The Power of Film in Making a Difference

When I set out to make a film about individuals on six continents who were making a positive difference on our planet, I didn’t set out to save the world.

Amazon River

That would not only be something impossible to achieve, but it would diminish what I could do. And in fact, if I had set out to attain such an overwhelming feat of saving the world, I may have quit before I even got started – out of pure frustration.

But I do know the power of what a film can do.  I know I can use my craft and my tools in my own small way to make a difference.  And I know that by breaking down tasks into small actions; they add up to some very big accomplishments. Even with no backing, little funds and virtually no help, my daughter and I created a film that is doing exactly what we set out to do – inspire and move people to action to do what they can do to make our planet a better place.

All too often, we over think things.  Big productions, big money, celebrities and everything else that shouts out to us on the airwaves and the Internet dazzle us.  We start to believe that anything that isn’t grandiose isn’t worthy at all.  It’s a pity because in our attempt to gain perfection or notoriety – we shortchange ourselves and everyone else on what we could have accomplished.

I’ve seen a lot of “small” films over the last few months as I travel from festival to festival with my documentary, Opening Our Eyes.  While many of these films are “small” – or at least deemed small by some – they are powerful in every way.  Sometimes, there may be only 10 people in the audience and I think what a shame, that these powerful films won’t be seen by the masses.  That is changing though, as filmmakers have access to new tools and platforms that can take their small films global.  I’ve witnessed that first hand.

As consumers we need to start taking notice of films, books and photographs that don’t have millions of dollars or stars behind them.

As filmmakers we need to stay true to ourselves, believe in our dreams and take advantage of the power of the age we live in to not only make films that create awareness but to get them seen on a global scale.

I hope I never lose sight of what’s possible through the power of film and how photographers and filmmakers can use their craft to create awareness and make our world a better place. These days, with a lot of hard work and determination, the individual has the power to make a difference globally.  We live in an amazing time – take advantage of it.


How a Film Can Make a Difference

I never fully realized the power that is within me to make a difference, until recently.  Last summer, my daughter and I spent time with extraordinary people who were providing homes for orphans, feeding the hungry and curing the ill.  They were all people we met while making a documentary about the change makers in our world – people who are making our planet a better place.

Our goal was to inspire and motivate others as to what they can do to make a difference in their own communities. Our goal was to cause a shift, in culture and in thought – from “what in it for me?” to “what can I do?” We’ve just begun to submit this documentary to film festivals and show sneak previews to small audiences but I can already tell that this film has affected change and the potential it has to move people to action.

From our first sneak preview at the beautiful State Theater in Traverse City, MI to a recent screening at MIS in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I feel the energy in the room and the collective desire to strive for a better world.  I feel the power of film and the power within me as a storyteller and filmmaker. I feel the time for this film is now and that people are hungry for hope.

Many documentaries take the critical point of view and certainly have more conflict. Opening Our Eyes is different from other docs in that it shines a light on what IS being done to create positive change by individuals all over the world.  Somehow by showing the small acts, this film makes all of us believe that we can create change as well. It empowers us to believe in the possibilities and gives us the hope we seem to be yearning for these days.

When I first conceived of the idea for this film, inspired by friend and neighbor Maggie Doyne, I was looking for some positive hope myself.  I was tired of listening to the hundreds of “experts” on TV talking and all of them needing to be “right” – and nothing was getting any better. That was long before the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements. What I was sensing was the rest of the world was feeling the same way I was and decided to do something about it.

Time will tell if the film continues to create awareness and moves people to action, but at least I’m hopeful again.

Please consider supporting our effort by making a contribution to our IndieGoGo campaign, which only has a few weeks, left to go. And it’s tax deductible.

We can’t do it without your help.

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The Power We Have as Visual Creators

The last two weeks have been enlightening and humbling for me, and I’ll try to share some of the thoughts that have been racing through my mind.

I was honored to be asked to speak about video, at ASMP’s Ohio Valley Chapter’s Photo Tech conference last week.  It’s a great event and an enthusiastic and engaged group of people.  I also had the pleasure of seeing Walt Jones presentation:  “CGI – Friend or Foe”.  Walt is a talented photographer and CGI artist.  He is in my opinion a new breed of visual communicators.  He started out by showing examples of “images” and asking the audience if they were photos or CGI.  I was 100% wrong with every one of my guesses.  The point is – I couldn’t tell the difference.  I was in awe of the power of these relatively new tools that we as “image creators” have at our fingertips.

It really got me thinking that “seeing is NOT believing” anymore and the ramifications of that.  I started thinking of the ethical consequences and how in the wrong hands this power can be misused. But as I tossed those thoughts around in my head, I realized that this is really nothing new as far as the power we, as visual creators have, to manipulate an image or skew the story or the message.  Even before Photoshop and similar applications hit the scene, we as image creators could sway opinion or belief, just by what we chose to show, or not show.  If you look back in history, photographs, film and TV, have swayed public opinion long before the tools of Photoshop and CGI.

Yesterday, I got an email from a photographer, Aaron Huey, with a link to his Ted talk.  He told the story of the Lakota Sioux Indians through his words and his images.  He presented a timeline of this tribe’s history through his words, as he showed his images of modern day Lakota on their reservation or as he refers to it – their prisoner of war camp.  It was one of the most powerful Ted talks, I have ever seen.  It also reinforced the notion of the “power” that we all have as visual creators.

I’ve been thinking about that power a lot, and the responsibility that comes with it and that I believe that we all have the obligation, to use it wisely.  A few years ago, I created a documentary entitled Freedom’s Ride, a story about two diverse groups of high school students who rode the bus together to Alabama, tracing back the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. The words of one teacher that I interviewed have stayed with me.  He said, “we can pass all the laws we want – but we can’t legislate morality”.   I’ve been thinking about that statement a lot this week.  It’s never been more important than it is now, because of the tools of technology, that we make sure our moral compasses are in check and headed in the right direction.

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