Tag Archives: State Theater
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.
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.
We can’t do it without your help.
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.