Monday, August 8, 2011

Its the Cake, not the Icing...

In a year's time much has happened in our world and community.  There have been employment gains and job loss, the graduation rates rose or fell  and income levels have shifted.   In many ways, these are the statistics we use to measure the well-being and health of a community.  As a whole, humans seem to like to measure progress with numbers.

But what about the number of creative ideas that gave birth to new jobs or the inspiration from a story heard, seen or read that kept a student in school?  It is very difficult, if not impossible to accurately measure the impact of creativity on a community.  Although many have tried over years to attach a number to it,  my guess is that for every art project that we have "measurable statistics" there are thousands of immeasurable benefits that go unnoticed.   And that is no small thing.    Art feeds our imagination and opens our minds. Our greatest problems are solved through innovation. Art is not the icing on the cake for a community, it is the cake.

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will." - George Bernard Shaw.

This past year makework grantees filled our community with art and creativity, some of their efforts are measurable but the impact of the inspiration created by their work is not.  As a one of the makework grantees, I felt lucky to be among such a inspiring group of artists.   And although I can't measure the impact their work, I know I am better for it and so is our community.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Leroy Phillips 1935-2011

Last month, as I sat working on a the Ed Johnson documentary, I received an email that Leroy Phillips had died.   Leroy was the reason I began the Ed Johnson documentary and he was also the reason I continued to work on the film.  His passion for the subject was contagious.  It was something we had in common.

I liked Leroy not just because he was a great interview with a natural gift to tell a story.  He was a nice man and always willing to help out or give me encouragement just when I was about to give up.  Independent films are hard to make. Inevitably you reach a point in the project where the money is dwindling or gone and the choice to continue on or quit  is before you.  I'm sure Leroy faced similar choices when he decided to defend a client that he knew would never be able to pay the bill. I never talked with Leroy about those choices, although I wish I had.   I do know that he would encourage me to keep working on the film.  

And I will.   I just wish he could have had a chance to see it....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Working on what I love...Yahoo!

The last few months have been a grind.  I have been mainly occupied with work for hire jobs.  Last week after a west coast sprint with a stop in Chicago to pick up a couple of interviews I am back in Tennessee.  I am setting aside the next six weeks to focus on the Ed Johnson film with the goal to hold a screening in early June.    I have much work to do, but it is a welcome relief to sink my teeth into a project I truly love.  I'll send updates about the film and its screening in the month to come.   For now its back to the edit - Oh happy days!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wheels in motion...

I have put into motion my grant money with the purchase of a MacBook Pro.  Oh how sweet it is!  Last weekend while on a shoot I could watch footage from the field and start the editing process.  It was wonderful.  I have several shoots coming up in the next month and will be on the road and “editing on the fly”  Will keep you posted on my progress and hopefully include a couple of clips along the way. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

TV Premiere on WTCI We Shall Not Be Moved

I am thrilled that at 8 tonight on WTCI two films I made on the sit-in movement will air back to back.   They both document the important sit-in protests that took place in Chattanooga and Nashville. The Nashville piece was made for the Tennessee State Museum to accompany an exhibit last year and this will be the first time it has premiered on TV.  Several PBS stations across the state will be airing the films as well as a few film festivals.  It was a very rewarding experience to do both films.  I am happy that they are being show to a wider audience.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hibernation - not a bad concept...

As snow fell in Chattanooga and everything came to a stop, it occurred to me that hibernation is not a bad concept. I had my own retreat in a way - the edit cave and I was happy, warm and quietly at work. The first few weeks of January was spent wrapping up two pieces on the Benwood Speakers - one on Malcolm Gladwell, the other on Cory Booker. Both proved engaging and challenging. I’ve also been hired by National Geographic to develop two stories loosely based in the south and hope to complete that research by the end of this month. So for the moment, I’m staying in the cave, when I emerge I’ll post a couple of videos and head out to do some more filming. Stay tuned, stay warm…and when in doubt HIBERNATE.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Open Letter to Mayor Booker...

Dear Mayor Booker,

I was hired by the Benwood Foundation to document your trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the course of filming your speech and visit, I saw a contagious energy spread in the crowd. So in an effort to go beyond that “feel good” moment you left us with and build on your inspiring visit, I’m posting this letter to you on my blog to further a conversation not on community building but rather on community inspiration and the power of our own stories.

When you stand up before a crowd and retell the stories of your grandfather, father or neighbor, you harness their strengths. The neighbor who fought for civil rights, the bus driver who survived the war, and even everyday lessons of work, hope and life that bind us all together are an untapped resource. There is nothing really new in this thought, indeed it is the backbone all great books of faith. And behind every great minister is a great storyteller. But in a world where technology can send a story around the world in seconds, you would think we would be up to our eyeballs in inspiration, but we are not. Our children grow up unaware of the ordinary people all around us that do extraordinary things. But think of what would happen if we actually turned off the “reality” TV show and stopped to listen to the real life stories of our own community.

There is a deep spiritual fuel locked up in a remembered story of a treasured life. They are perhaps our greatest untapped resource. And I believe in much the same way that Malcolm Gladwell explains the tipping points of social trends that all humans have tipping points as well. Moments that can forever change our path. They can be stories or acts of kindness or words of encouragement – the slightest push can make a monumental change. Now, of course, this is my own theory and the social scientists may prove me wrong, but time and time again I experience human “tipping points” in my work as a filmmaker. A simple box of crayons given to a child, a teacher who connected with a student or as I discovered during your visit, a documentary about you so inspired one man that he became active in our community and now serves on our city council. What seems to be a fleeting and insignificant moment in a day, can alter the course of a person’s life forever.

I have actually given this search for sustained passion, and the tipping points in life that create it some thought. The enclosed film is my best answer to that search. And if you are looking for new material, look no further than Jimmie Woodruff…She is always a great way to kick off a New Year and like you, is a great disciple of storytelling. It is just a small thank you for bringing your stories to our community and filling us with inspiration. My hope is our community can discover ways to unlock our stories and harness the inspiration or the fuel we need to sustain our passions. May you have a safe and warm New Year.

Best Regards,