‘Interviews’ Category Archive
This year for your birthday you are asking for goats. Please explain.
My friends and I at Give a Goat have started a new way of enabling people to get involved with our work. It’s called “Go”, and it lets anyone create a project around an event, goal, or idea and raise support to buy goats for needy families. It’s launch fell right around my birthday, so I decided to lend my special day to its inauguration. Basically what I’m asking people to do is to give $24 for my 24 birthday instead of giving me a present. This money will go to buy goats for needy families. I’m hoping to raise $2,400 which will give about 20 goats and start an entire village on the path to self-sufficiency.
How does a guy living in Oklahoma become connected to work happening in the Philippines?
Man our world has shrunk. I actually went to college with a native Filipino whose family had been working to help the poor from their native country get out of poverty. We spent a ton of time together dreaming, praying, brainstorming. He kept talking about how his Dad was giving goats to people in the Philippines and it was lifting them out of poverty. It wasn’t long before I was on board with him and we formed the non-profit Give a Goat around an organic idea born in the Philippines.
Do you have a favorite success story?
There are so many to choose from and I heard about four more just today. But my favorite would have to be about my friend Ronald. Ronald worked at a roadside stand selling food in the metropolitan area of Cebu. His family lived about three hours away from his work so he only came home once a month to visit his wife and child, as well as drop off the $1 a day he was making. One night after midnight he was working his stand, and there was a shooting. The man who was shot came and crouched behind Ronald’s booth for safety. This was a giant wake up call to Ronald. He came home and decided he was going to find a better way to provide for his family. Around that time, Give a Goat was looking for new raisers in his area and he decided he wanted to try his hand at goat raising. That was three years ago. Today Ronald has 80 goats, a thriving vegetable garden, a water filtration system, and happy children who are attending school. He has been so successful that he is now passing his knowledge and goats to his neighbors, telling them how to get out of poverty and start a new life. Ronald also moonlights as Give a Goat’s key veterinarian.
In addition to your work with Give a Goat you are also a poet. What role do you feel artists play in bringing about change?
Artists don’t just play a role in bringing about change, they are the most vital conduit for change. Artists teach us to dream in color, reimagine our world, and ask questions with new words. As French author Albert Camus put it, “In a world such as this, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” Artists, poets, musicians, and the like stand on the opposite side of corruption, oppression, and greed. It is hard to imagine myself among these ranks, but I’m trying my best. As a artist, in particular as a poet, I try to reclaim truth by showing it in a foreign light. We get so used to our paradigms and routines that even words like war, famine, and murder loose their bite. I try to grab overlooked ideas, peoples, and causes and pull them into new light where people can see their truth. And any time I can be a voice for the voiceless and give noise to previously deaf ears, I consider it an honor.
What advice would you give to anyone reading this who might be a ‘recovering slacktivist’? What steps can they take to actively pursue creating real change and not just being a consumer?
They can do just that. Stop being a consumer and go create real change. Look at your life. What are you good at, passionate about, connected to? What makes you cry, yell, or giggle? Those are the things you were created to meld yourself to. Find that cause or that mission. And once you know what you want to do, even if it is just a small inkling of a feeling, start engaging in conversations. That is how change takes place. Over cups of coffee and plates of food. Talk to your friends and family about what you are wanting to do, find people who are already working in those fields and render your services, find people effected by the problem and hear their stories and find out how they want and need to be helped. What we often misunderstand is that we don’t need an organization, non-profit, or mission trip to change our world. There are people, living, struggling, dying people across our streets and around our world. I spoke with a struggling family that I met here in the Philippines on Facebook today. They can’t feed their children, but a family in their village has internet and we are plotting a change for her community. Talk to people. Dream. And then go do it!
In addition to getting you goats for your birthday, how else can we get involved with Give a Goat?
I would encourage everyone, if giving goats to needy families sounds even a bit interesting, to go to www.go.giveagoatnow.com and start a project that can change a person’s life.
Could Facebook save someone’s life? Karthik Naralasetty thinks so.
He created socialblood.org, a social media platform to help address the blood shortage crisis by connecting blood donors and recipients of the same type through Facebook.
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Karthik Naralasetty, 22 years old. I used to study computer science at the Rutgers University in New Jersey. I dropped out of college in 2009 to start my own technology start-up redcode Informatics. Socialblood.org is a product of redcode.
What’s the story behind socialblood?
Not so long ago, I saw this request by one of my connections on Facebook seeking for a B+ donor for his dad who was undergoing heart surgery. Surprisingly after two hours he posted back saying ‘Thanks to Facebook, we found a donor for my dad!’
This made me think deeply on how I could use Facebook as a platform to solve the issue of finding blood donors when in emergency.
So I went ahead and launched 8 Facebook groups for 8 blood groups and opened it for the general public and clubbed them up on a website and called it socialblood.org. Through the Socialblood website, citizens of India are asked to join a selection of eight different Facebook Blood Groups.
So then I invited my friends to visit the website and asked them to select their blood type and join as a member/donor. Which, surprisingly, most of them did!
Soon we had around 200 members in all groups combined and requests from users started coming in. The numbers started growing from then on. Now we have around 1500 members all together who are actively sharing information and responding to emergencies. We are also proud to say we saved the life of a three year old kid who was in need of blood.
What do you think it is about SocialBlood that has helped it catch on?
Our project is unique because no one has ever tried the equation of leveraging social networks for emergencies.There are hundreds of website online today who are connecting blood donors to blood seekers but there is none who has utilized social networks like Face book to its fullest and we did it! And we are really proud of that!
Who funds the project?
Socialblood is a self sustaining because we have zero cost involved to run the initiative. The whole platform is based on Facebook framework so it’s very very easy to scale the project. Currently we are working on a location based model with couple of engineers from Czech Republic and taking this initiative global, So now we are looking for raising funds for the project as we have to buy server space to manage the amount of requests.
What’s the mission of the project?
We just want to build a global platform where every human being on the planet who wants to donate blood and help save other human being should be able to! Our broader vison would be to make the world a more compassionate place to live in. I want to see people helping other people without giving it a second thought.
What kinds of challenges do you currently face?
The biggest challenge we have right now is fighting the stigma associated with donating blood.When you talk about India, we have so many ethnic groups in the country and every group or community have their own fears. Some feel donating blood will make them too weak. Some feel the process transmits deadly diseases like HIV. So, right now we are working out partnerships with RedCross India to launch an awareness campaign across the country that will address these basic issues.
Many people would look at you and say, “I could never do that.” What do you say to them?
Socialblood was started with one member, now we grew up to 1500 hundred of them in less than 4 months. Everything starts small. Don’t go to people and ask, give me 100 million dollars..I am gonna solve a problem….go and ask for a dollar and start with one person at a time …Then go to more people and say…I am gonna do it for 10 more people and 10 more people…soon you end up supporting hundreds of them..let’s say in a period of 1 year. Every person who has done something like this has started small….right? Its important to remember that. I am sure Apple started off by selling one PC. Everyone started small. The problems with our generation is that we live in a society where everything is big, right? Like somebody sold this company for 2 billion dollars…and some company is worth 50 billion…then you think, “Oh I am just starting up and I need to, at least, raise a million bucks to start with or else I am nobody.” All you have to do is just take that first step. Make that first phone call and you are on you way. If you do good stuff, money comes to you..let’s be clear on that.
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.
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:
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!
Of the 70 million children not in school, 70% are girls. For many girls around the world the journey to getting an education is much more difficult than it should be. Check out this video:
Today we want to introduce you to some of our new friends at the Got Your Back Movement. Through the power of school uniforms, these guys seek to transform generations and nations – especially in the lives of “the Seventy Percent”. Here’s 10 questions with Rachel Ryan, Artist Relations and Movement Campaign Leader. Discover their awesomeness.
1. For the uninitiated: Tell us about Got Your Back Movement.
The Got Your Back Movement exists to restore purpose, give hope, and show love through the global distribution of school uniforms to children in need. Our mission is to create sustainable change in communities worldwide through the impact that education creates in all aspects of life. Our vision is to create a world in which children begin to see their hopes and dreams become a reality through the lens of education. By removing the financial obstacles of obtaining a school uniform, we hope to help them achieve a primary education while ensuring that this process is maintained through an economically sustainable model for their entire community.
2. How did this whole thing begin?
In 2009, Austin Cassleman (President) assembled a team of people to brainstorm ways that they could make a difference in the world. Through a multi-week process, we, the team, gathered information, assessed skill sets, and sought out answers to the 3 major questions…what, why & how? From these meetings, we birthed the Got Your Back Movement.
During this time, we discovered that its more important to understand why you exist, rather than what you do or how you do it. We have come to believe that when you know your why, it will forever change your work ethic, but more importantly, it will revolutionize the way you live your life.
3. How did you discover GYB and get involved?
Well, Will Hill (executive director) and I have been great friends for the better part of our 20′s. He saw the work I’ve done for other NFP’s and asked me to come on board. Ive always done activist work on a volunteer level (as do most people) but now I am quitting my career and moving to Nashville to work with GYB full time!
4. It seems like everyone on the GYB team are not only passionate about the cause, but also just a really fun group of people. Would that be fair to say?
Thats very fair to say, fun and talented. Most of us are really funny and we are also looking forward to this epic GYB/LIS dance party! (Editor’s note: We’re wanting to plan something cool with these kids. Lookout for it!)
5. What is the ’70%” ?
Of the 70,000,000 children not in school worldwide, 70% are girls. Girls are faced with the most struggles when seeking out an education. Got Your Back seeks to
transform generations and nations through the power of school uniforms, especially in the lives of the Seventy Percent.
6. How can we get involved in supporting what you do?
Watch the video. SHARE the video. Like/follow us on the social networks. Sign up for our newsletter. BUY A SHIRT! Every shirt purchased provides a school uniform for a child in one of our programs for a for a whole year. It goes further…the uniforms we give away are handmade by local tailors in the communities of the beneficiaries. We are committed to seeing whole communities energized and forever changed through the Got Your Back Movement.
7. Any stories that you’ve seen or experienced while working for GYB that continue to inspire you and keep you going in your work?
I’m a super visual person. We are blessed to have one of my favorite photographers on staff, Tec Petaja. The images he captures, capture my heart. It changes my life and shifts my focus daily when I see the smiling faces of the kids receiving their uniforms. The joy they display is viral. In addition to that, the rest of our team is so dedicated to making a difference. They encourage me.
9. Who are some bands/musicians that are on board with GYB?
We are so new to this partnership idea that we are looking for our first wave of solid artists! So far we have the support of Chancellor Warhol, Kink Ador, and Shane Gamble. If anyone is interested they can email me at: RachelRyan@gybmovment.org
10. How does their support help propel your movement?
Artist support helps augment our fan base. There are so many great causes out there to believe in and I feel like it takes that personal heart connection for young people to say “this is the one Im going to back”, “this is the cause Ill give my money to”. Those artist who believe in our work are our mobile mouthpieces. In a way, they become some of the most important advocates we will have.
Rachel is on the lookout for passionate musicians to partner with/promote this super grassroots movement. Whether you’re a musician, artist or any other human being who cares: visit the Got Your Back Movement site and get involved in this awesome work.
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.
Image: Todd Roeth
Joe finishes our interview talking about The Vickie Honeycutt Foundation, Terra Nova High School and a simple way to make a difference in everyone’s life.
by Bryson Leach
If you missed part one of this interview check it out here
BL: Your manager mentioned to me that you guys are big supporters of the Honeycutt Foundation. Can you tell us about that?
JK: Dane Honeycutt is our tour manager who’s been with the Brothers since the beginning of their touring. He is their tour manager, guitar tech, he’s our boss and good friend. He was someone that the band could not function without. Seth and Scott had his mother, Vickey Honeycutt as their teacher in elementary school. Last year Vickie was diagnosed with cancer and what was initially only breast cancer spread to the other parts of her body as a form of terminal cancer. She passed away this year and it was a hard time for Dane.
Dane set up a foundation under Vickie’s name to help teachers who are going through the same things that she went through. For Seth and Scott, Vickie was a big support in their lives growing up, so supporting her and now supporting others in the same position was a big goal for them. Since they are so underpaid, it’s just a little bit of an extra help for them during their difficult time. Vickie and Dane were and are a major influence in our lives. It will continue to be something that is apart of our group.
BL: Are there any other causes that you’ve come across recently that have really caught your eye?
JK: Oh yea man! We played a benefit concert in Portland during our tour this year for this high school called the Terra Nova School in Portland. We were driving through and had and extra day to kill. So, we called up one of our favorite venues in the area, the Crystal Ballroom, and asked if we could do a secret show there and if there were any local causes that needed help from the ticket sales. We were told about this school where kids learn to work a farm from seed to preparation. It’s a school that functions on very little but they are teaching the kids the value of the foods that we eat and where it comes from. So we were able to sell out all the tickets with the proceeds benefitting this school. The best part about it was the kids came and brought the food they learned to grow and make. It was the best food that we’ve ever eaten on tour. It was awesome to see these kids that just understood food. It’s something we wish was available across the country.
BL: Doing good and making a difference in the lives of others is such an important characteristic that we feel everyone needs. What is one way that everyone can incorporate that into their own character?
JK: You know, the biggest thing, the easiest thing and just the most selfless thing you can do is to just talk to someone. You don’t have to give financially. You don’t have to give any sort of gift. There are tons of foundations that need financial backing but there are countless numbers of people who just need someone to talk to. That’s why when we are on the road and someone wants to talk to us about anything, talk about music or talk about their lives, we’re never going to turn them down. We’re never going to think that we’re somehow better than anybody else. Just being able to talk to someone and listen to them and to what they have to say, even if it’s for two minutes may be the difference of someone committing suicide or not or someone self-esteem being raised just that little bit or someone that just needs that little push to get through the day. There’s so many little things that can be done without money and I feel like talking openly with each other is such a good thing.
If someone wants to talk to you, you’re no better than anyone else. It’s such an important thing to remember, we’re all in this world together and trying to make it from day to day.
Joe Kwon is the cellist for The Avett Brothers and has also contributed his stringed talents to our friends The Apache Relay on their first album 1988
Image: Todd Roeth
The Avett Brothers’ cellist talks with us about finishing a very long tour and blogging away hunger in Part I of our interview.
by Bryson Leach
After a very long tour across the country and a few stops in Europe and Australia, The Avetts are ready for a break. Bryson Leach caught up with their cellist Joe Kwon after just getting back from their two-night, Halloween finale at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
BL: What’s it like to consistently be on tour since last February and to suddenly stop? What are you doing now?
JK:We started last year in February and consistently toured throughout this November. We started out the year on a big push with a two-week tour in the US, then we went to Europe and Australia. We’d go out and come home for several days at a time. We were away for a total of six weeks at the beginning of the year. It was crazy for sure.
For right now we’ve been laying low and spending time with the family. Getting strength back for the next big push for next year. We’re working on new songs for our new album soon, not sure when that will be but we’ve been working on new material. We’re just trying to do the things normal people do because the things we have been doing aren’t too normal for our girlfriends and wives. Our routine is immediately thrown out the window. Now it’s just time to get into a different routine. It will be nice to relax for a while, but really that feeling will last maybe all of two weeks. Then I’ll be ready to start doing something again.
BL:With some major artists, as the tour winds down, it can be apparent that they are on their last leg and their performance is weak and unappreciated. With you guys, road fatigue is never on the table. Why is that?
JK: It’s the love of being on stage. As much as we’re on the road, the stage feels like the right place to be if we can’t be home. We don’t drink on the road, we have noticed that it affects our performance if we drink, and if we can’t give 110% every night then it’s an injustice to the fans. Any moment we have to rest we take it, and of course, we eat well. No fast food, no junk food, instead we eat lots of salads, you know, it doesn’t weigh you down. Something I preach a lot is eating well and I need to practice what I preach.
Food is something Kwon is passionate about — so much so that he blogs about it. On his website Tasteontour.com, Kwon blogs about all the different places he likes to eat while on the road. Proceeds from the advertising on his site benefits the World Food Program, an United Nations Program that feeds needy families all over the globe.
JK:The blog was kind of a logical thing for me. When I’m on a road, there’s a lot of down time in the bus and we have to respect the silence there. I said, “You know what, there’s a lot of towns and restaurants that I want to go to and there’s a lot of restaurants out there that deserve attention.” I wanted to tell my fans that these places are worth checking out. I especially love it when places are getting local resources and putting love into food like we put love into our music. It’s great to see restaurants that get good food from local sources that, in turn, benefit themselves and the community they live in.
BL: Can you tell us more about your love for local food?
JK: I’m a big supporter of the farm-to-fork lifestyle. I have friends [in North Carolina] who are farmers on the weekends and I try to get people interested in their produce so they can sustain what they are doing. I think the things the farmers are doing here are so good for local development and the sense of community I live in; it’s all a very positive thing. If enough people do what small farmers can do for local food procurement it can greatly shift how food is grown.
BL: Can you explain what the World Food Program is and what you do to support it?
JK: It’s a program for Blog for Hunger, set up by another blogger, Marc Matsumoto at Norecipes.com. He had an idea for proceeds from a blog to go to WFP in a program called Blog Away Hunger. I have good friends who work for similar NGOs who also support the WFP. I thought it was a good idea. I especially want to support my friends who are doing awesome things in other countries who need help with food supplies. The program doesn’t get a lot of budgetary support, so any support we can give to WFP is a good thing.
Top photo by Todd Roeth
Last week we told you about Gift Card Giver, an innovative group that has found a way for you to take those gift cards wasting away in your back pocket and use them to help people in need. It’s a seriously cool idea. Think about it: everybody has gift cards. In fact they’ve found that billions of dollars go unused on gift cards every single year.
This summer they took their message on the road and set out collecting gift cards and driving up the east coast, west through the Great Lakes region, through Tennessee and back to home sweet home in Atlanta, GA. It was 30 cities in 30 days. We had the chance to spend some time with Russ, Summer and Leslie as they neared the last leg of their impressive journey:
Watch as Summer shares what happened when we were able to connect Gift Card Giver with our friends in Waverly, TN:
Got gift cards lying around at your house? Want to throw a gift card party in your town? Visit their site to find out how easy it is for you to get involved: giftcardgiver.com
It was cool to meet these awesome people, as you’ll see from these two interviews, but the movement that is Invisible Children is both inspiring and, at the same time, challenging. Inspiring because of all the good that has come from their work and all the ways that everyday people can get involved. Challenging because . . . well . . . it’s so disturbing and frustrating what has happened and is happening in Uganda.
Here we meet up with Lauren, a super cool roadie for IC and Amanda, an awesome young college student who is featured in one of their documentaries.
Meet two roadies for Invisible Children:
Thankfully these guys are spreading the word about Africa’s longest war and empowering people all over to make a difference. Invisible Children founders Jason Russell, Laren Poole and CEO Ben Keesey recently had a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office of the White House where he signed a bill that will ultimately lead to the freedom of these child soldiers. The bill commits the US to working with central east African countries to help arrest rebel leader Joseph Kony and end Africa’s longest running war.
find out more: