Congressman Elijah Cummings

On Monday, Congressman Elijah Cummings sat down with us for an interview in Baltimore. He told us about moving to Edmondson Village in the early 60s. His family was the second black family to buy a house on his block. When they first arrived at their new house, they gathered to pray in the front yard. A policeman drove by and stopped them, thinking that they were protesting. Cummings had witnessed first-hand an encounter that spoke to the suspicions that many of his neighbors held. Within 2 years, he remembers, the white families were gone. For him, it was an incredible time. A larger house, a yard, access to good schools.  The racist city policies that made it impossible for so many black families to make it to the middle class were finally being fought. In ten years he would be in law school.

But I think there is another reason why the Congressman agreed to be in our film and why our 10 minute slot with him turned into almost an hour. About a month ago, Cummings’ nephew was murdered.  A college student, a smart kid, none of it makes any sense. Cummings is devastated, his mind rattles with endless questions.  Did he suffer? Did he have time to say a prayer? Who did it? A giant hole has opened up in his heart and who knows when it will be filled and what it will all mean. It was almost forty years ago that my grandfather was murdered and still, those endless questions rattle through our heads, the hole still feels like a gaping hole.

It breaks my heart thinking about what brought me and the Congressman together. And yet, being with him in his grief, and sharing the story of my grandfather, it’s never been more clear to me that we need to try to understand why these things happen. And to move forward and create life from death.

Good Pitch Was Very Good to Us!

We just finished the most incredible, gratifying and inspiring weekend up in San Francisco. It was The Good Pitch, put on by Channel 4/BRITDOC and Sundance.

We were invited along with five other films, and the community of filmmakers was unbelievable.  Some of the most important, exciting filmmakers and films were there with us – God Loves Uganda, Turkey Creek, How to Avoid a Plague, Reportero, and The Invisible War.  Keep an eye out for these films – you’ll definitely hear about them in the future.

After a very intense weekend workshopping our 7-minute pitch with the most incredible group of folks from Working Films, Sundance and BRITDOC, we went up in front of an audience of 250+ in the Marines Memorial Theater.  The outreach director Sandi DuBowski had populated our table with funders, filmmakers, NGOs and community agencies – the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Brennan Center, for example – and the discussion afterwards was incredible.  We got a combination of feedback, support, and invitations to partner with jails, restorative justice experts, schools and community agencies, and it felt like a fairy tale.

That would have been plenty, but the delicious, incredible icing on the cake was the $20K  pledged to the film from the IDA Pare Lorentz Grant and the San Francisco Film Society!  Yahoo!!

Thanks to so many people…

…we’re on our way!

Good Pitch

Even more great news –

American Village (our new working title) was selected for Good Pitch San Francisco – six films by some pretty big names in documentary have been chosen to pitch to foundations, organizations and NGOs, along with Sundance, PBS, and a few other television broadcasters – with a specific emphasis on both funding (yes, please), and on the good the film can do in the world.

We will be up in San Francisco for four days refining our pitch down to perfection and getting feedback from some amazing folks.  We might even get a few dollars thrown our way.

Even more importantly, we’ll be thinking about and planning how to get the message of Restorative Justice out into the world, through our film, in the most effective way possible.

You can read more about Good Pitch here. It’s going to be awesome.

Thank You

Thanks to so many of you wonderful friends, family, supporters and even a few strangers – we made our goal! Within two weeks, actually, we had raised over $10,000. This money will go directly to our editor to get us towards the POV deadline. We won’t know anything until much later this year, but we’ll be updating the site with information as we have it.

The outpouring of support has been both overwhelming, and a real, serious shot in the arm to us as we’ve been slogging through three years of shooting, often with no light visible at the end of the tunnel.  Without any perspective left, it’s been a massive relief to get the feedback that we are making something meaningful and worthwhile.

Thank you so very much to all of you for being a part of this film – and this message!

Halfway There!

We are thrilled to announce we are already more than halfway to our $10,000 goal! The past week, we’ve had an incredible outpouring of support from so many lovely people across the WORLD**, and it’s been truly humbling, to say the least.

We know money doesn’t grow on trees, especially these days. We cannot fully express how grateful we are for the support, and how excited we are to read and hear about reactions to the project.

If you had hoped to donate to the “Rough Cut for PBS Drive,” it’s not too late! We still need more than $4,000 to get our film to PBS, and even the smallest donations make a huge difference.

Thank you so much for reading – we have an exciting announcement to make in the next few days, so come back soon!

**Thanks to the exquisite Natalie Mera Ford, we are now an international campaign!

In Good Company

We found out the end of last month that we were one of a handful of finalists for POV’s Diverse Voices Project Co-Production Fund. That’s a lot of words to say that we almost got a big chunk of money to finish this film from documentary film’s most prestigious and distinguished outlet. It’s a huge honor, and a testament to the powerful message of this film.

Although we weren’t selected this round, the Series Producer asked us to re-apply in two months with a new rough cut, and expressed nothing but POV’s belief in the project, and ongoing interest.

Thus, we are turning over every rock and pebble to find the money to pay a great editor to get us there!

Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for more good news next week.