Recent Press and Praise

Apr 23, 2009

Twitter and then some

Hello friends and followers,
I'm tweeting Up With People factoids under StoreyVision! You can check out tweets on the right side of this blog too.

PS: We had a great private screening in NYC on 4/21. Woohoo! The next private screening will be held in Phoenix, Arizona to those who are in the documentary, plus a few from Up With People headquarters who are anxious to view the film. We'll follow the screening with a lively discussion!

PSS: Look here soon for video postings of the Q&A's. More to come!

Apr 17, 2009

Industry Screening in New York City 4/21

Films Transit is holding a private screening for the industry on April 21 in New York City. This is the day before Tribeca opens. We hope for a good turnout!! If you are interested in attending, email Diana Holtzberg at Seating is limited.

Apr 6, 2009

FULL FRAME screening!

Wow! Although Team Genius had already arrived in Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham-Raleigh, North Carolina and were watching films and enjoying the famed hospitality, I arrived from Orlando in time to watch Wavy Gravy before we screened SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS on 4/3. First, one can't mention the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival without mentioning what a great documentary festival it is---the festival staff and volunteers are truly amazing---and the crowds are enthusiastic and love docs!! It is one of the best organized festivals I've seen and the hospitality is unquestionably grand. Filmmakers are housed at the Durham Marriott hotel---a welcomed change from other venues. After all the travel to/from Phoenix and Florida, I eyed the soft mattress and debated whether to dive into it or run to see Wavy Gravy. Like all good festival goers, I ignored my exhaustion and opted to see another film. And, of course, I was glad I did. Watching Wavy Gravy was like reading between the lines of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS. They could be book-ended together as two sides of the same idealistic coin. The films could be called "opposite compliments" that documented stories and people that emerged from the same tumultuous times.

We screened after Wavy Gravy to a fun audience of some 300+ people! I generally know what scenes will bring laughter, but many in this crowd laughed the entire way through---some clapping and stamping their feet to the music or singing along to the bouncing ball!! Can you imagine that? Still others were murmuring or taken aback and literally gasped at the personal stories. The audience was completely responsive and emotionally involved. It turns out there were about a dozen Up With People alumni in the audience. In the Q&A, some alumni spoke about their personal experiences in the organization. Unfortunately I didn't get all this on tape.

I was pleased to learn that the President of the Up With People International Alumni Association was in the audience. She joined Up With People in 1966 at the age of 15, but left in 1968 and dropped off the alumni grid until the 40th reunion in 2005. We spoke for quite some time after the screening. Watching SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS was obviously an emotional experience for her (it is even for people who never participated in Up With People). It struck me that her desire, like many alumni, is that the film will be an opportunity for healing and conversation and that many alumni hope the new cast members will embody the original principles of Up With People (but without the dogma). She wouldn't comment on the film because she believed it was important to see it more than once to allow the emotions to settle and the story to be absorbed. Fantastic! It's definitely an emotionally varied doc that is jam-packed with twists and multi-layered stories so seeing it more than once is good advise.

Hopefully her comment will reach the 20,000 alumni who have yet to see the film, and resonate for non-Uppies who see it also. I had a local TV personality tell me how he was a hippie demonstrator in the 1960s, and that SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS "gave him closure" on the decade because he and his peers "hated Up With People and what they represented" and that "they were the enemy". But after seeing the film, he realized that they were all kids trying to do something positive in the world in a very complex time. It's healthy to come full circle and take a more-measured view of idealistic youthful choices. It's great to see the impact of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS on viewers.

It also strikes me that many alumni forget that when they traveled they were just kids---kids full of hope and optimism and armed with an idealistic vision for a better world. Some view the film (or sadly just the clips on YouTube) through those youthful eyes and find it difficult to step back and view the organization in a historical and cultural context. They fear to delve into a conversation about the choices made. Much was at play on the world's chessboard, from politics and religion to corporate markets, race and freedom. That doesn't invalidate a positive youthful experience. SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS takes a broader viewpoint than participating in what some might simply call a singing cultural exchange program.

So go see it!
And see it again!

Because I took a flight back to Florida early the next day, I didn't get to spend nearly as much time in Full Frame as I would have liked. But our team was there and they had a fantastic time. It's a great social network, a festival packed with thoughtful docs, and set in a city with southern hospitality that is top notch. Be sure to put Full Frame on your calendar and attend next season. It's worth it! And from all of us at SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS: thank you to all the staff and volunteers at Full Frame who made the experience especially wonderful. It was a memorable time for all of us!

Florida Film Festival---MANY THOUGHTS!

On April 2, we screened at the Enzian Theater with a few more Up With People alumni in attendance. What a great venue---intimate dinner theater and the weather was perfect. I was a bit anxious about the Q&A because I knew several Up With People alumni would be coming, most of whom never knew how Up With People formed and were kept in the dark about the organization's past. I think it was an eye-opener for everyone as the complex story unfolded. I was delighted to hear so many emotional responses freely expressed during the film, not to mention the chatter afterwards!

Our screenings at the Florida Film Festival were sponsored by Women in Film and Television. I can't say enough positive things about the Women In Film organization, let alone the terrific support from the Florida Film Festival staff and volunteers. It was an honor to be hosted by such amazing people!. I learned that the General Manager of the Florida Film Festival even used the opening clips of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS as instructional material for the volunteer program. How cool is that?!He wanted the volunteers to express the fun and enthusiasm of Up With People throughout the festival. These organizations are top notch in every category. If you have an opportunity to sponsor them or join, please do. :)

Our screening audience was lively and the Q&A was vibrant. I received a few questions about the postings on YouTube and comments from alumni who expressed reservations about how gays were treated in the organization. Some suggested that the "gay issue" was a reflection of the decade more than UWP's recent history. Others said they always knew that there were gays in the cast, even in the 60s and 70s, so it was never a big deal and they didn't need to mention it. All I can say is that the film includes Eric Roos' personal experience while traveling in UWP. Since posting clips on YouTube, I have also received numerous emails from gays who traveled with UWP in various decades---even as recently as 2009---all of whom expressed appreciation for putting the subject out in the open. I also received one email from a 2007 alumni who claimed nearly all categories of sexual preference (the majority of which I'll admit I didn't even know existed), and that he was out in the open and accepted among his UWP cast peers. Given UWP's mission to be open and accepting of all cultures, races and sexual orientations, there should be no reason to run from the issue even now. Perhaps it's an opportunity to listen rather than react out of fear or feel the need to defend.

Glenn Close appeared at the Florida Film Festival the day after our screening. She was present for a Q&A after the screening of Fatal Attractions. Although numerous people in the audience were wearing SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS buttons, Glenn Close made it clear that she did not want to talk about her experiences growing up in Moral ReArmament and her acting, song and script writing years in Up With People. I don't blame her. It was an intense experience for my husband who kept his own prior involvement secret from me for nearly 15 years. I wasn't in the audience when she held her Q&A, but I hope some day we will have the opportunity to meet. I probably know more than most.

I left the Florida Film Festival for a screening of our documentary at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival on Friday 4/3 (see next blog), and returned to the Florida Film Festival on Saturday 4/4. Yes, I was exhausted from the puddle jump flights back and forth!! But because Florida was the first film festival I ever attended as a member of the audience, I wanted to participate in the rest of the festival and spend time with a local group of film students from Central Florida State who volunteered with enthusiasm to help promote SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS. These kids were terrific. They donned themselves with retro clothing and passed out postcards and posters to willing recipients. I hear that some even sang the "Up With People" song they learned from watching the film. The team helped with everything including giving directions to a "navigationally challenged" person like me. One team member even filmed the Q&A. I hope to post that on YouTube soon.

I am smiling thinking about the closing party event at the Maitland Arts Center Saturday night. Have you ever heard of a "Frito Pie"? The event had a classy outdoor atmosphere with an amazing jazz band, and the food was a topic of conversation that made the event happily informal at the same time. The food reminded me of camping with the Girl Scouts. Who would think of opening a bag of Frito Lay corn chips, dumping in spoonfuls of chili and topping that with cheese, green onions and sour cream? I didn't try it because I had just taken the film students out to eat at the Cheese Cake Factory and I was stuffed from the Key Lime cheesecake (my favorite). Still, I really enjoyed watching people eat from a bag a Fritos and talk about how unique an experience that was. Maybe for those from the MidWest (where it's rumored that this food speciality originated) this is old news, but most of those attending the closing night event at the Florida Film Festival had never seen it before---let alone this gal from Phoenix. And dessert? Well, that consisted of a marshmallow on a stick----flame broiled to perfection then rolled in chocolate and graham cracker crumbs. Had the Key Lime cheesecake not been enough, I would have tried the new twist on the old fashioned S'more. Instead I watched enthusiasts go back for more. :)

Apr 2, 2009

Florida at the Enzian!!

Hello friends and followers!
I am anxiously awaiting our screening of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS at the Enzian Theater here at the Florida Film Festival. We had a great TV interview this morning. I had to hunt down a local Starbucks to use the internet, but mostly I needed caffeine. :) This will be our second screening here at the festival. The last screening on 3/28 was a fantastic experience with a great audience, some of whom were Up With People alumni and even a member of Blanton Belk's family (Blanton Belk was the Founder of UWP). Naturally there were many questions and I understand that the internet is buzzing on the Uppie Hotline, some even questioning my motives in making the film---well, I did have one, and that was to uncover my husband's past and tell the truth about the history of the organization. It's not a Pollyanna story by any means, but the 4 star review in the Orlando Sentinel is worth reading. (See attached press links.) The film doesn't shy away from anything, including the positive virtues and values of the Up With People organization and relevant historical experiences. But people will have to judge for themselves. Today I hope the Q&A is just as lively as it was last Saturday. And, I also hope Glenn Close will see it someday. She will be here at the Florida Film Festival tomorrow with a special screening of Fatal Attractions.

It's a whirlwind down here in steamy Florida. (Coming from Phoenix, every place with humidity is steamy!) The Festival has be great to work with and I'm delighted to be here.