Recent Press and Praise

Feb 13, 2009

Why the Florida Film Festival is special!

Hello everyone!

We are thrilled to screen at the Florida Film Festival in 2009! Check it out at It's an exciting venue not far from Walt Disney World in Orlando---one of the "happiest places on earth".

This is a special location for me for several reasons.

First, it's sort of a "homecoming" because the very first film festival I ever attended was the Florida Film Festival. That was many years ago and long before I had any notion whatsoever of documenting Up With People or becoming a filmmaker. I have fond memories of that experience so it is especially meaningful to have made a film that will screen at the Enzian. Thank you Florida Film Festival for the opportunity!

Second, the very first Up With People album was endorsed by John Wayne, Pat Boone, and (drum roll please) Walt Disney himself! On the cover, Walt Disney wrote that Up With People was "The happiest most hard-hitting way of saying what America's all about that I have ever seen or heard." I've often equated Up With People with Disney's "It's A Small World" ride. What's wrong with that? The popular Disney ride displays dolls dressed in costumes that represent more than 100 nations while singing the "it's a small world" song lyrics in 5 languages. World boundaries dissolve and continents are connected with an angelic all-white colored finale by this singular song. It's a work of cultural art and one of the first rides I take when visiting the Magic Kingdom, especially with little children at hand. Who wouldn't want that happy hope of unity branded in our brains? Up With People is quite similar, I think. Cast members have come from 89 countries, many of whom dress in the costume of their culture while performing universal togetherness on stage. And the Up With People song has been sung in numerous languages, even Swahili. But with both, those two catchy songs keep repeating in my head long after leaving the experience. I guess that's the point.

Wait! In 1964, Walt Disney created "It's a Small World" for the New York World's Fair. Up With People performed at the World's Fair too! So which came first? Up With People or Disney's "It's a Small World"?

Third, we had the opportunity to interview the first cast of the "new" Up With People in Venice, Florida in 2005. The youth were positively positive and a lot of fun, especially off camera at the local beach taco bar. We got to participate in a host family experience and break bread together. We also followed the cast around as they volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, community tree planting, and as they prepared back stage for the show. Venice has a median age of 78. That's not a typo. My father used to live there. He called himself a local Q-Tip because most people had white hair and wore white tennis shoes. I think the audience at the Venice High School certainly appreciated the energy of youth on stage. Unfortunately it didn't relay well on camera so we couldn't use it in the documentary. Still, it was a genuine experience of idealistic youth on the road.

Onward to Florida!