Tag Archives: adventure

5000 Images

by Gail Mooney
December 3 2013

Most folks don’t realize that when Erin and I went around the world in pursuit of people creating positive change – we weren’t just shooting a movie – we also shot over 5000 still images.

When we planned our itinerary, traveling and shooting on six continents in the summer of 2010, we built in some  “free time” to see the sights.  It also acted as a buffer in case things didn’t go according to plan.  As it happened, everything did go according to plan and we had some wonderful down time in Moscow, Istanbul, Bangkok, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia and India.  Amer Fort, Jaipur, IndiaWe shot still images in all of these destinations in addition to the stills that we shot on the movie set, and ended up with a nice archive.

I’ve been editing this archive over the last year and am going to make them available for prints.  You can see the first gallery of images, and there will be more to follow over the next few months.  A print would make a beautiful Christmas gift for someone special.  If you order before Dec. 17th – the prints will arrive before Christmas.

 

Happy Holiday.

Going Home

by Gail Mooney
November 25 2013

Tom and I will be headed out tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn.  We’re bound for Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter Erin, her boyfriend Bryan and his family.  For me, it’s also a welcome road tripErin and Gail, Peru and a journey home to my birthplace. It’s funny how things have a way of coming full circle.  I was born in Chicago and left to head “East” with my parents and family when I was a young child.  But for someone like me, who has moved more than a dozen times in my lifetime – Chicago feels like home.  It’s where my roots are.

I’ve been a bit of a “rolling stone” over the years, but I’m also extremely grateful that I have been able to share many of life’s incredible experiences and travels with Erin and my husband Tom.  It’s been a gift,  to be able to combine my passions with my career and family.  This Thanksgiving I am mindful of my blessings and am most grateful for what I have.

One of the things I am most proud of is the creation of the film, Opening Our Eyes, that I made in collaboration with my daughter.  The journey in and of itself was rewarding, but I have found that sharing it  has not only inspired and motivated others to create positive change, it has also enriched my own life.

If you would like to see the film or share it with others over the holidays, we are now offering it online.  We are also offering a Thanksgiving special.

Click here and use the coupon code “THANKSGIVING2013”.

Fear is What You Imagine

by Gail Mooney
July 23 2013
Gail at the Pyramids - 19 years old

Gail at the Pyramids – 19 years old

We had friends over this past weekend, and we started talking about technology and the impact it’s had on our career, photography and life in general.  I was talking about traveling and how much different it is now in regards to ease of communication and staying connected.

When I backpacked around the world, as a solo 19-year-old woman in the early 70’s, I pretty much left most communication with my family and friends behind.  In a year’s time, I probably only called home 3 times and it was a lengthy and expensive process, going to a call center and waiting until an operator could put your call through to the other side of the world.  And there wasn’t any Internet or email or cells phones and texting.  When I left home for that yearlong sabbatical, I was really going out on a limb as far as disconnecting from the world I knew.

I’m always asked, “Were you scared?”  I suppose I was afraid at times, when I thought about what I was doing and what could go wrong.  But most of the time, I was too much in awe of what I was experiencing.  I was very tuned in though, to my surroundings and I quickly developed a sixth sense about people, determining if they were good or bad.  Those instincts stay with me to this day and have managed to keep me safe in my travels.

I could not have imagined what the future would bring to my life in terms of technology.  The world we live in now is far different than it was some 40 years ago.  We are more aware – of other cultures, world politics and global news.  You would think that would help in bridging the gap of understanding between different cultures.  I think it has in many ways, but we have a long way to go.

Our fears keep most of us from “daring” to do something different, especially if our life seems to be working.  Usually, it takes a big change in our lives for us to muster up the courage to face the unknown.  And when we do venture outside our norm, we are almost always glad we did and wonder why we had hesitated for so long.

I’ve been lucky.  I had parents who encouraged me to take some risks.  When I was hesitant about doing something, my dad used to say to me “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and when I couldn’t come up with any really horrible potential scenario, I’d take the plunge and face my fears.

I wonder, what’s in store for me now? The future hasn’t been written yet and the choices are mine to make.  Is it scary?  Only if I imagine it that way.  The story isn’t over yet.

Introducing Our New Sponsor: CCI and Greenheart

by Erin Kelly
February 8 2012

Over a year ago, in October 2010, just a month after we had returned from our three-month journey to make the film, I wrote a blog about my new job that I had started just a few weeks before:

“I started a new job this month at the Center for Cultural Interchange – a nonprofit organization that facilitates cultural exchange programs for young people, mainly for high school students. I work in the Academic Year Programs department, which works with inbound foreign high school students coming to study and live in the U.S. You might think: “Wow! That job sounds perfect for you and makes so much sense, given your experience this summer.” And I would reply: “You’re right!” I’m very excited to be working there, and I feel fortunate that I am able to work in a field that I actually care about. I believe that it’s so important for everyone to have some kind of experience abroad, especially for young people, for it is through cultural exchange that we can learn to understand and respect others and ourselves. That is certainly something that I learned this summer.”

If you told me the same thing now, I would reply in the exact same way. In fact, I would have even more great things to say because I have learned so much about CCI (Center for Cultural Interchange) and all of its fantastic programs over the past 15 months. In addition to the Academic Year Program, which brings hundreds of international high school students to the U.S. each year to live with host families, attend school and participate in great cultural exchanges, CCI also brings university students to work, travel and have an internship in the U.S. through the Work Programs department. The Short-Term Programs department also offers a myriad of options for young people to participate in language clubs, direct school exchanges or stay with American host families for shorter periods of time.

Just as it’s important to bring international students here, so they can experience life in the U.S., it’s equally important to provide those opportunities to American students and send them abroad to learn about other cultures. CCI’s Greenheart Travel department provides such an opportunity, with programs for American citizens to teach abroad, volunteer abroad and attend high school abroad. Maggie Doyne is a perfect example of how someone could benefit from such a program – from her experience traveling and volunteering after high school, she was inspired to make a difference in Nepal and started the Kopila Valley Children’s Home.

Volunteering and giving back to one’s community is an important part of CCI’s mission as well through its Greenheart initiative. CCI is known as the “Greenheart of Cultural Exchange” because each of its programs offers all of its participants grants and support to do environmental and social volunteering while abroad. CCI encourages participants to collaborate with their new host community and work on projects to make positive change in a sustainable way. These experiences not only enhance the participant’s program, but also help make a difference in communities around the world.

We are very proud to announce CCI and Greenheart as a sponsor of Opening Our Eyes. We feel that their mission is perfectly aligned with the project and we look forward to future collaboration in promoting the importance of cultural exchange and how one person can make a positive difference in the world.

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Ten Things You Can Do To Make a Difference

by Gail Mooney
October 11 2011

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

Maggie Doyne and Biscal, Kopila Valley Children's Home, Nepal

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.

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99 Days and Counting

by Gail Mooney
September 28 2011

When I formed this idea, almost two years ago, I would not have believed then that I would still be working on this project now. Not only am I still working on it, but it has taken on a life of its own. In fact, we have  a new tagline, which aptly describes what this project has become:

It’s not just a Move – It’s a Movement

With that said, we have decided to launch another funding cycle, through Indiegogo. This time, we have more than just an idea and a lot of uncut footage – we have a finished movie and a movie that’s getting rave reviews.

Today is the start of our 99-day cycle of fundraising.  Why 99 days?  Well, for starters, our journey around the world took 99 days to complete the circle.  And, in 99 days, it’s Erin’s birthday – her 25th.  I was 25 years old when I decided to pursue the path I’m on as a photojournalist, instead of following a more lucrative profession.  I had gone to see Jay Maisel, a legendary New York photographer, known for his bluntness.  After making a lot of excuses of why I wasn’t going to follow my heart and become a photojournalist he looked me straight in the eye and said “You’re 25 years old and you’re already making compromises?”  It was a turning point in my life.

The post-production on the film was completed in July.

Opening Our Eyes Sneak Preview, Traverse City, MI

Since that time, I’ve spent countless hours submitting it to film festivals and trying to create awareness for the film. What’s the point of making something like this if it is not seen by as many people as possible? Our goal is simple and that is to get this movie “out there” by whatever means we can so that we can really make a difference with it.

A comment from an audience member at our sneak preview in Traverse City said:

“I just want to thank you for making this movie and let you know that you
have definitely succeeded in inspiring people. I’ve had a {sic} paradigm
shift after seeing this movie. I think you two should count yourself among
the inspirational heroes for bringing these stories to a larger audience.”

And at our sneak preview in Detroit, Oscar recipient, Pamela Conn who won for
“ best short documentary” stated:

“ I would just like to say that that’s the first thing I thought of was that
it’s obvious that this should be submitted for an Oscar. Absolutely this
is Oscar worthy.”

We have created something of value – a value that goes beyond dollars and cents. But to give this thing legs, we will need “dollars and cents” to take it the next steps. It takes money for festival submissions, PR and marketing and theatrical screenings. In fact Jon Reiss, the DIY of the indie film world says that a filmmaker should allocate half of their budget for PR and marketing – or your film will fall into oblivion.

This money won’t go into my pocket.  In fact, even creating this movie on a shoe string budget made up of airline miles and trades for services has exhausted my savings, not to mention taken me away from my business.  But, something is pushing me to do this.  If we can get this movie “on the map” then everyone wins, especially all the change makers that this movie is about.

Please help us with this movement. Contribute if you can or simply pass along this link to others. We all can play a part in making our world a better place.

As Marian Kramer, a subject in our film says “We all have to shine each other up.”

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Feedback

by Gail Mooney
September 10 2011

Today, I’m reflecting on the many wonderful comments people have relayed since watching our film.  I’d like to share a few of the remarks that some folks have made, not to stroke my ego, but rather to express how meaningful these comments are to us.  They reaffirm in our minds that perhaps in some small way, we too have made a difference by making this film – and that is all I ever hoped for.

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts – they are very much appreciated.

“It was awesome – just awesome”

“I just want to thank you for making this movie and let you know that you have definitely succeeded in inspiring people.  I’ve had a small paradigm shift after seeing this movie.  I think you two should count yourself among the inspirational heroes for bringing these stories to a larger audience.”

“ I would just like to say that that’s the first thing I thought of was that it’s obvious that this should be submitted for an Oscar.  Absolutely this is Oscar worthy.”
Pamela Conn – Oscar winner for Best Short Documentary (Young at Heart)

“Your film is a celebration of something that I’ve always believed in – there are daily miracles. People always look for a burning bush or something special.  Miracles are a daily occurrence of thank yous.”

And one of my favorites –  R rated 🙂
“Thank you.
Absafuhkinglutely love what you and Erin created…
Truly inspirational.
Watched it with my inspiration, my 15-year old daughter.  It was a quiet room with no dry eyes. We are still talking about it.”

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Full Circle

by Gail Mooney
August 31 2011

A year ago today Erin and I boarded a plane, bound for home on our final flight of our 99-day journey around the world.  Seems like that happened in another lifetime – so much has transpired since then.

The day before we headed home, we sat down with our friend Ethan G. Salwen, who interviewed us on camera.  We are grateful for that because we were able to capture our thoughts at the time – at the end of an amazing adventure.

We had just finished our last story in Carlos Keen, Argentina – a town about an hour outside of Buenos Aires.  It was a story about Camino Abierto, a farm, a home to adolescent boys who had nowhere to call home,  and a restaurant – all filled with love.  We only spent two days there but those two days came at just the right time giving us one last burst of energy to complete the project we had started over 3 months prior.

At the time, I didn’t realize that it was really just the beginning of this project in so many ways.  As Erin headed back to Chicago and settled back into her life, I immersed myself deeper into this project with hundreds of hours of footage that needed to be edited.  I managed to get through one of the toughest winters of my life that taxed every ounce of my spirit on the darkest days.  But after a round of crowd funding via Kickstarter and finding the perfect editor, Erik Freeland and many more months of post-production – we now have a film that we are proud of.

As I mailed out the “rewards” yesterday to all of our backers that supported our project, I realized once again that this project is still not yet complete.  There are film festivals to submit to and community screenings to line up and plans to make different “cuts” at various lengths for different markets.  One idea is to break up the stories for the potential of a broadcast series. I actually went out to LA this past winter and “pitched” the idea to some industry folks and a couple of people were quite interested.  I even made a new version of the trailer and renamed the show.  We shall see if anything develops along those lines.

I have been richly rewarded in so many ways on this journey. Getting to really know my daughter has been perhaps the biggest reward.  But some of the kind comments that I have received from people who have seen the film have confirmed in my mind that this quest was meant to be. I’ll be sharing some of these comments with you in the coming months, on this blog that I have neglected as I’ve been off the radar working behind the scenes.

Here’s a tidbit from our Buenos Aires Interview on the final day of our journey.  I will share more soon.  This project was meant to be shared – that is the only way to manifest the true power behind this thing that we put into motion so long ago.

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A Perfect Day

by Gail Mooney
July 18 2011

Yesterday morning, Opening Our Eyes was screened for the first time. It was perfect in every way.

We had picked the State Theater in Traverse City, MI for a few reasons:

  • Our only two North American subjects were from Michigan
  • I had a lot of family in Traverse City and I knew they could get the word out and fill seats
  • The State Theater is a beautifully renovated theater with state of the art facilities and an old fashioned marquee to top it off
  • Traverse City is a beautiful place to be in the summer because of all the water around it

The night before the screening, Erin, Tom and I and our friend and executive producer, Angel Burns went down to the theater to take some pictures of it. There it was on the marquee – right under MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – OPENING OUR EYES– A SNEAK PREVIEW – SUNDAY 9AM. There it was, sharing the billing with one of my favorite recent films. Night theater ErinMVI_0178 As soon as the 10 o’clock showing of Midnight in Paris went in – a 3-man crew started taking down the letters and putting up new ones.

It took them some time but letter by letter up it went. But it was when they started putting up our names that an incredible feeling went through my body.  I had done it. I did what I set out to do.

The next morning, I was full of nerves.  It has been a long time coming and the day had arrived.  My Aunt Ike and cousin Rene had spread the word through town amongst friends, family, co-workers.  There was a family reunion also planned that weekend and all those people had come. Angel was outside talking to folks who were looking at the poster of what was playing at the upcoming Traverse City Film Festival next week, and invited them.  All in all, I think there were about 150-175 people – not bad for a Sunday morning in a town with a lot going on.

As the curtain went up – yes, a beautiful classic red curtain -and the movie began, it was almost surreal.  Even though I had seen this film a hundred times – it was the first time I watched it as a movie – with popcorn and all. But I think the best part was the Q&A when a man stood up to ask a question.  He said “Thank you for making this film.  It has changed my life”.  He had been someone Angel had talked to outside.  He hadn’t even intended to go see a movie that morning.  That was a big moment for me.

On to Detroit on Thursday, for our next sneak preview.  It won’t be as grand as the first screening – because the first one’s are always the most special – but our two subjects Marian and Maureen will be there.  Can’t wait.

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Happy Mother's Day

by Erin Kelly
May 8 2011

Today is Mother’s Day, a day to acknowledge and be grateful for all of the wonderful things that mothers do – making you grilled cheese on a rainy day, helping you finish that diorama that you waited until the last minute to do, buying you your first prom dress, encouraging you to follow your dreams and supporting you every step of the way. While I’m certainly grateful for all of those things, I’m even more grateful for what my mother did for me last year – provide me with the opportunity to travel around the world and meet incredible individuals along the way.

There aren’t too many mothers who could accomplish such a feat. Sure, they would love to do that with their daughters, but very few take the plunge and I bet even fewer could handle the conditions. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing all the way. Staying in hostels, sleeping on the floor of a bamboo hut, getting bitten up the wazoo by mosquitoes, going without running water and air conditioning for days on end. And the hardest part – traveling with your daughter for 99 days straight. Nobody loves his or her kid that much to want to spend that much time with them, right? All in all, you certainly have to have an adventurous spirit to do such a thing, and no one has more of one than my mom.

I was continually amazed at her tenacity and determination throughout the trip. It didn’t matter how hot it was in Nepal, how badly her knees were hurting, how congested the streets of India were – she always kept going, no matter the obstacle. But then again, she has been like that all of my life; never making excuses and never giving up.

I think the best part of the trip for me was the fact that I got to do it with my mom and see her in action; not just as a mother, but also as a traveler in her element. I learned so much about her as a person, someone who has dreams and fears, just like me. And consequently, I have learned more about who I am as a person and why I am that way. Or in some instances, why I’m not a certain way. It’s fascinating to me how two closely related people can have such opposite reactions to the same situation. How can one person just jump on a subway train in Moscow while the other is compelled to stop and take the time to decipher the Cyrillic signs first? It’s a mystery.

I guess what I really want to say is that my mom is the coolest, most supportive and most inspiring mom I know. I am so lucky to have her in my life and that is what I am grateful for the most. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.

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