Recent Press and Praise

Dec 13, 2008

Coming Soon!

After 4 years of independent research, combing through 40 years of history, media and dusty boxes in Up With People warehouses, interviewing hundreds of helpful and thoughtful alumni, we have finally woven together a complex quilt of the Up With People experience set within a political, social and pop culture landscape over the past 4 decades. As a first time producer/director, the journey has been like riding the biggest roller coaster of my life. There were great days when I could say: "Look Mom! No hands!" but most of the time I held on tight during the thrill of the ride and experienced every emotion one can imagine. And the ride is not over! We are on our way to our World Premiere in SLAMdance, January 17, 2009 in Park City, Utah. This will be our first screening followed by another on Inauguration Day January 20th. Because this is a critical time in the history of our nation and the world, it is a good time to reflect upon and measure the actions of our past. There are good intentions and good hearts everywhere. We believe SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS includes the candid and sometimes haunting reflections of individual choices in seeking to make the world a better place. But it also allows us the opportunity to appreciate and intelligently measure the idealism of youth and the collective hope for the future that we all share. We can't wait to share the dialogue with you!


  1. How exciting, Lee! I've heard a lot of great comments from your trailer already in anticipation of seeing the completed film (many hoping they're IN it! HA!). We can't wait to see the entire work online in Jan! Wishing you GREAT results at the festival! Marcie

  2. Lee,
    Caught a clip of "Smile Til It Hurts" on YouTube...I can't believe you're hitting Up With People's hot button topics. Way to go!!
    "Patriotism"...."Follow the money"...."Closet cases"...things we whispered about nearly 40 years ago, in our long bus rides from one venue to another.
    So far your approach doesn't seem to be heavy handed...however there are some "Uppies"that will cringe.
    They need to remember that a documentary is:
    "..based on or re-creating an actual event, era, life story, etc., that purports to be factually accurate and contains no fictional elements.."
    Lee, Good Luck at SLAMdance!!


  3. The UWP in the trailer is not the UWP I traveled with in 1985. We received no government money and were specifically NOT pro-American. Rather, our songs had messages about the world and all countries and cultures appreciating each other. Our cast (E85) was roughly 40% non-American, as I recall, and so I am a bit bemused at the group portrayed in this documentary. I hope you include how the group changed and distanced itself from moral re-armament.

  4. Hey there
    I was in a Cast in 1989/90, and I think many things had changed since the 1960's. Of course, sex, swearing and homosexuality still didn't exit. I remember being surrounded by young, enthusiastic, ideallistic people (cast and staff) and it was an experience! I never quite fitted into the mould, as I questioned many things that were presented to us as "ideals", and I didn't just instantly accept things.
    We had many different countries in our Cast, about half being from USA, so the focus wasn't solely American (although it was a challenge, at times, to move cast focus FROM that - I think it shocked some of our Cast to think USA wasn't the centre of the universe) but it was a growth experience for everyone.
    But there is no way I would give up my wonderful year. The people, the countries, the performances, the entire experience! Nearly 20 years on, and I still talk about it.
    I hope the documentary finds its way to Australia some time - I'd like to see it, and to see the progress of UWP through the years.

  5. Hi Lee --
    As word of your documentary reaches more and more UWP alumni, I think that your trailer leaves you open for criticism from those who were there. "Follow the Money" and "Closet Case" are two segments which certainly come across as inflammatory, and absolutely do not represent the more modern Up with People. I am truly chomping at the bit to see your film, however, I am quite nervous about the damage that your story could potentially do to a great organization, if the entire film is as presented by the trailer.

    I will, however, trust in your positive intentions and hold back my judgment until I have the chance to see your work.

    Kevin (UWP Student and Staff, 1990-1994)

  6. I, too, shall withhold judgement until the opportunity to see the completed work. And I recognize and appreciate the sincerity with which it was approached.

    However, I must agree with those above, that this documentary, from the initial press footage, works only to inflame and indeed not giving credit to the growth and expansion of UWP post-Cold War Era. It is a different UWP today, and I fear your film's version will do much to discredit the accomplishments and broadened world-view.

    Point of inquiry: How did you do an entire trailer and press release without once mentioning the Host Family and Community Service aspect of Up With People? Surely you'll not portray us as simply 'a singing group'? If you have, then indeed, you've missed the point and should retract it's inclusion into future film festivals.

  7. How do we get a copy of this documentary?

  8. Thank you for interest in SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS!
    Right now the documentary is being screened at film festivals, but you can sign up to pre-order a DVD on the website.

    SMILE Staff