Tag Archives: exploration

Finding Your Bliss and Your Purpose

by Gail Mooney
December 22 2011

Last spring, my daughter and I set out to circle the globe on a 99-day journey, seeking people who were making a difference in the world.  A little more than a year later, we have completed a feature documentary about ordinary people on six continents who have not only had a positive impact on others, but they have had life changing experiences themselves.

This journey and the film were inspired by a

Maggie Doyne with her children at Kopila Valley Childrens Home, Nepal

young woman that my daughter had gone to high school with, Maggie Doyne,  At 19-years old, Maggie opted not to go straight off to college, but instead traveled on what was intended to be a gap year between high school and college.  Five years later, at the age of 24, she has built a home in Nepal for 35 orphaned children, where she now resides and had recently finished construction on a primary school for 250 children when we visited her last summer..

Maggie has caught the attention of quite a few high profile people who have helped her in her mission.  Last fall she appeared on the cover of the NY Times Magazine illustrating an article by Nicholas Kristof about DIY foreign aid.  She’s a remarkable young woman.  But what is often overlooked when one mentions Maggie’s accomplishments is that she herself, has changed her life’s path – before barely beginning.

Maggie is just one of eleven people that appear in our film, Opening Our Eyes.  As we traveled the world, my daughter and I quickly realized that all of these extraordinary people had one thing in common, beyond doing good for others.  They all had disrupted their own lives and had shifted course.  They had discovered their purpose and in the process, found their bliss.

Maggie is fortunate that she made this discovery while she was still young.  In a less dramatic way, I had my own awakening early in my career.  In the late 70’s, I had just finished studying photography at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California and I headed back East to pursue a career as a photojournalist. It was not the best of times to be starting out as a photojournalist, at least in terms of being able to make a decent living.  So, I took a bit of a detour and pursued commercial photography instead.  While making the rounds with my portfolio in NYC, I went to see legendary photographer Jay Maisel. Jay was known for his blunt demeanor, and when he looked at my perfectly presented photographic portfolio, he tossed it at me and told me it was garbage.  He asked me if I had anything else to show him.  I took out my dog-eared photos from my first world journey that I had taken before heading to Brooks. As he looked through my “snapshots” he asked me how old I was.  I replied that I was 25 years old.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re 25 and you’re already making compromises?” That was a turning point in my life and I never looked back from pursuing my passion.

I suppose Maggie and I are lucky in that we discovered our purpose at such a young age.  But in making this film I learned one important thing – it’s never too late to find your bliss.

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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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Flashback

by Gail Mooney
October 26 2011

Yesterday as I was packing my gear for an upcoming three week trip to New Zealand, I had a major flashback to when I was getting ready for a 99-day trip around the world. My daughter, Erin and I had embarked on that journey about a year and a half ago.  But this time, I was going solo.

I looked at all the gear laid out on the dining room table, just as I did last year, wondering how I would fit it into one small backpack. I will strip it down of course, taking only the gear that I can manage by myself.  For the most part, I will be traveling solo this time. It got me thinking about the round-the-world trip that I took last year with Erin.

I’ve spent the better part of my life traveling the world and taking pictures. Most of those years, I was a solo act, on assignment for various magazines and corporations.  Last year, when Erin heard that I would be circling the globe, she wanted to come along. Initially, I hadn’t imagined the trip or the project as a collaborative effort – let alone with my daughter.  She had recently graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago and had been lucky enough to get a job. But Erin wanted to be part of this project and journey and so it became a combined effort – a mother-daughter team.

That ended up being the best part about the trip– sharing that experience with my daughter. We’ll have that bond for a lifetime.  And now, I couldn’t have imagined doing that journey any other way.

Since then, there have been countless hours/days/weeks/months that have gone into the post-production part of the film, leaving the “journey” a collection of water colored memories floating in my head. I’ve remained closely connected to the project because I’ve been very hands-on with the edit. So for me, those memories remain part of my daily psyche.  In that regard, the making of the film has been a bit bittersweet as I am reminded daily – that part of the journey is over.

We’ll always have those beautiful memories burned inside our heads. More importantly, we have a film that can be shared with others around the world, in the hopes that it will provoke thought and maybe even move people to action – to make a difference.

Please share this film.  That’s the only way it will happen.

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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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From Passion to……….

by Gail Mooney
August 25 2011

I have been thinking about how this project has taken on many different stages over the past year – and how every part of this “journey” has been so uniquely different, yet so focused toward the same vision. An idea that came to me one day when I was with a friend in a museum, blossomed into an eternal and deep bond with my daughter, an enormous amount of personal and creative growth and a film that has the ability to cause a “shift” – and make our world a better place.

It has been the “journey of a lifetime” but it’s not over.  In some ways, it’s just the beginning, at least in terms of it being a film. Lately,  I have been entering it into film festivals and that comes with yet another learning curve and some  strategic thinking. To be eligible for the Sundance competition for instance, the film must make its “world premiere” there – it cannot have been publicly screened prior to the Sundance festival.  It can have had private screenings for invited guests – but nothing that is open to the public in order to be considered for the competition.  That means that if we submit the film to other festivals and it’s lucky enough to get in – it would be ineligible for the Sundance competition, unless the other festival was after January. But, I will continue to submit the film to various festivals and what is meant to happen – will happen.

I’ve also been working on a press kit, which entails everything from a “tagline”, to a various length synopses to a “one sheet” or movie poster.  I’ve had to flip my brain into a different type of creative mode to assemble this kit.  I needed to start looking at this project through the eyes of the public.  That’s tough to do with something that I am so intimate with on so many levels.  I knew I needed outside help, especially when it came to creating a movie poster.

In what seems like another lifetime, I am a contributing “stock” still photographer to various agencies that license my work. This week, there was a discussion on a listserv amongst some of the photographers of one agency, about compositing and 3D.  I put out a query to see if anyone was interested in “collaborating on a movie poster for a worthwhile project that had a meager budget” and within 5 minutes I received a phone call from a guy who is one of the best digital artists I’ve seen.  He had known about our project and wanted to be part of it!  I can’t even begin to describe how blessed I feel – once again.

As this journey morphs from one stage to the next, I try to follow what seems to be the natural pace and rhythm of where it needs to go.  There have been highs and lows along the way and more to come I’m sure, but the seed of this idea that was planted long ago has just begun to grow.

P.S.  Almost forgot.  To all my “backers” – “rewards” will go out next week – finally!

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Tears of Happiness and Sadness

by Gail Mooney
August 4 2011

It just hit me this morning that we have completed this film.  I cried because I was happy, we had done it.  I cried because it was finished.  I was sad the journey was over – but is it?

Yesterday, I hand delivered the first DVD to someone in the “business” who could really help me as I face the next step – getting the film “out there”.  That’s the hard part – coming up with a plan to give this film legs.  What would have been the point of my daughter and I traveling all around the world, creating a film about people making a difference that could motivate others to action – if people don’t see it?

I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, sending DVD’s to film festivals, outreach directors and potential distributors.  I will be networking with everyone I know as far as making the rights connections with people who can help us get our film out there so that we can achieve what we set out to do- turn this film into a ground swell of action.

Here are some thoughts of what we’d like to do with this film.  Start thinking about people you know who could help us realize these goals.

•    Submit to film festivals to create awareness and publicity for the film.  Festivals are very competitive but I believe our film is a strong contender.  If the film is selected for a festival, then we will want to find a sponsor and make an event out of it and/or have a “premiere screening” in that city to coincide with the festival. It’s a cost effective way to do a premiere and the audience is already there.

•    Have community screenings that would be “move to action” events.  This could take place in a variety of venues, from schools to churches, with the filmmakers present or not.  It could be a community fundraiser, centered on the screening of the film.  Generally, filmmakers hire outreach directors or bookers to find these venues and matches. This can be a win/win where the filmmakers have a chance to recoup their costs and the community raises money for their cause.  In our case, we can also structure it so that our subjects’ causes receive a percentage.

•    Have screenings at universities.  This is something that I would love to do – show the film with a Q&A to students.  The film could really make an impact with young people who are just starting out in life.  If anyone knows people who book college activities – let me know.

•    Theatrical screenings.  This takes money.  But it can lead to rewards – including the academy awards.  My executive Angel Burns is confident we can do this.  Essentially, there needs to be theatrical bookings in LA and NYC, well publicized with mandated advertising in the NY and LA newspapers.  We may need to do another fundraiser ourselves or find a sponsor to make this happen.

•    Broadcast.  Maybe the best way to get eyeballs on it.  Anyone with contacts at OWN (Oprah’s network), Oxygen or Lifetime – viable candidates for this documentary or even a TV docu reality series?  Imagine how refreshing that would be to see on TV – a series about people making a positive difference in the world – instead of watching yet again another show about the worst in human nature.

This film has had an amazing effect on our lives.  We’ve traveled the world, seen our name in lights on a theater marquee and met extraordinary people along the way.  In fact it seems like we are like magnets, attracting just the right people into our lives at just the right time. First of all we “found” all our amazing subjects who brought tremendous value to our lives – we learned so much from them. We found our executive producer, Angel Burns – or shall I say, she found me when I spoke in LA at a “photocine” event about creating a documentary with no money. I found the perfect editor, Erik Freeland who brought his wonderful vision to this film and made us look good, and Maria Grillo, a graphic designer in Chicago who designed our logo and overall look. I have another friend, Ally Raye who put together a great “deck” and “sizzle” for a TV pitch for me.  I can’t even imagine what life was like before these people came into my life.  This film just seems to have some inexplicable power of connecting people.

If you know anyone who is good with marketing and PR, or works in broadcast or knows a sponsor who would be a perfect match and could infuse some financial support to this project, please let us know.

Like one of our subjects, Marian Kramer said, “We’ve got to shine each other up”.

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The Trailer

by Gail Mooney
March 30 2011