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,
Director & Producer of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS
- SMILE opens at Harkins Theaters in Phoenix, February 17-24
- SMILE screens in Michael Moore's Dangerous Docs at Traverse City Film Festival, July 30
- Harkins Theaters Presents SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS, Tucson, AZ July 27-31, 2010!
- Tribeca Cinemas Presents: Doc Series, NYC, May 24, 2010
- Salem Film Festival, Salem MA, February 27, 2010
- Sedona Film Festival, February 25 & 27, 2010
- Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, February 20, 2010
- Rocky Mountain Women's Film Fest, Colorado Springs, Nov 6-8
- FirstGlance Film Festival, Philadelphia, October 24
- Temecula Int'l Film & Music Festival, Sept 10 & 11
- DOCUWEEKS, IFC Center, NYC, Aug 7-13
- DOCUWEEKS, ArcLight Hollywood, LA, July 31-Aug 6
- NEWFEST Film Festival, June 5
- Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, April 3
- Florida Film Festival, March 28 & April 2
- Slamdance Film Festival, January 17 & 20
Recent Press and Praise
- Variety: Storey victory over IRS reassures community!
- Hollywood Reporter: Lawyer rescues doc film industry!
- IDA News on IRS Win
- NY Times notes "sigh of relief" for doc filmmakers
- Deadline reports on victory over IRS for documentaries
- Storey Speaks on IRS Case at IDA's DOC U Event
- Forbes Breaks Story on Knocking Down the IRS
- Filmmaker Magazine on WHY DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING CANNOT BE A HOBBY
- New Times reports "it's sugary but pretty damn effective"
- Arizona Republic calls SMILE "a complex tale"
- Review from the Traverse City Film Festival
- Philadelphia Lawyer critically reviews "fascinating historical phenomenon"
- Madison proclaims SMILE "very relevant today"!
- New Review in Failure Magazine
- Cinema Without Borders gives us 5 stars!
- Hey U Guys UK review: "If you get a chance to catch this one, be sure to check it out."
- Hugh Hart's Industry Buzz on the "globe-hopping chorus"
- Dish Miss calls it "well-made...funny, fascinating, and very very entertaining!"
- NY Post tells how Glenn Close was Up With People
- LA Times singles out fast-paced doc!
- la2day's "Top Pick of the Week"
- Documentary.org interview with Director Lee Storey
- Rotten Tomatoes gives us an A-!"
- Conspiracy theories...often turn out to be true.
- Movie Dearest says "Up Yours, People!"
- LA Weekly cheers "Up With Docuweeks"
- Gordon and the Whale calls it "very funny, very strange, very affecting"
- Movie Geeks finds it "entertaining and enlightening"
- Village Voice proclaims "a withering critique"
- indieWIRE notes we are qualifying for an Oscar!
- pullquote's Can't Stop the Music Pt 2
- Highly rated review says keep an eye out for this one!
- Indie Week calls it especially interesting!
- Orlando Sentinel pokes a reluctant Glenn Close, by golly!
- Orlando Weekly trumpets 4 star review with 'deft wit'
- We're a hoot!
- From the San Franciso Bay Guardian
- Variety reviews our film!
- We've been blogged!
- L.A. Times gives us a nod
- The Salt Lake Tribune discusses films about music
- indieWIRE names us one of Five Films To Watch at Slamdance
- This just in from Variety's THE CIRCUIT
- Hollywood Reporter: Lawyer rescues doc film industry