Recent Press and Praise

Apr 26, 2012

When Forbes Called

I was working in my office at Ballard Spahr when the phone rang on 4/19.  Caller ID showed a woman from Forbes.  I often get pitched at the law office for services and products so I don't usually pick up random calls.  Thankfully this time I did.

"Good afternoon.  Lee Storey speaking."

"Hello, this is Janet Novack of Forbes."

[Hello, how are you?  Slightly awkward pause---she is waiting for me to recognize her name, and I am waiting for the pitch…]

She continues:  "So Lee, how does it feel to win on all counts in your IRS case?"

[Stop!  another pause /  I am stunned at the question!  but then my blubbering begins]

"Is this a joke?  Is the ruling out? What does it say? Do you have it? How did you get it? Are you sure? Tell me again!  WOW!"

Forbes was following Storey vs IRS and the 46 page opinion from Judge Kroupa was just posted.  I didn't know it was out and the news took me by surprise.  I was shaking and shocked---not because I thought I would ultimately lose (this is a business after all!) but because of the significant implications the ruling could have on the film industry.  My attorney said it could take years to get a ruling, and I certainly did not expect to hear about it through Forbes.

So she wasn't calling to sell me a subscription after all...!!!  Ha!  How funny is that??!

Janet Novack graciously sent me the ruling, and I promised to call her back after absorbing the news.  I quickly forwarded the ruling to my attorney, Greg Robinson at Robinson, Farley & Larsen, who confirmed the victory by summarizing the ruling on the phone.  I simply couldn't read it myself.  I was thrilled from the news; sheer joy and relief erupting out of nowhere and I couldn't fully process what was happening.  After he confirmed with multiple congratulations, I sent the news to my producers, Jack Lechner and Bari Pearlman.  With rapid fire I forwarded the news to Michael Lumpkin, Executive Director of the International Documentary Association, and IDA's attorney,  Michael Donaldson of Donaldson & Callif, LLP---both of whom spearheaded an amicus brief filed on my behalf.  And then I informed my accountants and CPA, and other tax attorneys on our team.  Resounding joy and happy exultations immediately erupted everywhere, with "high fives" from family, friends and comrades who supported me in this challenging battle for the arts----all of it hitting the wire at once----and I have yet to read the ruling and return the call to Janet Novack who broke the happy news. 

With the phones still ringing, I ask a tax attorney to read the opinion for me.  He does so, with great glee, while commenting on the well drafted, fact intensive and creative ruling, and confirming again and again that I won on all counts.  Still in my office, I can't help but get up and do the "Happy Dance" I learned from my grandson---and I continue to hoot with joy--- while the rest of the office is stirring from the commotion and wondering what is happening. 

Wow, I thought, a complete victory, a solid and long-overdue precedent for the arts!  The court acknowledged that in some businesses, like doc filmmaking, it may take longer to bring a product to the market and realize a profit.  And it is hard work!  Think what this means to film, music, art and other creative ventures.

So Janet Novack wants to know how I feel about winning on all counts?  WOW!  I needed to return her call and pondered: how do I possibly express a spontaneous emotion of sheer joy that simply can't be contained?   Well indeed you do the Happy Dance, squeal with laughter, and let the world know!!   Still happily stunned, I return her call:  "I want to pinch myself".  The news is decidedly in favor of the film industry.  We talk about Storey v. IRS and the making of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS: The Up With People Story.  The conversation was lively.  She is so well versed in tax issues, had already done the research on the film and the case, and she knew what this ruling would mean to the film industry and the arts as a whole. 

It is now several days later and my heart remains exceedingly glad.  My joy has not lessened; my feet are still walking slightly above the ground.  I can't stop thinking about the significant victory we won for the arts.  To be sure, it was very hard and lonely to be on the front line, especially knowing the possible negative ramifications my case could have had on all doc filmmakers.  I wouldn't wish the experience on anyone, being forced into a trial with the IRS.  However, as a first-time filmmaker and what became a test case for the IRS, I am delighted beyond words that the facts were solidly in my favor to set a precedent that will benefit the arts for decades to come.  Thank you for the tweets, Facebook Likes, and all the good tidings that are pouring in from filmmakers, musicians and artists everywhere.  It truly is a collective "sigh of relief" as reported by Michael Cieply of the NY Times, and I am so grateful to each and everyone one of you who stood with me!   Spread the news, share the joy!!!

Janet Novack of Forbes will forever be a highlight in "the making of" SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS.  I will never forget how I thought she was calling to sell a subscription, and how she became the messenger of long-awaited good news.  More later on what this ruling means to the doc filmmaking community and the latest from SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS, but right now I need to stretch my legs, do the Happy Dance again, and look into a subscription to Forbes.

With countless smiles,

Lee Storey
Director & Producer of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS

Jul 29, 2011

WHY DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING IS NOT A HOBBY

For those of you who are following the federal court tax case in Arizona against Lee Storey and the making of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS: The Up With People Story, there is a good article on the subject in the recent Filmmaker Magazine. Simply stated, documentary film making is not a hobby. It's work, and even though the subject matter may also "educate and expose", the work is done with the intent to make a profit. All legal briefs have been filed and the parties are waiting on a decision by the court. You can lend your comments and tweet about it here: http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/news/2011/07/why-filmmaking-cannot-be-a-hobby/

Jun 10, 2011

DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING UNDER ATTACK BY IRS!

Dear friends, fans, colleagues and interested community members,

We are pleased to announce that DVDs of SMILE ‘TIL IT HURTS are now available for sale through Filmbaby at: http://www.filmbaby.com/films/5670. While we anticipated a release of the DVD on the heels of a domestic broadcast, we have had to jumpstart the sale of DVDs to fund a lawsuit against the IRS that potentially affects all documentary filmmakers.

We all know the IRS can choose to audit any American business and make a determination regarding the sufficiency of record keeping. But the IRS lawsuit pending in a federal tax court in Phoenix, Arizona against the director of SMILE ‘TIL IT HURTS is not about that. The IRS is claiming that the making of SMILE ‘TIL IT HURTS is not a business, but merely a hobby.

The question under consideration by the IRS is a broad one: can the making of a documentary be a for-profit business when the primary purpose of documentary filmmaking is to “educate and expose”? Such a pronouncement by the federal tax court would have a devastating impact on the documentary community at large and subject documentary filmmakers to audits of their financial records for their “hobbies” over the past 7 years.

We cannot thank the International Documentary Association, Film Independent, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, Women Make Movies, the National Alliance for Media Art and Culture in the Interest of the Documentary Film Industry, the University Film Producers Association and the University Film and Video Association enough for their support in helping us fight the IRS. To support documentary filmmakers everywhere, these organizations filed an Amicus Brief in the federal tax court on June 8. Here is the editorial by the IDA: http://www.documentary.org/news/amicus-brief-filed-support-lee-storey-doc-filmmakers.

Our legal defense on behalf of the documentary filmmaking community is reaching tens of thousands. We can’t do this alone but we are fighting the good fight for the future of documentary filmmaking in the United States.

Please join our effort by contributing to the Legal Defense Fund. Also, by purchasing our award-winning DVD you can help fight the cause.

With sincere appreciation to all our fellow filmmakers,

From all of us at SMILE ‘TIL IT HURTS!

Feb 17, 2011

SMILE SOLD OUT IN SCOTTSDALE OPENING NIGHT!!!


Dear Friends and Fans,

Be sure to buy your tickets online for upcoming shows of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS. We SOLD OUT OPENING NIGHT in Scottsdale and had to turn many away at the door. Tickets were long gone 30 minutes before the show. To ensure a seat for upcoming shows, please consider buying tickets online at: http://www.harkinstheatres.com/theatresShowtimes.aspx?movieId=71263

The audience was fantastic and about 25% filled with Uppies. A great dialogue in the Q&A among all. Thank you for coming and telling others about the week long shows at Harkins Shea 14. What a blast!

You gotta love this picture of Glenn Close


See archival footage of Glenn Close in the documentary, SMILE 'TIL HURTS, which opens at Harkins Shea 14 theatres tonight, February 17-24. She even gets a music credit!

For tickets: http://www.harkinstheatres.com/theatresShowtimes.aspx?movieId=71263

Reminder to SMILE at Harkins Shea 14 tonight!


This is a quick reminder that the documentary, SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS opens tonight, February 17 at Harkins Shea 14 Theatres. The director will be there for the Q&A, as well as tomorrow night (Friday), but the movie is playing at Harkins all week. Here is an article posted in the Arizona Republic: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizonaliving/articles/2011/02/15/20110215upwithpeople0215.html, and another posted in the New Times: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizonaliving/articles/2011/02/15/20110215upwithpeople0215.html. Tickets can be purchased at the door like any movie, or to ensure a seat, online at: http://www.harkinstheatres.com/theatresShowtimes.aspx?movieId=71263.
Thank you for coming and telling others about the film!

Feb 16, 2011

SMILE opens in Scottsdale Feb 17-24!

Don't forget that SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS opens tomorrow, February 17-24 at Harkins Shea 14 in Scottsdale, Arizona. We are so excited to bring the documentary about Up With People to the Phoenix area. Arizona needs a smile!

SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS
February 17-24, 2011
Harkins Shea 14 Theatres
7354 E. Shea Blvd.
(Scottsdale Rd and Shea Blvd)
http://www.harkinstheatres.com/theatresShowtimes.aspx?movieId=71263

WE ARE THRILLED TO BRING THE FIRST EVER DOCUMENTARY ABOUT "UP WITH PEOPLE" TO ARIZONA WHERE THE SINGING GROUP THRIVED FOR DECADES. JAM-PACKED WITH NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE, INCLUDING CLIPS OF THE YOUNG GLENN CLOSE, SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS WILL BE PRESENTED WITH JOY, A HOOT AND EXTRA GLEE! YOU CAN SING ALONG IF YOU LIKE, BUT BE PREPARED FOR SURPRISES, TWISTS AND UNSETTLING TURNS AS THE DOCUMENTARY EXPLORES THE ORGANIZATION'S TRUE ORIGINS AND WORLDWIDE MISSION.

NOTE: the Thursday night (Feb 17) and Friday night (Feb 18) shows will include a Q&A with the Director and special guests.