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Director’s Blog

Cannot wait

Monday, February 18th, 2008

I cannot wait for people to see this film. Its set to happen now – First Person has been accepted into the 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival, and our World Premiere is set for April 6 (more details to come).

In some ways, it feels surreal. We have all put so much into this, and now it is done, and right now it feels like the past four years could just disappear and no one would know it. No one would see the hope and sacrifice that went into making the film. No one would see the ways that it has changed me or the six young people in the film. Most disconcertingly, no one would see this record we have created of the tragedy that is unfolding in the hearts of urban public high school students all across this city and country every year.

But that will change, and soon…more thoughts to come.

Back in the swing

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I’m not sure how its happened, but all of a sudden I’m back in the saddle and things are moving again. Maybe its the Phillies; I think I’ve displaced all of my I-want-to-believe-but-I’m-not-sure-if-its-safe-to-believe energy on to them as they head down the stretch run.

However this turnaround has come about, I looked up this week and the finish line seems unbelievably close at hand. Sharon has been doing amazing things with our rough cut, and it looks like we are going to have a new, much stronger, 100-110 minute version of the film ready in the next 2 weeks or so. We’re lining up all the finishing works. Even the money situation, which always seems bad, doesnt seem impossible. Im actually really believing that this thing might be done and ready to submit to festivals in December.

In my always-trying-to-think-10-steps-ahead way, I’m already starting to worry about what comes next. How much do I love the process of making a film and would I want to put myself through this again? And how substantial do I honestly believe will be the social and political impact of this project, of me trying to do the work of First Person that goes far beyond the screen?

Trying to not attempt to answer that, for now. There is too much to worry about immediately each day, and I am as a rule terrible about allowing myself to enjoy things as they happen. And right now, damn it, it is friggin amazing to watch this thing actually come together.

Picking up the pieces

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

So we didn’t get the ITVS LINCS funding. Still saying that to myself, still trying to accept it. Its not that I expected we would get it — I didn’t. And its not even that I hoped we would get it — although I certainly did. The thing that has been hardest to accept is that I truly just was not prepared to not get it.

That is quite unusual for me. I pride myself on being prepared both logistically and emotionally for every eventuality, on always having not only a Plan B, but a Plan C and a Plan D, too. On taking rejection and setbacks and crazy circumstances and turning them quickly and seamlessly into fuel to drive the project where it still needs to go.

And over the four years of this project, I can’t tell how many times that’s had to happen. When Temple University withdrew their support and First Person was temporarily homeless and unable to raise money. When Fresh quit the project. When my anal retentive ways had alienated my entire crew to the point of mutiny. When all the countless crazy and unjust things that happened to each of my kids happened and there was nothing I could do to change it. When we got rejected from ITVS the first time around. And a million others.

With each of them, I flipped out, then moved on. And maybe it took longer than I remember. But this time around, I seem to have flipped out, then stalled out. Its been painful and disconcerting to struggle so deeply to find the energy to be that guy right now — the guy who makes everyone else believe, the guy who keeps every one else’s spirits up, the guy who gets things done anyway, the guy who carries the load so other people can just do them, can just do their work. Being unable to do those things, being unable to get a damn thing done, is not how I like to see myself.

But I also think I was right in one respect about what this whole process around ITVS LINCS involves. Either way, it wouldve presented me with a set of circumstances that would force me to go back to what this project is really all about and where it really comes from.

Had we gotten the grant, I wouldve had to work hard to make sure that being on easy street represented an opportunity to reach as many people as possible–especially the students from the film and urban high school students in general.

Having not gotten it, I’ve found great solace and motivation in the examples and support I’ve received recently from the young people Ive had the chance to work with through this project. Macho called me the other day just to say whats up and update me on his life. Nothing big or unusual, but just a much-needed reminder that the relationships Ive built through First Person go beyond any grant.

Been thinking back on the toasts Steve, Shalisa, Malikka, and Fresh gave at my recent wedding. Now that made everything worthwhile, no matter what happens (and maybe Malikka will be kind enough to share her notes, if not with the world then at least with me!) And working with our College Ambassadors this summer…well, that’s another post for another time.

As unprepared as I was for the funk that hit me right after ITVS did, I know the fog is slowly but surely lifting. Aint nothing to do but get back in the saddle…as Kurtis’s mom always tells me, “giving up is not an option!”


Tuesday, September 4th, 2007


Free Will

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

“Take devalued ideas…or demeaning words and transform them into things that are useful.”

Not what I wanted to hear from my man Rob Breszny, astrologist to the stars. My personal translation of his Cancer horoscope this week: The rejection letter from ITVS is in the mail. Get ready.

This is a big deal right now. Today or tomorrow, we should hear about our proposal to ITVS LINCS. Submitted in conjunction with WHYY Philadelphia, this is seriously the strongest proposal I’ve ever developed. We had letters of support from WGBH-Boston, KETC-St Louis, KET-Kentucky, WQED-Pittsburgh, and a host of other stations. We had backing from almost a dozen national and local organizations. We have a killer advisory board made up of PBS all stars. Our treatment was tight and the work sample…well, it was the best we had at the time.

If we get the grant, it provides all the funding we need to finish and guarantees us some sort of national PBS broadcast. If we don’t, its probably another year of grinding.

As much as I don’t want to get thrown into a funk by being rejected, I know that the grind approach will at least guarantee that the film goes directly to its primary audience–Philly public high school students. The challenge with that route is just scraping together the dollars and the energy to take the show on the road myself.

But obviously, I want to get it. Being funded by ITVS, however, presents potentially a deeper challenge, to my integrity. ‘Cause once there’s another audience lined up, that’s when we’ll all see how serious I am about making sure that this remains a film for Philly kids and other young people in similar situations.

So the real prayer right now is that no matter what happens, hope that fate presents me with an opportunity to do what I know is right. I really believe that being funded by LINCS will put First Person on a whole new level in terms of our ability to not only reach people–including youth–with the film, but to build up our exciting new outreach effort.

And I really believe that not being funded will provide me an opportunity to see how much fight I really have left in me on this one.

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