Tag Archives: Film

An International Audience

by Erin Kelly
December 10 2012

A couple of months ago, I was one of the trip leaders for a group of high school exchange students traveling to Colorado. These students are here for the year and had arrived in early fall. They were placed with host families all over the country, but they had decided to go on one of the trips that CCI Greenheart, their exchange sponsor organization (and where I work), offers throughout the year. The trips are a mix of fun activities and volunteering, where they can learn about community service and meet other exchange students from around the globe. This particular trip was to Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO, up in the mountains outside of Denver. And I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the people to lead the trip.

Every day was packed with activities. Each morning we would hike up into the mountains to take in the beautiful scenery, and after lunch we would do a volunteer project or other fun activity like zip lining. In the evenings, we would have workshops where we would talk about what it means to be a volunteer and how we can get involved in our communities.

One of the nights, we showed the film. This was a new experience for me, as I had not yet been present for a screening of the film to such a young audience.  I realized, as I sat there watching with the students, that this was one of our target audiences. These were the types of people that we most wanted to reach – the young people who have the energy, optimism and lives ahead of them to create their own path and make a difference in what they’re passionate about. Not only that, but they were also an international audience. They represented 9 different countries, 9 different places where they could spread the messages of the film. I felt a little nervous as I waited for the film to end, anxious to hear their comments.

After the film ended, we sat in a circle and I asked some discussion questions. What traits did the subjects share? What were some of the challenges they faced and how did they overcome them? What was the role of the volunteer in some of these stories and how much did the subjects depend on them? They had some good answers, but it wasn’t until I asked each of them to say two words about how the film made them feel that the best thoughts were shared. Here are some of my favorites:

“I would say ambitious and proud. I’m proud of just knowing that people in the world are doing things like that.” – Yumna (Morocco)

 “It makes me feel like I have the right ideas.” – Oleksandra (Ukraine)

“Thoughtful because it makes me think about it, and also have motivation and courage to start something. If people like that can do it, why can’t I? I mean, anyone can do it if you have the courage.” – Maxime (Switzerland)

“Kind of amazed because you don’t really see that around my area and it kind of makes me think about my future and things that I can do, and I want to do something.” – Lorraine (Upstate NY)

“Hopeful and unbelievable. You just live only once.” – Gulzhan (Kazakhstan)

It was an honor to show the film to such a bright group of motivated people from around the world, ready to make a difference. That is what it’s all about.

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Southern Charm on the Film Festival Circuit

by Erin Kelly
May 1 2012

I have had the privilege of representing Opening Our Eyes at two film festivals the past few weeks: the first at the Bare Bones International Film Festival in Muskogee, Oklahoma and the second at the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And boy, I do have to say that I love that southern charm. I’m not saying that Oklahoma and South Carolina are the same by any means. But at both places, I was surrounded by a sense of small-town pride, extreme friendliness and a big ‘old dose of southern hospitality.

In front of the Roxy Theater, Bare Bones International Film Festival

This especially came in handy when I was in Muskogee, as I was completely by myself. The festival had arranged for volunteers to pick filmmakers up at the airport in Tulsa, which is a good hour drive from Muskogee. I arrived late Friday night in the wake of some torrential thunderstorms and severe tornado warnings. But my volunteer, Lara, still showed up on time, with a smile, gave me a big hug and even brought me a little goody bag to welcome me to Oklahoma. Lara ended up driving me into town from my hotel the next morning, too where I was lucky to witness the Azalea Parade, and later, the annual chili and BBQ cook-off. If that wasn’t a good introduction to Oklahoma, I don’t know what was.

After eating several helpings of chili and baked beans (and getting some on my dress, of course), I went to the Roxy Theater and met the directors of the festival, Oscar and Shironbutterfly Ray, as well as some of the other filmmakers. Everyone was very friendly and excited that I had come, and I found myself starting to understand why Bare Bones is known as the “Friendliest Film Festival” by many filmmakers.

After the screening of the film, Lara continued to show her hospitality by taking me to see the blooming azaleas that Muskogee is known for, then out for a dinner of BBQ ribs, and finally a traditional Native American powwow. By the end of my stay, it didn’t matter that I didn’t get any cell phone service in Muskogee – I had been charmed by the “Okies from Muskogee,” and I certainly didn’t feel alone anymore.

Muskogee, Oklahoma

Myrtle Beach was a slightly different story. I was not alone (I had Executive Producer Angel Burns at my side) and I had the chance to meet more of the other filmmakers who were attending the festival. In fact, one of the filmmakers who I had briefly met in Oklahoma was in Myrtle Beach as well! – a classic “small-world” moment. But the festival directors and the local people I met were just as friendly and welcoming. Several locals told me that they’ve been coming to the festival for years and are always so excited when the filmmakers come from around the country. We went to a few local establishments for gatherings after the screenings where the owners were more than generous with their food. And everyone called me ma’am!  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the small-town atmosphere, friendly festival-goers and southern charm of both film festivals.

I am proud to announce the awards that Opening Our Eyes has won at both these festivals. At Bare Bones International Film Festival: Best Movie Trailer and Best Humanitarian Documentary. At Myrtle Beach International Film Festival: 2ndrunner up for Best Documentary.

And I am looking forward to our next festival this weekend: the Awareness Festival in LA!

Trophy for Myrtle Beach International Film Festival Award

At the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival

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Happy Birthday Erin

by Gail Mooney
January 5 2012

It’s hard to believe that it has been 25 years, today, since you were born.  My life changed that day I became your mother, in thousands of meaningful ways.  I cannot have imagined how life would have been without you in it.

I’m sure every parent reading this understands how profoundly life changes when they become a parent – and for the good.  The biggest change for me is that I became less selfish.  I had to consider that my actions not only affected just me anymore.  Of course couples should think like that anyway if they want to have a good relationship – but it’s a different type of selfless care when it comes to your child.

Today is another milestone.  It was two years ago that we started our journey together as far as this project.  We officially launched the Opening Our Eyes blog on Jan. 5, 2010.  Five months later we embarked on our travels around the world.  We not only completed the journey – we have completed a film.  A film that I hope will inspire others to do whatever small acts – or large acts – they can that can make our planet a better place.
It seems fitting that at midnight tonight our campaign on IndieGoGo is over – bringing this blog and project full circle.

I never would have imagined 25 years ago that we would have experienced such a wonderful and amazing project together.  But we did and we will have that connection for an eternity.  But to be honest, I value every other little moments in our lives that we’ve spent together just as priceless.

Happy Birthday

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How a Film Can Make a Difference

by Gail Mooney
December 10 2011

I never fully realized the power that is within me to make a difference, until recently.  Last summer, my daughter and I spent time with extraordinary people who were providing homes for orphans, feeding the hungry and curing the ill.  They were all people we met while making a documentary about the change makers in our world – people who are making our planet a better place.

Our goal was to inspire and motivate others as to what they can do to make a difference in their own communities. Our goal was to cause a shift, in culture and in thought – from “what in it for me?” to “what can I do?” We’ve just begun to submit this documentary to film festivals and show sneak previews to small audiences but I can already tell that this film has affected change and the potential it has to move people to action.

From our first sneak preview at the beautiful State Theater in Traverse City, MI to a recent screening at MIS in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I feel the energy in the room and the collective desire to strive for a better world.  I feel the power of film and the power within me as a storyteller and filmmaker. I feel the time for this film is now and that people are hungry for hope.

Many documentaries take the critical point of view and certainly have more conflict. Opening Our Eyes is different from other docs in that it shines a light on what IS being done to create positive change by individuals all over the world.  Somehow by showing the small acts, this film makes all of us believe that we can create change as well. It empowers us to believe in the possibilities and gives us the hope we seem to be yearning for these days.

When I first conceived of the idea for this film, inspired by friend and neighbor Maggie Doyne, I was looking for some positive hope myself.  I was tired of listening to the hundreds of “experts” on TV talking and all of them needing to be “right” – and nothing was getting any better. That was long before the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements. What I was sensing was the rest of the world was feeling the same way I was and decided to do something about it.

Time will tell if the film continues to create awareness and moves people to action, but at least I’m hopeful again.

Please consider supporting our effort by making a contribution to our IndieGoGo campaign, which only has a few weeks, left to go. And it’s tax deductible.

We can’t do it without your help.

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San Francisco Film Society – Our New Fiscal Sponsor

by Gail Mooney
November 18 2011

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
Send to:
San Francisco Film Society – ATTN: Finance Department
39 Mesa Street, Suite 110
The Presidio
San Francisco CA 94129-1025

“If You Want a Happy Ending…….”

by Gail Mooney
January 5 2011

Erin in Kathmandu

Orson Welles once said that if you want a happy ending, it depends of course on where you stop the story.

It was a year ago today that Erin and I started this blog and our journey.  It’s also 24 years ago today that I gave birth to Erin.  When I got my first look at her, I remember thinking she had such long delicate fingers and big bright eyes. And I remember thinking that she looked like such a wise soul. Over the years, I’d try to imagine what experiences lay ahead in Erin’s future, but I never imagined that we’d be taking a journey together around the world and creating a film.

So, today we’ve come full circle literally and figuratively as we complete the year.  But our journey isn’t over.  We still have one (or more) stories to tell in North America. We have a couple subjects in mind but we are always open to hearing about other people who are following their passions to create change. And I am still working on the first edit of the film. It has been a long and tedious process as it always is when doing the first edit.  I need to look through 150 hours of footage and sort through, separating out the good from the bad. But first I must import the video into my editing software, name files, add metadata, sort clips and sync sound before I can even begin to build the story or stories.

I’m happy to say that I’m at the point now that I can start creating the story.  I will lay down the first rough-cut and then hand the project off to a professional editor in late January.  I have spoken with a few editors as well as composers. After the editor makes his/her cut, a musical composer will score the film. Music adds a powerful and necessary element to any film.

Today is also the day that our project expires on Kickstarter.  I am happy to say that we made our goal and in fact exceeded it. Officially, our project will be earmarked “successful” at midnight tonight so I don’t want to jump the gun and celebrate quite yet.  And there’s still time to make a pledge.

It’s been a memorable year because of this project.  It has changed me in many ways.  There have been lows, which made the highs that much better.  Some expectations were abandoned due to things beyond my control but many dreams were realized.  Opening Our Eyes turned out to be more than just the title of this film.  It personifies the whole experience and how I look at my life going forward.

I’m looking toward late spring to complete this film. So the story isn’t over – quite yet. Thank you all who have stuck by us through our journey.  Here’s to a happy ending.

Happy 2011 and Happy Birthday Erin

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