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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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TEDx, Kindred Spirits and Spreading Good Ideas

by Gail Mooney
December 6 2011

I’ve had an amazing week. I’ve been in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the last few days to do a TEDx talk and to screen Opening Our Eyes. It has been a remarkable time, in many ways.

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.

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Getting Past the Ego

by Gail Mooney
November 25 2011

 

I was invited recently to speak at a TEDx event in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Someone in Brazil had seen the trailer for Opening Our Eyes and wanted me to come to this event and talk about the subjects in our film.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and the  commonalities amongst the people in our film; they all think beyond themselves and consider how their actions will or won’t affect others.  In return of course, they are all richly rewarded.

There isn’t a day that I don’t think about Ronni Kahn’s words “don’t do it for the money….. or for the recognition…….do it for the sake of doing.”  Every one of our subjects lives their lives this way.  At a time when the prevailing attitude seems to be “what’s in it for me?” these people have put their egos aside and are “doing for the sake of doing”.  That is why so many of our subjects tended to shy away from the camera and the limelight, but were eager to tell their stories in order to help their causes.

Let’s face it, in a culture of “packaging and fizz”, it’s hard to sort through all the noise and pick out authenticity.  Even that word itself  “authenticity” has been over used and has lost its meaning. But we can all spot “the real deal” when we see it.  Just like knowing who your real friends are – you just know.

So, I think the only way to talk about the subjects of our film, in just 18 minutes, is to point out that they are no different than you or me – they are just ordinary people who think beyond themselves.  They are doing what they feel is the right thing to do and are staying close to their convictions and beliefs. They believe in the impossible and have a can do attitude. They are “walkin’ the walk”, not just talking. They take one step at a time in pursuing their dreams.

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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

Going it Alone

by Gail Mooney
November 9 2011

A week or so ago I left for New Zealand – a long haul from the US. I was headed to the SATW (Society of American Travel Writers) convention in Wellington. As I boarded the first leg from EWR to LAX, I felt like I was missing something. I kept doing a mental checklist in my mind – cameras, passport, wallet etc. etc. but something didn’t feel right – it felt like something was missing. I realized that what was missing was my daughter Erin.

It felt odd to be heading to this amazing destination without her. She had been like my right arm on our 99-day journey around the world last summer and I felt oddly alone. I have spent the better part of my life, traveling to all four corners of the globe as a solo act so to suddenly feel alone, after all those years of independent travel was unexpected.

Today it really hit me, just how profound that experience had been. Not only had it been the ultimate travel experience that I was fortunate enough to have shared with my daughter – but I realized that it had changed my life in many ways. Perhaps the biggest change in my life had been a change in my attitude – in more ways than one.

An hour ago, I was the recipient of the Bronze award for Travel Photographer of the Year by SATW. I was humbled and very appreciative to be receiving this award. A year ago, I probably would have felt differently. In fact, I may have looked at it with some misgivings to NOT having won the Gold award as opposed to being appreciative of winning the Bronze.

After spending a summer with remarkable people who were doing extraordinary things that were making a positive difference in the world, I have a totally different outlook. One of our subjects Ronni Kahn of Oz Harvest in Sydney, Australia remarked “Don’t do it for the money or for the recognition – but just do it for the sake of doing.” A simple thought really, but one that comes with deep consequences.

We live in a culture in America where we often overlook that life’s real rewards aren’t necessarily in winning, but being content with the journey and the rewards that come with that. It took me a lifetime to figure that out. I know now that beating out someone else for the top prize isn’t what makes me a winner and in fact that someone else doesn’t have to lose in order for me to win. As much as I feel grateful for the recognition from my peers – my biggest reward was really a journey well traveled.

One doesn’t need to leave their country or even their home town to realize a journey well traveled – they simply just need to live their life the best way they know how and that’s different for each and every one of us.

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Meeting Jackson Browne – A Class Act

by Gail Mooney
October 16 2011

It wasn’t at all like I imagined it would be – it was so much better.

I met singer/songwriter Jackson Browne  last night,

Gail Mooney and Jackson Browne, Wellmont Theater, Montclair, NJ

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.

 

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If You Build It – Will They Come?

by Gail Mooney
October 14 2011

I never thought it would be easy – taking a trip around the world – let alone making a feature film on virtually no budget – but we did it. The journey around the world, nor the making of the film was ever driven by ego. If it had been, it would be easier to call it quits and get back to life as I once knew it. Instead, I continue to invest my time, my money and my heart and soul into what we started over a year ago. Why?

I don’t have a reason for why I continue to work on this project and try to get it seen. It’s not an obsession – but I do think somehow it’s what I am meant to do. At least that’s what I tell myself on those days that the disappointments seem to outweigh the triumphs.

I seem to be at a place with this project where something needs to happen. I put all the pieces into place – from the planning – to completing the journey – to making a film out of over 150 hours of footage – to where I’m at now – trying to get the word out. But I’m at a point where I really need your help.

How you can help:

  • Tell your friends and co-workers about this project and urge them to share the link to our campaign on IndieGoGo
  • Interact with others. I’d love it if people were dialoging with one another on this forum and I wasn’t the only one talking.
  • Tell me you’re out there. Silence is deafening – it’s also disheartening. It keeps me going when I hear from folks.
  • Help me with your connections. It’s all about networking and surely there are people you know – that could give this film some legs.
  • Have an event around the screening of the film and bring me into speak about it.
  • Make a contribution. Every little bit helps and I appreciate every single contribution, no matter how small.

I didn’t build a home for orphaned children like Maggie, or set up a food rescue program that feeds hundreds a day like Ronni Kahan, but I did make a film to create awareness and inspire and motivate others. That’s what I do – I’m a storyteller and through my photographs and motion imagery, I have the power to move people to take action. I may not be saving peoples lives, but films do have the power to influence. And just imagine the influence this little film would have – if we all got behind it and spread the word and started making our world a better place.

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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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Opening Our Eyes – The Poster

by Gail Mooney
October 5 2011

This is more of an announcement or unveiling as opposed to a blog.  Drum roll please – our new “one sheet” or commonly referred to as movie poster.

Opening Our Eyes - The Poster

I was extremely fortunate to have digital artist Allan Davey create the poster.  I am simply amazed by Allan’s talents.  Most of you have probably seen Allan’s work on many book covers.

Like so many other serendipitous things that have happened since embarking on this project, Allan came into my life and wanted to be a part of what we are doing with this film. He wanted to contribute and indeed he did.  I am in awe of Allan’s talents and am very grateful for his beautiful artwork.

Please  contribute to our campaign on IndieGoGo and pass the link along to your friends.  You’ll be helping us to grow this movement and create a shift in our culture about what we can do for others.

Plus it’s good karma.

 

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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