Monday, April 21, 2014

Jyllian Gunther and 'The New Public' on the Road

East Tennessee State University

Our first screening on the tour - we drove from the Full Frame Festival in Raleigh Durham through torrential downpours and Blue Ridge mountain fog so thick we could not see two feet in front of us. 5 hours later we emerged at The Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City - “where old world meets modern comfort” then to dinner with the faculty of  ETSU, who were gracious and super interesting - Shara K. Lange Assistant Professor, RTVF Director Department of Communication, Tammy Hayes, Director, Anita DeAngelis, Director, Heidi Ehle, Assistant Director, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts.

The screening was attended by 68 people and our Q&A was enlightening. A few exchange students from China were floored at the way the school in our film was run, they said they could not believe it existed, and would be interested but scared to attend a school that allowed kids so much freedom.  It was a great first screening. Following day we met with Kim Hale, an interim associate dean in education, and Alison Barton, an associate professor in teaching along with Heidi and a few others. It was really interesting for both Penelope Falk, (film’s editor) and myself to get a sense of the education system in Johnson City, and it really felt gratifying that the film offered a platform to spark discussion for everyone.

Western Carolina University

The highlight of this screening was our cafeteria dinner with senior student, Jefferey Ray, who was also our host and MC’d the screening. There were about 25 audience members here and once again we were amazed by the similarities and differences the audience, a mix of both students and educators sited. They gave us a reception and served a cake with our name on it!  Educators expressed their frustration of being underfunded and overworked and in response to our tag line,  “It’s bigger than school -  Dr. Catherine Carr, Director of English Education Western Carolina University said AMEN!”

PS:  We went horseback riding on our way to….

Clemson University

Friday Night Lights! On a Wednesday. Aga Skrodzka-Bates hosted this screening, which had a packed audience. Afterwards, she told us that the film was her favorite of all from the Southern Circuit tour and she felt it made a great impact- who could ask for more? A student, Katie Capurso came up to us at the end and told us she wanted to stop the film in the middle to give one of the students in the film a hug.

Presbyterian College

This was our favorite screening to date - and it wasn’t because we were staying in a luxurious farmhouse with goats and alpacas, thanks to Molly McGehee, Director, Southern Studies Program. The school’s campus was beautiful, the faculty took us to dinner and were amazing and fascinating people. They said it was their most packed house of the season - there were local hs teachers, educators and students from PC, the former Dean of the school, and the Superintendent of the school district, David O'Shields, not only came, but gave us a standing ovation!  Penelope and I were riveted by the audiences responses as they watched - usually we step out during the film, but the energy in the room was gripping and we could barely bring ourselves to miss any of it. The young people asked eye--opening and challenging questions, the educators applauded the schools honesty the way it did not push an agenda - was really wonderful all around.

Link Centre
Got food poisioning, wah!
So sorry to have missed this!
Hope it was a great screening!

Georgia College and State University

It’s post spring break finals week at college right now, which means folks are pretty busy, but a small group made it to our screening and we had a lengthy and intense conversation afterwards. At each screening, we hear from folks that there are ways in which the film highlights their own experiences and also surprises them with just how different things are. I was thrilled to meet Grace, a young woman who runs an LGTBQ organization and connected her Live Out Loud, and organization that supported JOhn Dargan, one of the main subjects of The Public. Thanks to Mary, Joe and Doug for their hospitality - a lovely dinner and a tour of the Georgia’s antebellum capitol!

The Arts Council University of North Georgia, Gainesville

Great Q&A about both education and filmmaking, which was refreshing!  Of course, I enjoy talking about education issues, but it’s nice to share about the filmmaking process as well, especially with media students.  Also, appreciated Jeff Marker’s  Q&A style - very energetic and knowledgable - I bet he is also a great teacher. Jeff said our film was in high demand on the southern circuit --so  great to hear We had about 35 audience members, combo of students and educators. I love it when folks are not afraid to be critical or ask hard questions and a real debate gets started. We discussed what preparation BCAM school founders had and if it was enough - also, if there is ever enough. On the filmmaking front, one student was disappointed that we skipped from 1st year to 4th year - ulitmately, i took it as a compliment that he could have watch 2 more years, but I appreciate that he was not crazy about the jump in time, so I suggested he  watch the Michael Apted  7UP series…  : )  We stayed at a B&B in the woods - nice respit from Comfort Inn living. We’re looking forward to Memphis BBQUE in just a few hours and also meeting Brighid Wheeler who has been our point person for our Indie Memphis screening!

Indie Memphis

Indie Memphis screening was everything we hoped for. Thanks for Brighid and Eric for making it happen. Their gigantic screen and a sound system allowed us to hear things we never even knew were in the film.  We had an amazing, passionate and knowledgable panel Marc E. Willis, Co-founder & CEO of Omni Schools Inc. Cardell Orrin, Memphis City Director of Stand For Children, Chris Caldwell, Shelby County school board, District 1, and moderated by Barbara Prescott, a former 3 term member of the Memphis City School Board (as President and VP.) We iphone video recorded this panel and will include it here in the days to come.

Also, here’s a link to WKNO Memphis Public radio intvw by Kacky Walton with editor Penelope Falk and myself!

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston School of the Arts

Our last screening on our Southern Circuit tour could not have been more gratifying - only sorry we didn’t have more photos - was so caught up in the Q&A that I totally forgot to take snaps. (photos above are the theatre and the poster they made in a local cafe : ) 

Our audience members said one after another that they felt the film should be shown in every school in the country (!) and the Q&A was more like  testimonials of personal experiences from students, parents, and educators. ONe student said he went into teaching and after a year could not handle it, but wished he had been able to see The New Public before he did that which he felt would have prepared him for what to expect. A parent with two teens found the film so inspiring he asked if he could show the film to his kids who he felt were in crisis to help give them some perspective on perservering. A public defender noted that the film resounded with the same issues he faces in his work everyday - issues that cannot be addressed by one public insitution alone - not his own or schools. And many of the educators in the audience said they saw their own experience in the film and appreciated the way it didn’t vilify or glorify their job. Thanks to Lizz Biswell of the Halsey Institute for doing such a great intro and making it happen!