Tag Archives: Jackson Browne
I tend to be a person who is always looking ahead, rather than looking back, but sometimes you can gain a lot of perspective by looking back and that can be critical for moving forward. Chris Guillebeau writes an annual review in his blog The Art of Non-Conformity and he suggests we do the same. It’s a yearly assessment of how you feel your past year has been – noting both your accomplishments as well as your low points. It helps you mentally prepare for how you want to live your life in the coming year.
Sometimes looking forward can seem overwhelming. But when I look back at what I’ve accomplished, I get the confidence I need to move ahead. With that said, here’s a recap of 2011 for Opening Our Eyes:
- Completed the film – That in itself was a triumph of accomplishment, but it took its toll. Doing the rough edit consumed most of my winter. I needed to cull through over 150 hours of footage, transcode it, add metadata, sort out the chaff, look at the b-roll and cut down the interviews to a 3 hour timeline. It was grueling for me – 14 hour days – 7 days a week for almost 2 months but somehow I got through it When spring arrived I handed the entire project to my editor, Erik Freeland who did a masterful job of editing the film. We worked together, discussing the particular stories within the film and Erik brought those stories alive with how he cut them together. The first cut of the film was finished in July.
- We were extremely fortunate to have gotten permission to use one of Jackson Browne’s song, Alive in the World for festival and community screenings. Our executive producer, Angel Burns who came on board this year, made that happen – making another dream come true. Jackson’s music and his social activism has always been an inspiration to me. I was able to personally thank him after seeing him in concert this fall.
- Another beautiful person came into in my life, randomly. Her name is Joyelle Brandt, she’s a singer, songwriter and an amazing artist. Joyelle wrote a song called “One“. She wrote to me on Facebook and told me about her song and how it delivered the same message as our film and that she would be happy to let us use the song in the film. We did – it opens up the film and it’s like Joyelle wrote it specifically for the film. We can’t thank you enough, Joyelle.
- Music is such a critical component of every film – it is the emotional component and defines the moods and the pacing of the movie. Dominic Brook a hip hop artist from Australian not only appears in the film during the Oasis story, but sets the tone with his music throughout that segment. Dominic is a kindred spirit in wanting to make a difference. He started Musicians Making a Difference and has helped a lot of young people find themselves through music.
- We were also fortunate to have digital artist Allan Davey come into our lives and design our beautiful “one sheet” as well as our DVD packaging. Allan’s poster told the story of the film beautifully and really raised the bar as far as our “look.” We could never thank him enough for his talents.
- Crowdfunding – About this time last year we were winding down our Kickstarter campaign. We had about a week to go and I remember stressing if we would reach our goal of $7500. With Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your goal – you get nothing so it was a very stressful time. We ended up making our goal on Jan. 5, 2011. Actually, we exceeded our goal and raised a little over $10,000. I was able to pay my editor (who deserved much more) and give a bit to the subjects in the film. Thanks to all our supporters we were able to finish the post production of our film, and that is huge.
- We aren’t doing as well with our second campaign on IndieGoGo. We still have a few days to go but we only realized 20% of our goal. With IndieGoGo, you get whatever you have raised, regardless if you make your goal. Maybe, our goal was unrealistic. Maybe it’s harder to raise money for outreach, PR and distribution, but that’s probably the most critical part in filmmaking – to get the film seen. But every dollar helps us defray the costs of pushing this out there and we are very grateful to all of our continued supporters.
- Apart from the crowdfunding, the San Francisco Film Society is now our fiscal sponsor, so that means that we can accept tax deductible donations via their 501c3 status. That will also allow us to be eligible for some grants. Does anyone know a good grantwriter who would like to come onboard?
- Festivals – We have been invited to the San Luis Obispo Film Festival in early March and Cal Poly is our sponsor. I’m looking forward to the festival and hope that our whole team will be able to be there as well. I did not get into Sundance or Slamdance. Sundance had over 11,000 submissions and will be showing only 11 documentaries. But I have printed out my “rejection email” as a reminder that I tried. I will proudly join the other 99% who tried but didn’t make the cut.
I hope there will be more invitations. We shall see, but regardless of festival invitations, the power of this film will be in community screenings.
- Sneak Previews – My dream came true when I saw this film on the “big screen” at the State Theater in Traverse City, Michigan. It truly was a fantasy come true, to stand there with Erin and watch as they hand placed each letter of our names on the marquee that hot July night. What made it even more special was to watch the film in such a beautiful venue with a lot of my family and friends in the audience. My family made that one of the most memorable days of my life. It was a day of sharing and connecting where all the circles came together. I’ve had a couple other private screenings, and some have been with Erin which is great. It’s always interesting to get live feedback. Last month I showed the film to young Brazilians in Sao Paulo. It was the first time that I got feedback from a non-American audience. It was very well received and it confirmed in my mind that not only this film has a global reach, but that it really resonated with this “20 something” demographic. That gives me great hope for the future.
I’ve had quite a few speaking engagements this year but I think the one that stands out is the TEDx talk I did this month in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was an honor to be invited and I met some amazing young Brazilians who are doing some interesting things in their lives. They are looking at the world through a different lens and to listen to them throughout the day was incredibly energizing.
- PACA – I had a great time speaking at the Picture Archive Council of America. I talked about the making of this film with a small crew and budget. I talked about the possibilities for distribution in this day and age. The ASPP American Society of Picture Professionals, sponsored my talk and they may bring this talk to their chapters in 2012.
- Grateful for our followers
Without the support of our family, friends and virtual friends from all over the world – this would never have been possible. Every time any one of you has commented or written an email – it has given us the energy and encouragement that we needed to keep going. You have no idea how meaningful all of your comments have been. They’ve certainly helped me through some of the toughest times.
Going forward in 2012 – well that’s a whole other blog post. But I do know that I need to devote more time to my business. There are so many things I wish to do and only so many hours in the day. But it helped to sort it out in my head, and in writing this recap. I realize that even though it seems like there’s so much to do – look how much we’ve done.
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.
Little did I know when trying to come up with the right name for our documentary, did I stumble upon and recognize the perfect title “Opening Our Eyes”. I had been listening to a Jackson Browne song, “Alive In The World” and there it was in Browne’s inspirational lyrics:
“To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world
With it’s beauty and it’s cruelty
With its heartbreak and it’s joy
With it constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy
And the infinite power of change
Alive in the world”
And so on day 50 of our 99-day journey around the world, we’ve reached our midway milestone and with that our eyes are wide open. We have been inspired and deflated, energized and depleted, hot and cold, happy and sad, healthy and ill, hungry and satisfied, content to stay and restless to move on. We’ve run the gamut of emotions, climates and cultures. Yet, we carry on and continue because of the people we have met, who are helping others – the heroes and the subjects of our film. These incredibly selfless people are following their passions and helping others to realize their dreams – giving others a chance at life. That in itself has been a powerful thing to witness and one that has changed our lives.
As we move further on to northern Thailand today, to follow a doctor and trek into the villages of the hill tribes, we leave India behind. This has probably been our toughest week so far. India is a land of extremes. Beauty and history lie beneath extreme poverty and oppressive temperatures that give way to the torrents of the Monsoon. And as hard as I try, it’s difficult for me to grasp an understanding of a caste system that to my mind seems hopeless – at least for the people who are born into the bottom – the untouchables. But it does shed light on why so many seek the boundless opportunities that America offers. And so in trying to understand another culture, I end up understanding my homeland better.
When one travels they begin to know for the first time where they come from and who they are. Perspectives are shaped by real experiences, not from the nightly network news or the black and white print of a newspaper, but from one’s own eyes. It brings a deeper understanding and the desire to know more.
Our eyes have been opened and our hope is to open the eyes of others through our journey and our film. And if you’re reading this Jackson – thanks for the inspiration for the title of our film. And thanks to all of you who follow our journey and encourage us with your support and comments – it means the world.