, I’m amazed at what has transpired – the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been to, and the opportunities I have been given and able to share with my family. I’m so grateful – mostly for having the courage to live life. But I’ve had plenty of help and encouragement from friends and family. I could not have done half of what I did in the past two years without the support of my friends in the way of emails, phone calls, blog comments and Facebook posts. It was especially meaningful to hear from friends when I was on the road – like a lifeline connection.
I stay in contact with many of the subjects from the film even though we are all scattered on different continents. These days it’s not hard to stay in touch with friends via emails, Skype and social media and I love having friends all over the world.
I think I will enjoy being home for a while and all the little things that come with it.
I’ve been using technology and social media a lot lately to get the word out about Opening Our Eyes. In doing so I have started to reconnect with a lot of folks from my past. I wrote a post recently on my professional blog, Journeys of a Hybrid, about using technology to reconnect with people from the past. I’ve never been one to actively seek out people from my past. I’ve never been to a high school reunion – and there have been quite a few. But now, it’s a lot easier to find and be found by people.
What I’m finding out is that when I do reconnect with people I haven’t seen in many, years, I find that the ones I “clicked with” back then,I still click with, now. Some have showed up at screenings and some at professional events – but each time we reconnected it was like resuming a conversation that had begun years ago – without missing a beat.
One old friend I reconnected with, said something to me that got my attention. We hadn’t seen each other in decades. He told me that he had wondered over the years, what had happened to me, but that somehow he knew that I was probably doing what it was that I was meant to do – and that I was living my life fully. He said he remembered my “spirit.” When he “found” me on Facebook and heard about the movie, he was prompted to reconnect.
As much as it is fun to go down memory lane every now and then, I am finding that using social media to connect with “new” friends is a powerful tool to connect with “friends” who are kindred spirits. I am in the process of working with a web designer to build this website into more than just my blog and information about the film. My vision and long term goal is to use the website to build a “community” – a community of like minded people who are interested in “making a difference.” I want to build a gathering place for people to interact with one another. I want to take it beyond just my voice. The film can set the stage for inspiration but the virtual “community” will give people a place to connect, share and learn from one another.
Changes on the website will take place slowly over the coming months – everything always seems to take longer than what I think it will take – but eventually it the site will morph into a place for people to interact with one another. I think these days – it’s more interesting to use technology in an interactive way rather than just present a one-way conversation via a blog post.
It will only be successful if the community grows and shares. I hope that everyone who reads this post will contribute to the dialog as it unfolds, and gets others to engage so that we can all create a shift – toward bringing about a world that’s less self centered. The best part is that with the technology at hand these days and social media, we can connect our past “friends” with our future “friends” and make this world a better place together.
As I listened to the many speakers of the day, talking about what they were doing in their life and in turn affecting other people’s lives, I couldn’t help but feel the common bond amongst this group. They were all thinking beyond themselves and that in itself was not only energizing but gave me great hope for the future. Most of the speakers were young – and it brought me back to when I was their age, so full of hope and believing that I could change the world. I suppose I am in the minority of people of my generation, because I’ve managed to hold on to those beliefs. If I hadn’t, I never would have embarked on this journey that I started with my daughter, almost two years ago.
Yesterday evening I screened the film for many of the same people that had attended the TEDx conference. While I may be from a different generation and cultural background – we were kindred spirits in our beliefs, and our concern for others and the planet that we live on. It was the first time that I showed the film outside the United States and even though that was part of our dream – to take this film globally – I wasn’t quite sure how it would be received. But during the Q&A, I realized what I had probably known all along – that no matter how different our cultures may be in so many ways – we had the common bonds of what connects all humanity. We all need food and shelter and the obvious needs of life – but there is something more that all humans need – the need to love and be loved. The need to know that someone cares.
I think sometimes we forget that basic human desire, overcome by our drive to be successful – sometimes thinking that someone surely has to lose in order for us to win. Last night someone asked me “Has your life changed since making this film?” I’ve had half a dozen screenings in the US and I think this was the first time that I was asked this question. I didn’t have to think much to answer the question, and I said “yes – I have changed mostly in what I place importance on in my life. The little things that used to bother me a great deal, don’t seem to matter anymore in the big picture of life.”
I’ve been thinking about that a lot this morning and I think that even though my outlook has changed, I still basically remain the same person I have always been – meaning my fundamental character. I think what has really changed is that I’ve recognized the person who I have always been – and stopped living the dogma that others believe in.
The funny thing is, the people who are in my life now, tell me how young and energetic I look and how happy and content I appear. I think what they see is what I am feeling on the inside. I also think that because of that, I am attracting people who are meant to be in my life. I’m no longer concerned about people who I thought I wanted or needed in my life, but might not have felt the same way. I only wish that I had learned this a long time ago. But as many of the wonderful people who appear in our film told us “there is a time for everything.” Thank you to all the beautiful people in Sao Paulo who have made this a very special and memorable experience. Our hearts will remain connected even though the miles may separate us.
I just received some fabulous news. That is that the San Francisco Film Society has agreed to be a fiscal sponsor for Opening Our Eyes. This is huge because it means that we can apply for grants and accept donations under their 501C umbrella. I would be remiss if I did not thank my husband, partner and best friend, Tom Kelly for filling out the application and providing the reams of necessary documents. He really came through for us and I can’t thank him enough.
It’s been very challenging, raising money for film festival entries, setting up theatrical screenings and promoting the film. But what would be the point of our team’s tremendous efforts in making this film if it ends up being the best kept secret?
I truly hope that this this sponsorship and 501C status will encourage individuals, institutions and corporations to donate to Opening Our Eyes so that we may realize our goal and inspire and motivate others as to what they can do to make our world a better place.
The San Francisco Film Society is one of the oldest and most respected film groups in the United States and to get this distinction is truly an honor. We have been so blessed by so many people who have believed in our project and have either contributed money, their expertise or both. I can’t even begin to express how meaningful this experience has been and how it has changed my life in so many ways. Quite simply it has given me hope – at a time when there is much hopelessness and despair.
Please help us get this film out there. If you are involved with foundations or work at corporations that give, please pass along the link to our project. You never know what may transpire and hopefully this has made things a bit easier. All donations are tax deductible.
Every one of our subjects and their causes will win if this film gets noticed globally. It is off to a good start with the trailer being seen in over 114 countries – but we have a lot of work ahead. I can do a lot of things on my own – and have – but I need everybody’s help on this one.
It’s not just a movie, it’s a movement.
3 Ways to Donate:
Through IndieGoGo – get a reward
Through the San Francisco Film Society online
Checks: Payable to San Francisco Film Society
Write Opening Our Eyes FSP 1378 in Memo Line
San Francisco Film Society – ATTN: Finance Department
39 Mesa Street, Suite 110
San Francisco CA 94129-1025
It wasn’t at all like I imagined it would be – it was so much better.
I met singer/songwriter Jackson Browne last night,
after seeing his concert in Montclair, NJ. The show on its own was amazing. Jackson did an acoustic set, his 17 guitars lined up behind him, a keyboard and a solo chair, all perfectly positioned on stage. He doesn’t use a play list for his acoustic shows – he simply picks out a guitar and plays the song that he associates with that particular instrument. It can get a bit rowdy with the audience shouting out titles for him to play, but Jackson is more free-form and picks up on the vibe of the audience. His performance last night was incredible – he sounded great and his audio mix was outstanding.
So, why am I writing about Jackson Browne and what does he have to do with Opening Our Eyes? Many of you know the answer to that question but for those who don’t, I’ll explain briefly. I’ve been a big fan of Jackson’s music for over 30 years. I also admire him for his social activism and his efforts (as well as his wife Dianna Cohen) in making a difference in the world. Jackson does countless benefit concerts for various causes and Dianna is founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a movement to get people away from “one use” plastic products – water bottles, shopping bags etc. So, both Jackson and Dianna personified what this film is about.
When I was struggling to find a title for the film, I was listening to Jackson’s music one day while on the treadmill. One of his songs, Alive in the World really resonated with me – it was almost like it had been written for the film, but at that point in time, I was far from even envisioning this project as a film – I was still in the planning stages of the trip. There’s a stanza in the song that goes:
“To open my eyes
And wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes
And finally arrive in the world”
….and I thought – “yeah, that’s it – Opening Our Eyes.”
I started manifesting in my mind that if Jackson became aware of our project, he would give his permission to use his song in our film. Long story short, this project has had many “angels” behind it and one very dear angel, Angel Burns – made this happen. Angel got Jackson and Dianna to watch the trailer of the film and he granted us permission to use it in the film. We can’t release it (yet) on DVD with his music, but we do have permission for community screenings and film festivals with the option to “re-negotiate in good faith” if the film gets picked up for distribution. If that’s not motivation to find distribution – what is?
In communicating with Jackson’s assistant, I mentioned that my husband and I had tickets to his upcoming show in New Jersey in October. I relayed to her that I would love to personally thank Jackson and hand him a copy of the finished film. She wrote back saying that she would set up AS (After Show) passes for us to pick up at Will Call.
That was a couple of months ago and I’ve been thinking about what I would say to Jackson, ever since. I wanted to make sure I thanked him of course and I wanted to tell him how meaningful it was for me to have his beautiful song as part of our film. I also wanted to tell him that Dianna had totally changed my thinking as to how I packaged the DVD’s. Rather than use a conventional “plastic” DVD case, I decided to package the DVD in simple cardboard slip jackets. And lastly, I wanted to give him a copy of a DVD I had made over ten years ago, The Delta Blues Musicians. It was basic and pretty crude because it was the first video piece that I had ever created, but I somehow knew that Jackson would appreciate. It was the stories of seven Mississippi bluesmen – all gone now but one.
So, back to last night. I was on such a high after Jackson’s performance. I was feeling so full – full of life – full of love – full of everything good. We had been told at Will Call when we picked up our passes, to gather at the front of the theater and that someone would escort us backstage to meet Jackson. I saw a crowd of people gathered there, and I figured that we would be shuffled through a “meet and greet” type of thing. Then one staff guy spotted my pass and looked at me and said “Gail?” When I responded with a “yes” (after a bit of a delay – I was totally surprised that Jackson would be expecting “me”) he told me “I’m John – c’mon.” So, John, Tom and I and one other couple headed up the back stairs to Jackson’s dressing room. John left us outside a door marked “Jackson Browne” and told us to wait a bit and that Jackson would come out in a minute.
After a few minutes, Jackson walked out the door. I hesitated, waiting until the other couple said their hellos and left, and then I introduced myself. He said, (in the nicest possible way) “so, I can’t wait to see the rest of the movie” and right on cue I handed him a copy of the DVD in the awesome packaging that digital artist Allan Davey had created. Allan is another angel who has become part of our project and that in itself has made an extraordinary difference in how this film is being received. Jackson remarked on how beautiful the packaging design and artwork was – I thanked him and handed him another copy to give to Dianna. I told him that Dianna had totally changed my thinking in terms of the packaging and had influenced my decision NOT to use plastic DVD cases. Jackson looked at me and pointed to his arm and said “goose bumps”.
There was one last thing I wanted to do and that was to give Jackson that old copy of my “blues” DVD. I told him that I should be embarrassed to give him something that was so basic and a bit crude – and that it was the first video that I ever created. I’ve come a long way since then – and so has technology. But I told him that I thought he would appreciate it because of the interviews that I had captured of all those old blues cats. I told Jackson that my interest in making that video, wasn’t so much about the music as it was about that time and that place in America that gave birth to that music. Once again, he rubbed his arm and said “goose bumps”. I know that Jackson will enjoy that video for what it is and for the stories that I captured. I told him that I had hours of interview footage of those old blues artists – and he thanked me and remarked about the importance of documenting those stories and recordings. I don’t know why I thought to give Jackson that DVD, but at that moment in time, it seemed liked all the dots became connected – like everything I’ve been doing over the last ten years was somehow related.
I apologize for such a long post, in a way I write this for myself – so that I will remember every detail. In all the anticipation that led up to last night – I thought it would feel like the end of a chapter. But instead, all day yesterday, I had this feeling that it was really just the beginning.
Thank you Jackson and thanks to every one of our angels and supporters. We can all do this together. We can make this world what we want it to be.
I woke up in kind of a funk. I watched the news and I instantly felt worse. Everybody was pointing their finger at one another and they all needed to be right.
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, I had just come home after being out of the country for almost four months. I had never felt better in my life, both in body and in spirit. I had been following my heart and I had been on” purpose ” I had spent the entire past summer with people who were making our world a better place. They were inspirational and they all had one thing in common. They were exactly where they wanted to be – in both body and soul.
Every now and I need to remind myself of the state of mind I was in after returning from that journey. I start thinking about all the ways that I can make a difference – even if it’s just a small act. Its those small acts that
make big differences in people’s lives.
Robbin Moulds, a subject in our film said: “At 211 degrees water is hot. At 212 it boils. That’s a one degree difference. I say to people – what’s a one degree difference you can make?”
- 1. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. You’ll make them feel good – I guarantee. Don’t put it off – you may not get the chance again.
- 2. Take someone else’s call. Call waiting can be cruel sometimes and it makes it easy for people to avoid and ignore. Would it be so horrible to have to listen to someone for a few minutes? Ignoring someone is the worst thing you can possibly do.
- 3. Say something nice to someone that you don’t really care for. Surely you can find something nice to say.
- 4. Don’t always try to be right. It’s a lonely path to be on.
- 5. Help a child with their homework or teach them one of your passions.
- 6. Read to someone – a child, an older person, someone who needs help with English.
- 7. Pick up a piece of litter that someone else has discarded.
- 8. Write a note or a letter to someone. I treasure every hand written note that I get in the mail these days. They are rare meaningful gems.
- 9. Don’t judge someone by how they look. Get past the clothes and adornments – the hair – the size and have a chat with someone you normally wouldn’t talk to if you judged them by their “cover.”
- 10. Make amends with someone you’ve had a falling out with. I try to patch things up if friendships get off track. I treasure the relationships I have with people and I don’t take them for granted.
Live in the now and as Steve Jobs said: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.