Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TEN9EIGHT - the update with AMC Theaters

Just this week, we launched TEN9EIGHT in eight cities in partnership with AMC Theaters. Gerry Lopez, Bob Lenihan, Nikkole Denson, Sun Dee Larsen, Gene Willis, April Beebe, Nate Reid - and the entire AMC team, from top to bottom, has embraced TEN9EIGHT in a most remarkable way.

Since August, when I last posted an update, we had been talking to several theatrical and broadcast distributors, including Sony Picture Classics (and yes, it is true - I stuck to Tom Bernard like a cheap suit.) He had his people watch the film and consider... watch and consider... and watch and consider once again. When it became apparent that we were not going to be picked up by Sony, it was time to saddle up the rolodex.

A friend then introduced me to Bob Lenihan, AMC's head of programming. Bob watched the film. Called me back a day later. Fast forward to last Thursday when AMC opened the film in 8 cities (in an upscale theater and an urban location in nearly every city). The first wave of screenings were free - open to teachers and students - which were jammed. I saw firsthand the reaction of the kids in New York's Lincoln Square AMC. I stepped in about 3/4 of the way thru - worried that they would be jostling and texting and talking and fidgeting... and there was complete silence. I heard reports that throughout the country, the kids at these screenings clapped and cheered - and that reaction, my friends, has been our most powerful and important review of this film. Because we made it for them.

Our official theatrical release began on Friday, with Russell Simmons (DefJam) and Larry Wilmore (correspondent from the Daily Show) joining us for a packed red carpet event in New York. Last night in Washington DC, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Dennis Hightower, AMC CEO Gerry Lopez (who flew in from Kansas City to be with us), Chris Gardner (profiled in The Pursuit of Happyness), and Joe Saunders introduced the film at a special screening at the Smithsonian.

TEN9EIGHT is playing at select AMC Theaters this week, my peeps. Click here for showtimes. Please bring your friends, neighbors, Facebook friends, frenemies, bosses, in-laws, the whole gang.

Monday, August 31, 2009

TEN9EIGHT - the countdown begins

As many of you know, we wrapped up post-production on our newest film, TEN9EIGHT (www.1098.com) earlier this summer. We had the good fortune to be invited to screen a sneak peek at the ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL, which is where US Supreme Court justices and Administration officials and captains of industry mingle and brainstorm. (They could also, incidentally, be seen walking around in shorts.) A shout out to Kitty Boone who helped insure that the screening was a stunning success in Aspen.

Our friends at PLUM TV not only promoted the screening, which was sold out - but arranged for me to interview a few of Aspen's glitterati attending the Ideas Festival, including the Daily Show's Black Senior Correspondent, Larry Wilmore. Click here for his very funny interview. (Note to self: never wear an unflattering white tee shirt on television.)

But it was Rodney Walker who stole the show in Aspen - everyone wanted to shake his hand - and I was so proud when he stood up to the microphone in an open session with US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to ask a question about how the Secretary intended to get parents more involved in their children's education. Arne Duncan, for his part, made it clear that he is doing his job for the Rodneys of this nation. To see Arne Duncan's introduction to the film, check this out.

We also had another sneak peek recently with an audience of students - and one comment left me humbled and touched. "I am so glad I saw this movie," said a 16 year old inner city student. "I am going to become a Queen, a Diva... people are gonna know my name." And the fact that a single student felt more optimistic about her future and her ability after seeing the film - well - that was the whole point of making this movie. (Stay tuned - the film will be released in November during Global Entrepreneurship Week).

The film chronicles the stories of several inner city kids, as they compete in and prepare for a nationwide business plan competition (hosted by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship), and I am indebted to the Templeton Foundation for providing major funding for this project, and to the Kauffman Foundation, for their funding and support. I am also indebted to Steve Mariotti and my other friends at NFTE, who allowed me unprecedented access to these students and to the program itself.

I also feel so fortunate to have a new set of teenage friends - those who graciously agreed to let me interview them and prod them (and their families) about their lives and experiences - and people who are so full of opportunity and exuberance. They leave me Facebook messages and text me. And what struck me profoundly throughout the process of making this film is this fact: There are millions of kids just like Rodney and Mac and Jessica and Jamal - in every state, in every city. All of whom are seeds. Seeds with the potential for an explosion of color and vibrancy.

All they need is just a little bit of water.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2009 SRAA Champions - St. Ursula's strikes again.

Congratulations to my favorite high school rowing team, St. Ursula's Crew, from Toledo Ohio, which captured the gold medal this year at the SRAA National Championships held in Princeton, New Jersey.

The eight rowed the 1500 meter course - fast and furiously in their boat, named DAISY'S HEROES, a reference to A Hero for Daisy, which was christened a couple of years ago by none other than the real Daisy. Capturing yet another piece of hardware to bring back to Todelo, St. Ursula's Crew is grinning in the photo above with coach Neil McElroy.

However, a special moment occurred moments after their win. Krysten French, a 12th grader, was the coxswain of this boat all season. However, a SRAA rule change concerning age prevented Krysten from competing - and rather than wallow in self-pity, she graciously handed the tiller over to junior Taylor McCollum, cheering and shouting herself hoarse for her team.

In an extraordinary gesture after the race, Taylor handed her championship gold medal over to her friend, Krysten French - - an act of remarkable generosity, compassion, and sportsmanship.

A true hero for Daisy.

Congratulations to Taylor, Krysten, Hollis Dana, Emma Miler, Megan Bodie, Tiffany Carnicom, Maggie Peatee, Erin Sheehan, Paige Myers, and Elyse Kortier.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Junior Mints and Bad Mothers

A new book has just come out on the crimes and misdemeanors of mothers.

I am so relieved to know that I am not alone.

Here's why.

The kids cycled downtown by themselves a few months ago. They returned, panting and out of breath. That afternoon, they complained of stomach aches and both were on the pot for most of the afternoon.

What did you eat, I asked?


Kids: Um. Er.

Me: You didn't buy candy, did you?

Kids: Well, CVS had Junior Mints on sale. Two bags for the price of one!

Me: You know you're not supposed to do that. You didn't eat them all, did you?

Silence. Kids look down at their toes.

I retrieve the empty crumpled up bags out of a backpack. Turns out my little sweethearts bought very special candy. Two bags of laxatives for the price of one.

I have been chuckling for months.

Does this make me a bad mother?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fire Engines and More

A big shout out to Brian McKeever of Soundtrack Boston today. Brian is working on our newest film, TEN 9 EIGHT, when a fire alarm emptied the building. Brian stayed behind to make sure he had all the sound files for the film, before dashing outside with an armful of hard drives.

Brian's quote? "Here at Soundtrack - we'd risk death by fire before we lose your project."

More to come on the film.

Apologies to my readers for being such a sporadic blogger. There has been so much in the news - but we are knee-deep in this film at the moment. Plus - my mother has been keeping me busy as she writes on my wall on FaceBook.

She does not yet realize that this makes me look very uncool.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lenny Clarke

I am still grinning from my celebrity encounter the other day. Which made me an even bigger fan of comedian Lenny Clarke (in Rescue Me, Fever Pitch) since bumping into him at LaGuardia airport.

As I was waiting for my shoes to come thru the security scanner (and wondering if they would notice the bottle of shampoo I had forgotten to take out and put in a little plastic baggie), I noticed a man in a Fever Pitch jacket to my right - and knew he was from Boston. I was also thinking - hmmm - I wonder how that guy got that nice piece of Farrelly Brothers swag... when I saw his face.

"Lenny?" I stuck out my hand and introduced myself - and immediately he was asking, hey - you're from Boston? What are you doing here in New York? Hey, hon, that is a great jacket - where'd you get that? What do you do? What are you working on? It was like I had bumped into my uncle.

I was also struck by the fact that he was a man of the people. No pretense. He is who he is.

And that he flew coach.

I love that.

Rock on, brother.