One hell-raising, scrappy little bookstore has survived the changing tides of the publishing world and of the world in general for seven decades. City Lights. A mainstay of San Francisco’s bohemian North Beach neighborhood since1953, it is our nation’s oldest independent bookstore and an icon in the industry. It is also holds a special place in American literature as the rebellious publisher of unique voices from the Beat poets of the 1950s to the 2016 U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and Slam Poetess Chinaka Hodge. City Lights has survived – and stayed true to its mission – with a unique model for publishing, distributing and selling controversial books.
This documentary will be about the people, the atmosphere and the values that have animated City Lights over seven decades. How does a place born of the ideals of Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, and Corso survive in a literary world overtaken by Amazon, Kindle and Google? Will the social networks replace the local bookstore as a gathering place for the arts? And how can City Lights continue to push the boundaries of progressive politics in what is becoming an ever more fractious world?
ANOTHER MUSIC DOC: THE STORY OF FAILURE
Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards formed Failure in Los Angeles in the early ‘90s. Their first album, Comfort, was produced by wunderkind producer Steve Albini, and it had all the makings of a rock-n-roll fairytale. However, the final mixes didn’t please the band and when it was released on Slash Records in 1992, sales were sluggish. On their second album, Magnified, the band took on the daunting task of producing the album themselves and the results paid off – the sound, reviews and sales of that album far surpassed its predecessor. As they began work on their third album, all signs for a successful album were there. The rough mixes of Fantastic Planet were making the band, and their label, very excited. That’s when the harsh realities of the music industry washed over Failure.
The band broke up.
That would be the end of the story for most bands, but the Failure story is different.
The guys from Failure grew up. They survived. The band returned from a 17-year hiatus in early 2014 with a single Los Angeles date planned. The show sold out in seconds. which led to a North American tour and eventually back to the studio.
At its heart, “Another Music Doc” is a universal story about creativity, perseverance and, most importantly, friendship. The film will invoke nostalgia, but will also take audiences along for a wild and inspiring ride into the uncharted territory of a band reclaiming the future that was once just beyond their grasp.
Guilt. Confusion. Complicity. These were feelings that filmmaker Gwen van de Pas held onto for 20+ years, after being sexually assaulted by her swim coach as a child. What she didn’t realize, was that these feelings were caused by a psychological process called “grooming” that her perpetrator had put her through.
While an estimated 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the US are survivors of sexual assault, we hold many misconceptions about it. Most importantly, we believe that sexual assault is violently committed by scary-looking strangers. In reality, however, ~80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and involve a psychological process called “grooming”. Grooming is the process of 1) targeting vulnerable victims, 2) building a relationship that makes the victim feel special, 3) ensuring the victim feels complicit in the assault, and 4) therefore invoking feelings of guilt, shame, and hesitation to report.
“Groomed” follows Gwen as she returns to her home country of the Netherlands to confront her past, talk to her parents about the abuse, and decide whether to report her offender after 20+ years of silence. In her search for understanding, Gwen reaches out to other survivors whose stories look very different (from child abuse to college sexual assault) but all follow the same pattern of grooming and psychological response. And finally, ‘Groomed’ dives deep into the psychology of sexual predators through open conversations between Gwen and imprisoned offenders, as they explain how they target and groom their victims.
It is time we open our eyes to the truth about sexual abuse – and “Groomed” is the wake-up call we need.
THE EDGE OF SUCCESS
Palo Alto sits in the heart of Silicon Valley, just a few miles away from tech giants Google and Facebook, and home to Stanford University. Some of the wealthiest and smartest people in the world call this Bay Area city home, but it’s also home to a sobering statistic. In recent years, there have been two high school suicide clusters. The first was during the 2009/2010 school year during when five current and former students took their own lives. Five years later it happened again, this time four students committed suicide. Countless others have been admitted for both inpatient and outpatient care for treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression.
We want to find out why. Why are so many teenagers with access to some of the best education in the country so stressed out, to the point where they are ending lives that have barely just begun? Are schools to blame? Are the parents to blame? Are the kids putting too much pressure on themselves and each other? Do these kids suffer from a previously undiagnosed mental illness?
“The Edge of Success” seeks to shine a light on this issue. The film follows six Gunn High School students during their junior and senior years in Palo Alto, showing what their daily lives are like as they navigate through the common stresses of high school. “There’s just so much competition,” said Tone Lee, one of the six students we profile. Another student, Lisa Hao feels internal pressure. “I’m not sure how OK I would actually be if I got B’s now and I knew I was putting in 100%,” said Hao. While they are all unique individuals with different backgrounds, hopes, and dreams, they share a commonality: their high school lives have been shaped by the suicide clusters. “We’re always going to be that age group of kids at Gunn where this happened again,” said Sawyer Lythcott-Haims, a high school junior.
Beyond the student perspective, the documentary will look at how the two most recent suicide clusters have affected the entire community, from the school district, to the parents and mental health experts, and pediatricians. They see the depression, stress and anxiety in teenagers who come into their offices and exam rooms every day and are looking at new approaches to stop this crisis from becoming an epidemic. “What we’ve got to do is figure out how to offer these amazing academic opportunities without crushing the life out of them,” said Julie Lythcott-Haims, a parent and former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford. The Center for Disease Control, at the request of local public health officials, is now conducting a study to help understand why this is happening.
This isn’t just happening in Palo Alto. It’s happening in towns all across the country, which the documentary will highlight. The Edge of Success doesn’t expect to solve the problem, but it can be a start to an important conversation.
WITHOUT LOVE, IT AIN’T MUCH: The Musical Legacy of Sheila E.
She was born Sheila Escovedo, but the world knows her as Sheila E., the legendary Latina recording artist and arguably the best female drummer in the world. Sheila grew up in a family of Latin music royalty; her father is famous Latin Jazz artist Pete Escovedo, her uncles and brothers are all professional musicians, and Tito Puente and Carlos Santana were among the many regulars who stopped by for daily jam sessions in the Escovedo living room. Sheila learned to play the congas at age three by mirroring the hand gestures of her father and was performing live on stage by the age of five. By her early 20’s, she had already been asked to play percussion alongside musical greats including Lionel Richie, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, and Diana Ross. She was on tour with legendary Marvin Gaye when he was tragically murdered. And in the 1980’s she rose to superstardom, creating number one hits with her infamous partner and closest collaborator, Prince.
But behind the scenes, the talented musician and pop icon struggled with dark inner demons and self-hatred; deep wounds that resulted from a violent rape and years of childhood sexual abuse that she kept secret from everyone, including her loving family. A fighter and a survivor, Sheila rediscovered a sense of safety and security by following her life’s passion and banging her heart out on a drum. She credits the music with saving her life.
JOURNEY TO ROYAL
Journey to Royal is a documentary about the resonating effects of losing a loved one in war. The story follows director Chris Johnson on an odyssey of discovery as he sets out to connect with his late Great Uncle, Royal A. Stratton, a 22-year-old rescue pilot who died saving the lives of nine airmen in the South Pacific during WWII. Johnson’s journey leads him to the sole surviving member of Royal’s crew and the surviving members of the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron. It is from these heroic servicemen that he learns of the dangerous missions that carried them unarmed into the path of the enemy. Along the way, he encounters a 100-year-old pilot who recounts the evolution of aviation over the past century and the passion that lives in the hearts of “flyers.” In a final climactic undertaking, Johnson embarks upon a momentous journey with R.M.S. Titanic dive expert, David Concannon, to locate and visit Royal’s plane where it came to rest on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean nearly seven decades ago. What awaits at the end of this journey, beneath a mile of ocean, will be the defining moment for a family seeking to unravel the mystery of a loved one who never returned home from war.
PICK OF THE LITTER
Pick of the Litter follows a litter of puppies from in utero until if and when they become Guide Dogs for the Blind – or get cut from the program – otherwise know as “Career Changed” (we wouldn’t want to offend them so we’ll just leave it at that.)
Only the most special dogs can make the cut. These dogs ultimately hold a person’s life in their harness every day. They have to be on 100% of the time. They cannot walk their person into traffic EVER.
These dogs spend more than two years, starting the day they are born, preparing for the moment they will be given this monumental opportunity, to be a person’s eyes, a person’s protector. Our cameras are following every step of the way. But most will not make it. They will be cut for one reason or another. Their health has to be pristine, but most important is their intelligence and their disposition. These dogs are trained to obey and then if necessary to intelligently disobey, when their blind partner is in jeopardy. The dogs that make it test the boundaries of the human/canine connection every day.
The main characters are our five heroes, the puppies themselves and all the humans that touch their lives over the two years of preparation. The story centers on Patriot, Poppet, Potomac, Primrose and Phil, born to mom Ojai and dad Laughlin.
Pick of the Litter is a fun way into a very serious topic; how to give independence to the disabled. It takes hundreds of people to prepare these dogs. This kind of commitment to the end game is remarkable. The film also focuses on the human/canine connection which so many of us can relate with respect to our pets. It takes this connection to the next level to show how dogs can really impact the lives of the disabled and all the people who volunteer and dedicate their lives to the shaping and molding of these dogs.
All the stars have aligned for our team to tell this story. With our recent success with Batkid Begins, where we found a lighthearted way into a story which was ultimately about volunteerism, we are primed to tell this amazing story of a community coming together to give people who have been dependent their whole lives some independence.
Three teachers resort to studying the brain to break through the boredom and
disinterest of their students. What they learn changes their students lives immeasurably. The changes are subtle but students find themselves motivated like they weren’t before. They talk about how knowing their teachers care, inspires them to put more into the class. Knowing how the brain functions prompts teachers to “teach” the fundamentals of studying because just saying to students, “Study this” is meaningless without understanding how memory and attention works. Grey Matters is a film about hope and possibilities, science, expectations, and what’s possible when we live slightly outside of our comfort zone. Let’s teach the way the brain learns and change the education story.
AMBASSADORS OF HOPE
A PERFECT MATCH
A Perfect Match follows the transformative journey of a vibrant and young multiracial woman living with life-threatening leukemia, whose only hope for survival is a ‘perfect’ bone marrow match from a volunteer donor.
Navigating the world of cancer with her sister Jaci, the two bring humor, wit and a youthful defiance to each painful treatment. But Erica’s situation is dire: only 1% of minorities are on the national bone marrow registry, and Erica hasn’t found a match. Against the odds, the sisters embark on a campaign to save Erica’s life, while Jaci’s own life is unexpectedly transformed by a relationship that blossoms with Erica’s oncologist.