‘Film’ Category Archive

His biography begins like this: Patrick has been involved in the entertainment business since the age of 16 when he first performed on stage as a musician with his ridiculously awesome metal band, Apocalypse. Incredible, right?

I am really excited to share this with you all. Patrick Shen is a filmmaker who tells stories of significance. After a stint working at E! and a role as second unit director on the Emmy nominated doc We Served With Pride, Patrick started Transcendental Media, an independent film production company whose goal is to create films and documentaries to “agitate the sleep of mankind”.

His previous films Flight from Death: the Quest for Immortality and The Philosopher Kings have been critically acclaimed portraits of fascinating people and ideas. They are both available on Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, and DVD. Patrick is currently in post-production on a new documentary feature called La Source.

What led you to tell the stories you did in your most recent film The Philosopher Kings?

I’m drawn to people on the fringe and the stories they have to tell. I really identify with those stories. We hear enough from the “experts”, the celebrities, the CEOs, etc every day of our lives. Most of them just talk a lot. I think people are tired of talk these days. We want authenticity in our lives. We want action. The generation once described as the “disposable population” is the same one occupying Wall Street right now protesting corporate greed and economic inequality. I chose university janitors as the subjects for The Philosopher Kings because they are the classic example of the unseen class of people in our culture. They see it all and have done it all, yet most people rarely take a moment to have a conversation with them. Why is that exactly? Why does our culture so heavily promote the outspoken, filthy rich, and the “pretty people”? At the end of the day, we’ve got real life issues to deal with and I’d rather get advice from people who have some real life experience and wisdom to share.

Did you ever screen the film with your subjects in the audience? What kind of response did they have?

We did a small tour of the film throughout the U.S. with various of the subjects in attendance for Q&As. One of the more memorable moments was a screening we did at Cornell University for something like 2,000 people, including 600 uniformed Cornell custodians, at which 6 of the 8 “philosopher kings” attended. That was the first time those 6 had seen the film and they were on cloud nine for those couple of days, getting wine and dined by the excellent people at Cornell, doing press interviews, and taking photos with fans. Seeing their stories on the big screen was a unique experience for them as you can imagine. They were touched to know that their stories, which up until that moment had never been shared with anyone beyond their families and friends (in some cases, nobody), could mean something to these complete strangers. Melinda Augustus, the woman who works at the Florida Museum of Natural History and whose mother was in a coma for over a decade, talks about the experience like it was therapy. Therapy is very much about acknowledging things, making them tangible, by saying it out loud and confronting it. This whole experience has helped her to begin the healing process.

Your upcoming film La Source follows the Lajeunesse Brothers. What is it about these men that compelled you to tell their story?

I’m a sucker for a good underdog story. It doesn’t take much to get me to devote my whole existence to telling a story like that of the Lajeunesse brothers. They are underdogs in just about every sense. Josue’s a janitor by day and cab driver by night and Chrismedonne is a carpenter living in a remote rural village in Haiti. The world doesn’t know these two exist and it’s too distracted to really care even if they did know. One of the lessons I took away from The Philosopher Kings was that the simple act of submitting to another person, setting aside our stream of thoughts about what’s tweetable about this moment for long enough to absorb someone’s story can be a powerful experience. The person sort of becomes real and three dimensional. When I first learned of the Lajeunesse brothers and their dream to bring clean water to their village in Haiti, I was pretty much obligated to tell their story. The villagers in La Source have had two options for getting clean water – a treacherous hike up a mountain to access a natural spring or a contaminated river that runs nearby the village. Diarrheal disease, a clear symptom of cholera, is the leading cause of death among young children in Haiti where 1 out of every 14 infants dies before they reach their first birthday.

So you are now in post-production?

Yes, we’re in post-production now and it’s going well now. The story was developing so quickly, we had no time to do proper fundraising which resulted in us having to nickel and dime our way through this whole project. We had to take several months off from post-production because we were completely tapped out, financially and emotionally, but we’re back on track now and expected to have a completed film by February 2012.

What do you hope comes from telling this story via this film?

Good stories, specifically in film form, have literally changed my life. They move me and inspire me to be a better human. It’s a transcendental experience for me. I hope to some degree that the audience walks away from La Source feeling that way. We’re also launching a nationwide social action campaign to empower and resource people to get involved in the water crisis in Haiti and around the world. We wanted to do more than just take donations at our screenings, we want to create a movement that will have an exponential effect on eradicating this crisis. We’re not going to let people leave the theater until they’ve been given clear options with regard to getting involved, organizing their own fundraisers or screening events, or how to support the cause. Our hope is that hundreds of thousands of people will get clean water as a result of this film and this action campaign.

Obviously there’s a reason you entered into filmmaking – what is it? What keeps you in it?

I was one of those super shy kids who always felt like he had a lot to say but not enough courage to speak up. When I discovered art (music was my first love), it was like two puzzle pieces coming together. It was like I had found my voice. Historically, storytelling has been the most effective way to communicate something. In my opinion, film is the most powerful storytelling medium that exists. I’ve learned so much about how to be a better human from films. I love that Joseph Campbell quote “If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor”. Art is our metaphor for the world and I believe that’s where change starts.

I’m a movie nerd. Any great movies/filmmakers we should know about?

Most of my favorite filmmakers are narrative directors like Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel), and Ang Lee (The Ice Storm). On the doc side, I really love the old verite films from people like Fred Wiseman (Titicut Follies) and Albert Maysles (Salesman). I love it when I feel like I’m sitting in the room with people from another time. They’re often not the most entertaining films, but they give you such a powerful way to experience someone’s story. Some docs from the last decade or so that I really liked were Last Train Home, A Decade Under Influence, and Mugabe and the White African. Lastly, I’m compelled to give a shout-out to a doc that pretty much defined my entire teenage life: The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. It’s a shocking – sometimes embarrassing – look into the metal subculture of the 1980s. I didn’t bite the heads off of any bats, but I used to want to. A film that can inspire that kind of behavior is worth watching.

We want to help with you latest project La Source. How can we pitch in?

Thanks for asking! We’ve launched an IndieGoGo campaign to fund the social action campaign for my new film La Source. With the film as the centerpiece, we’re going to launch a nationwide campaign to bring awareness, then equip and empower people to get involved in the water crisis in Haiti and around the world. The lack of potable water is the leading cause of death in the world and it’s also a pretty easy fix. A single well can bring an entire community clean water for about 20 years. With this campaign we hope to spark a movement that will inspire people everywhere to screen the film and hold their own fundraisers and have it grow exponentially from that. All the funds from this IndieGoGo campaign will go directly towards the implementation of the action campaign. We’ve lined up a bunch of awesome perks that people get in return for their pledge, but most importantly people will be able to get in at the ground level before this campaign launches nationwide in 2012. Here’s the link: http://give.lasourcemovie.com.

Help a film and help bring clean water to Haiti.

Give to the project
Follow Patrick on Twitter
Transcendental Media

Posted in Film, Inspiration, Interviews | 28 Comments »

Tomorrow we have a very special post for you – an interview with filmmaker Patrick Shen. We’ll be talking about his film The Philosopher Kings a bit and his exciting new project La Source, among other things.

Make plans to watch The Philosopher Kings as soon as possible – if you haven’t already.

This inspiring documentary turns the spotlight toward people often overlooked and uncovers their wisdom, beauty and humanity. As we meet these custodians and see them living out their daily lives, we are given the gift of seeing the world through another’s eyes.

“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story. ”
― Mary Lou Kownacki

You can stream it now via Netflix. The film is also available via this website.
Check back tomorrow!

Posted in Film | No Comments »

The above video was created for Warby Parker by the talented Adam Sjorberg. He worked alongside photographer Esther Havens to help tell the story of what these guys are doing.

Warby Parker is a perfect example of a company setting out to deliver not only a great product – but a great purpose.

“We’re trying to build a company where we’re excited and proud to come to work every day. We think it’s good business to do good.”

We love that.

Check out Warby Parker.
See more of Adam’s photo and video work.
Experience the work of Esther Havens.

Posted in Film, Simple Difference | No Comments »

When I first met filmmaker Scott Moore, he mentioned that his next project would be about a clown.

Yeah, I know. I asked the same question: “Why clowns?”

A film about clowns in the hands of just any filmmaker could be . . well . . . frightening. This isn’t that kind of film. This project is overflowing with love and joy and hope and beauty.

I desperately want to see it exist.

Currently in pre-production, the film Becoming Fools depicts the lives of Guatemalan street youth and the hope of opportunity. It tells the story of Italo, a professional clown who invested in the lives of young people living on the streets. He dreamed of a youth center that would provide opportunity these kids had never known. Sadly, Italo’s life was cut short when he tragically drowned in February of 2011. This film, from the ambitious and inspiring team of Athentikos Productions, wants to honor Italo’s vision and legacy by telling this beautiful story of struggle and hope.

We wanted to share this project with you. Here is a special interview with documentary filmmaker Scott Moore:

How did you come across such a compelling subject for your new film Becoming Fools?

We met Italo through our missionary friend Joel Van Dyke in January, 2009 while we were in Guatemala filming our documentary, Reparando. We were immediately drawn to him. He was a professional clown who spent his spare time working with kids that lived in the streets. Italo was originally going to be included in Reparando, but during editing, we decided it was best to focus the story on Shorty, Tita and the Guatemalan Civil War. However, we loved Italo and his story so we kept it in our queue to revisit in the future.

What is it about this story that made you and the crew at Athentikos say “this has to be our next project”?

In November 2010 we premiered Reparando in Guatemala City and had an opportunity to spend some more time with Italo. We were shocked when we met the street kids he worked with because they looked so much older than they really were. Most had left home between 8 and 10 years old and had lived on the streets for years. Many of them were addicted to solvent and glue as a way to curb hunger and forget the pain of their past. It was similar to the Guatemalan prison I visited in 2008 that inspired me to produce Reparando, except this prison had no walls. These children were prisoners of the street. We interviewed a few of the street kids on camera and and were moved by their stories. It was a humbling experience and we left with a desire to pursue the story in 2011.

In February 2011, shortly after beginning pre-production, we received a phone call from Guatemala telling us that Italo had drowned in a tragic accident. If he had been shot on the street we would have been sad, but at least it would have made sense. But, he drowned in a freak accident. We felt more than ever that this story had to be told – not just to honor Italo’s life, but to try an build momentum for the effort to help these kids. So we’ve spent the last year in pre-production. We started developing our Kickstarter Campaign in May and launched at the end of August to raise funds for production. We believe this story has the power to make a difference in the lives of street kids around the world!

Even though it’s in the early stages of production – how has the message of Becoming Fools and the inspiration of Italo impacted you and your team already?

This beautiful story has already changed my life. Italo was a true hero. He modeled the selfless love of Jesus to the least, last and lost. At the time of his death, he had given away everything he owned to help these street kids and was sleeping on the floor of his apartment. His life was a comedy and his death was a tragedy. It is tragic that these kids ran away from home when they were ten years old. It is tragic that they are addicted to drugs and have little opportunity to make their lives better. But we have the oportunity to try to make their lives joyful – a comedy.

We originally wanted to include the clown theme in this story because Italo was a clown. He began to teach kids living on the street to clown so they could have a job. But now I realize that Italo was teaching these kids to clown for a deeper reason. Clowning can help these kids process their tragic stories and better understand their wounds. Clowning can also empower these kids to begin to communicate their stories non-verbally – in a way that crosses culture and language – so that we the audience can begin to understand their needs and respond. Clowns captivate an audience between tragedy and comedy. We can work together to provide the leverage needed to lift these kids out of their current situations and show them true hope.

We are inspired that churches and organizations in Guatemala that were once working independently – in competition with one another – are now collaborating together to make a difference in the lives of these kids. The Becoming Fools story has inspired this collaboration in a way that we have no control over. I love that this is more organic and more than natural than we could have ever planned – it is supernatural. Only God could bring people together like this. We are praying that our Kickstarter Campaign will be successful so we could produce this story and empower this collaboration to grow even more. We believe that together we can not only fund a film but also inspire a response around the world. Yes … we are fools … but we are fools for the right reason. (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)

Get ready. This is a two-parter! – How do you think film holds the power to affect change? Are there any films/filmmakers that have deeply impacted you to live differently or take action?

I personally believe films are called motion pictures not only because they are pictures that are moving, but also because they have the power to move people. Film is experiential. It has the power to expose the viewer to locations, characters and story, but also immerses the viewer in an experience as if they were living out the scene. We live vicariously through the character on screen and feel their emotions. Films have caused riots … and they have inspired people to respond positively to needs around them. That is our purpose at Athentikos – to document AUTHENTIC hope and inspire people to respond. We witnessed this with our film Reparando. People were moved to respond to the story – and not just in Guatemala. People responded locally. People in Philadelphia responded in Philadelphia; people in LA responded in LA. We are excited about the potential for Becoming Fools to inspire audiences to get involved with the issue of kids who live on the street. Although it is a story that takes place in Guatemala, there are street kids in every city around the world. We can get involved right where we are.

As for films and filmmakers that have impacted me to live differently, this is a tough question. I don’t want to give you a cop-out answer, but films are my passion. As a filmmaker myself, it is often difficult for me to simply watch a movie for enjoyment. I am always watching critically, evaluating and applying the film to my personal life as a story-teller. I love documentaries like War Dance, God Grew Tired Of Us, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers and Which Way Home. Films like these have opened my mind to a world beyond the one I live in Nashville. They connected me to something important and invited me to get involved. I love dramas like Crash, The Kite Runner, Charlie Wilson’s War and Blood Diamond … they all challenged my perception of reality and definition of what is important. Most of the world is drastically different than the bubble we live in the US.

If I were to chose one film that most caused me to respond, I would have to say Hotel Rwanda. I volunteered my time for 6 months creating a promotional campaign for a reconciliation ministry in Africa after seeing Hotel Rwanda. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know that was happening in Rwanda back in the 90s. I HAD to respond.

When someone donates to your Kickstarter project – where will this money go?

Kickstarter uses Amazon Payments to transfer pledges at the end of a successful campaign in to an Athentikos account. No money is transferred until the end of a successful Kickstarter campaign. We’re praying that our campaign will raise our goal of $150,000 before October 5, 2011 so we can move forward into production and tell this story. We will use the money raised through this campaign to produce the story and cover the costs of Kickstarter incentives. $150,000 might seem like a lot, but in the film production world this is a small figure. To put it in context, this money is for over two years of work from several people, plus travel, food, lodging, equipment and the surprises along the way (nothing ever goes as planned). Reparando cost over $400,000 when all was said and done. We’ve estimated that Becoming Fools will be in the same price range, but we are donating our time because we believe in the story’s power to impact the issue of street kids.

How can we help? Give us the full rundown!

The most important issue is to fund the film through our Kickstarter campaign. That is the first domino that needs to fall. We can’t move forward if we don’t have funding. We know $150,000 is a lot of money, but there are a lot of people connected on the internet. On the internet, millions of people can watch a video overnight. Interestingly, If the people who have already liked our Kickstarter page on Facebook would make a pledge, we would make our goal very easily. Don’t get me wrong. We appreciate the number of Facebook Likes, but we can’t produce a film with likes. We need people to back the project. Every pledge counts.

Added bonus … You get to decided where we host the world premiere of Becoming Fools. The city that raises the most financial support for the Becoming Fools Kickstarter Campaign will host the world premiere of the film FOR FREE! This depends on a successful campaign.

We’ve already raised about $40K through 189 backers. This means that our average pledge is $210 … much higher than the Kickstarter average of $62. People believe in this project and have generously given to help make this film a reality. I would like to encourage you to join us in Becoming Fools. Make a pledge today and ask your friends to do the same. We can do this together!

Here’s the rundown:

1. Back the project:
Go here.
Click the green button that says “BACK THIS PROJECT”.
Sign in through Amazon Payments to make a pledge

2. Share the project with your family and friends via email, Facebook, twitter and face to face conversations

3. Ask people to make a pledge

Hopefully we will be able to celebrate a successful campaign together ion October 5, 2011 and move forward into production to share this important story!

So there you have it. Isn’t Scott awesome? I was excited to share this unique project with you guys. Support Becoming Fools and help spread hope in Guatemala!

Posted in Film, Interviews | 2 Comments »

Meet The East Hill Singers. They’re a chorus comprised of inmates from Lansing Correctional Facility and volunteer singer/mentors from the community. The choir director has dedicated himself to proving the power of music and showing the men that they can achieve something.The men perform everything from traditional choral to contemporary to a “rap of redemption”, written by a medium-security inmate convicted of a gang murder.

photo by Katie Kritikos

Today we wanted to share this with you guys: There is currently a documentary in the works about the choir called Conducting Hope and they need our help. The film’s producer, Margie Friedman, is a well-established television executive and supervising producer who began her career in news and has gone on to produce numerous primetime and cable series and specials. David Grabias, the director, is an Award-winning documentary filmmaker with over a decade of experience. David has directed numerous programs that have aired internationally on PBS, A&E, Discovery, FX, Travel Channel, and National Geographic.

We spoke with producer Margie Friedman about the film, art in prison, and how we can help this film be seen.

What led you to film/television? Any specific inspirations for you?
I’ve always been drawn toward interesting stories and people.

Is it true that you have to sell your soul to make it in the entertainment industry in L.A.?
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked on some wonderful programs with terrific people. As with every business, you like some experiences more than others.

I’ve always thought that the role of producer must be a pretty satisfying one – to know that you played a hand in getting all these people together to create something that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. What have been some of your proudest moments?
My favorite moment was for an NBC Saturday morning show called, “Name Your Adventure.” We took a 16-year old girl who had escaped Vietnam to spend the day at the White House with her role model, press secretary, Dee Dee Myers. President Clinton surprised her with an invitation to the Oval Office. The girl later became an intern at the White House.

Tell us about the documentary.
Conducting Hope is a documentary film that tells the story of the East Hills Singers at Lansing Correctional Facility outside Kansas City. The all-male minimum-security choir is the only secular prison choir in the country that performs outside prison gates. The choir is also comprised of singers from the local Kansas City community who serve as musical mentors. The choir director is dedicated to proving the power of music and showing the men that they can achieve something. More than anything, the sense of accomplishment gives them hope.

Today, two-thirds of those will be rearrested within three years and fifty-percent will wind up back in prison. There’s no question that the men who participate in the choir will be released back into society. How they reintegrate ultimately affects everyone.

What would you say to those who would argue that programs like choirs, arts,etc shouldn’t be available to inmates?
Regardless of how one feels about people who commit crimes or the prison system,
ninety-five percent of the inmates in Minimum Security will be released. How they
re-integrate back into society is important. Studies show that inmates who participate in arts programs have a lower rate of recidivism. In the end, that impacts society both
financially and in our communities.

What can we do to help you finish this film?
In order to finish the documentary, we need financial support. In December, we received a small grant from a Kansas based foundation and right now, the project is up on Kickstarter. Our mission right now is to reach our goal on Kickstarter…and then some.

We set a low goal in order to reach it but in fact, we need much more. Every little bit
helps and will us enable us to expand the film ultimately, to an hour. We already have
potential interest from PBS to air the film once it’s completed.

For you, what has it been like to be a part of a project like this?
Being a part of the project has reinforced the notion that little things can make a
difference in people’s lives. It’s also the first time I’ve had to deal with my own
fundraising and that’s been a learning process.

What would you say to any creative artists reading this who want to create something with heart and hope just as you are?

I believe that if you really want to do something, you’ll figure out a way to do it. The media has a tremendous power to influence and impact people. How you use choose to use it is a personal choice.

Click here to pitch in and help make this film happen.

Posted in Awesome Causes, Film, Interviews | 1 Comment »