Tag Archives: waynesboro

On Tour: Big Sonia

1 Apr

On Tour: March 2018 | Big Sonia | Leah Warshawski

BIG SONIA Hits The Road To Make a BIG ImpactIMG_0610

Over the last few years I’ve watched it become harder and harder for filmmakers to bring their films to remote audiences. The trend now seems to be towards an “ala carte” approach for hybrid distribution and niche audiences, and a more grass-roots approach to make sure you can reach the most people and have broad and meaningful impact. The On Screen/In Person tour is one of those rare and unique opportunities for filmmakers that allows you to make lasting contacts and engage with audiences in small communities. It fuels all other avenues of distribution and reminds you over and over how there’s no substitute for showing up in person and shaking someone’s hand. It validates the creative journey and makes you feel like the “rollercoaster” of making a film was worth the ride! The tour is inspiring, exhausting and emotional at the same time. Having done a few film tours in the past on my own I was so grateful that my co-director and husband Todd Soliday was able to meet me halfway through to share some of the driving and participate in a few Q/A’s. This was a memorable and fantastic few weeks on the road and I do believe we were able to spread the #SoniaEffect as much as possible!

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First stop was Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington DC where Doug and his team gave me a tour of the historic venue and then proceeded to run a first class event. Oddly, 75% of the audience had either met Sonia at some point in their lives or knew members of my family, which was comforting on the first screening of the tour. Councilwoman Heather Hall from Kansas City happened to be in town and came to say hi right before the show started – she is solely responsible for initiating “Big Sonia Day” in KC and it was a joy to celebrate with her in DC.

Next I drove to the Wayne Theater in Waynesboro, VA where Tracy and her team put together a panel after the film and encouraged community members to “pay what you want” to attend. It was a very special evening in a beautiful small-town theater that has become a hub of activity. Our panel included a Rabbi from Charlottesville and a second generation Holocaust survivor and we were able to have an engaging and relevant conversation about how our film relates to current themes and social justice issues. I was honored that Tracy took the time to find panel members who made the entire evening more special.

Off to Wilmington, DE and the home of most of the banks in the US, thanks to banking regulations and taxes. Despite the empty streets on a Sunday, when we walked into The Queen at noon it felt like we were in a nightclub and the techno music was pumping. We were suddenly flanked by two drag queens and learned quickly that it was “Drag Queen Brunch” on the third floor, right below our screening room! It definitely made the day fun, and everyone who came to the screening didn’t seem to mind that we were competing with the brunch. This is emblematic of how these film tours go and why we love them so much – you just never know what will happen when you show up and a Drag Queen Brunch is a first for us!

 Unfortunately our next two screenings at Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia and Millersville University of Pennsylvania in Lancaster, PA were cancelled due to the snow storm and we were stuck in Philly for a few days. Ukulele practice and bad reality TV are a great way to wait out the storm. Lancaster scheduled a Skype Q/A for another time so we were still able to show the film.

We felt lucky to be able to try a few farm-to-table restaurants all over the east coast and highly recommend eating at Judy’s in Reading, PA if you’re ever passing through! Reading Area Community College was another impactful screening with a panel that included a history teacher from the college and local community leaders. We talked about why Holocaust history matters now and was inspired to learn that the teacher has a lot of hope for the future based on the engagement of her students. Only 9 states mandate Holocaust education in middle schools and high schools and this was a big topic of our panel discussion as well.

Next stop on the tour was BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, MD where we filled every seat in the room and saw some friends of the project from Kansas City. We met a few second-generation survivors who were grateful that they could relate BIG SONIA to their own lives. This screening happened to be the same day as the March For Our Lives and we talked at length about our current events and the rise in hate-crimes over the last few years. We almost drove to DC in the morning to join the March but we would not have made it back in time – so in a way the screening was our way of doing something positive and making an impact in people’s lives where we can, in our own small way.

On the way to our next event we drove through Amish country on a Sunday amidst horse-and-buggy drivers and women riding bikes home from the market. It’s a side of America that most people don’t get to see and felt like we had landed on another planet. Thanks to our friends at Wild For Salmon, we ate at a delicious farm-to-table restaurant in Bloomsburg, PA before our screening at Bloomsburg University – highly recommend The Blind Pig where all of the food is sourced from local producers. We were a little worried about filling the enormous 1800-seat theater but 15 minutes before the show we had a line out the door or high-school and college students who had come for extra credit! A big part of our audience for the film is 7th graders and above, so we’re always thrilled when students come to the film. It warmed our hearts to see so many people and we hope the teachers will send some of the student’s thoughts or papers.

Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, PA was our final – and most lively – screening on the tour. It was fitting that this was the last show and Brent and Iain went out of their way to take care of us. Thanks to the local Hadassah chapter we had a full house and a local Holocaust survivor, Rita, joined our panel discussion. Things got lively when people mentioned “Poland” and the current state of politics there, which is a debate we aren’t prepared to have because we have never been to Poland. Thankfully, the Hadassah team is used to these kinds of debates and it’s a testament to the tense climate in our world right now. Brent was so kind and gracious and we certainly hope that our paths cross again in the near future.

 

 

– Leah Warshawski

Director, BIG SONIA

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On Tour: Little Stones

1 Mar

On Tour: February 2018 | Little Stones | Sophia Kruz

The first week of February, I set off from my home in sunny Southern California to the wintry hills of western Virginia for the first stop of my On Screen/In Person tour: the Wayne Theater in Waynesboro, VA.

My film, LITTLE STONES follows four women who are using art –music, fashion, painting and dance – to end violence against women globally. Production on the film took me to Rio de Janiero, Calcutta, Berlin, Nairobi, Dakar, New York, Little Rock, and many smaller villages in India, Senegal and Kenya along the way. The film was released for festivals in April 2017, and over the past six months, we’ve done over 70 community screenings of the film – most of which I’ve been present for! So, LITTLE STONES has taken me around the world multiple times over.

That said, before my OSIP tour, I hadn’t had the opportunity to show the film in a small American town like Waynesboro, VA. Before the screening, I was excited, and a little apprehensive. Would audiences relate to the women profiled in the film, and their stories of sex trafficking in India, female genital cutting in Senegal, and extreme poverty in Kenya? The short answer was a resounding YES. And sadly, “me too”.

One member of the audience wrote to me after the Waynesboro screening to tell me:

“I was honored and privileged to view the documentary LITTLE STONES last night. Unfortunately being qualified for the #MeToo movement made the film resonate all the more intensely for me. I admire the courage and the vision of all the people involved in the ongoing process of the Driftseed Organization. What truly struck me was the intense sense of empowerment that these women obtained once their sense of self worth and pride was restored. Never have I been so moved by a documentary.”

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I asked this audience member if she would allow me to publish her words on Facebook, and she agreed. Later that day, my non-profit organization Driftseed (www.driftseed.org) received a very generous $5,000 donation – our largest unsolicited individual gift to date – from this same audience member. Her donation will support our ongoing education and impact work around the film.

My fears of LITTLE STONES not resonating with small town American audiences were put to rest after that first stop in Waynesboro.

The next day was a free day, so I stopped by Thomas Jefferson’s estate for a tour on my way to Germantown, MD for a screening at the BlackRock Center. At this, and really all the screenings on my OSIP tour, the theme of the #MeToo Movement kept reappearing. It was interesting to see, in the Q&As after the film, how many people in the audience connected the stories of gender-based violence in the international context we show in the film, with their own experiences here in the United States. It was also heart-wrenching for me to hear, night after night, survivors self-identifying in the audience. I continue to be surprised and grateful that the film fosters the level of trust with viewers that allows a survivor to share their own story publicly – sometimes for the first time. We’re experiencing an interesting moment in women’s rights history in the US, and I hope the conversations started by MeToo, and LITTLE STONES continue on in all the communities I visited. There is so much left to do.

The name LITTLE STONES stems from that idea that we all have a role to play in creating gender equality. It comes from a quote by suffragist Alice Paul who said, “I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone.” When I first read that quote, we were in post-production on the film, and as soon as I read it, I knew it perfectly encapsulated my whole idea behind the documentary. That each of us has a role to play in the fight to end global violence against women. The problem is just too great – too massive – for any one individual to fix on their own. I believe that if we all do our part, piece by piece, stone by stone, we’ll get there.

From Germantown, I went on to events at Montgomery Community College and the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. At every stop, the organizers were such wonderful hosts, taking me around their campuses, introducing me to faculty and students, and ensuring I was well fed and housed. I’d never been to most of the cities and towns on the OSIP tour, and was at times overwhelmed by the generous hospitality that awaited me at each stop.

After the screening in Bloomsburg, I went home to Los Angeles for about a week of rest and enjoy the sunshine before heading back out for the second half of my OSIP tour. The second half of the tour, my partner Oliver and our dog Misti came along to help out with the merchandise table (Oliver) and give my mother in law, who lives near Philadelphia, lots of kisses (Misti). The second half of the tour kicked off with a screening at the Reading Area Community College. Then, the three of us piled into our rental car to head down to Washington DC for the screening at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

The OSIP Atlas screening was the first of two events I’d be doing in DC with the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Last December, my non-profit Driftseed received a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to bring all four women from the documentary to the US to meet for the first time, and to do a series of events around International Women’s Day, March 8. When we received the grant, I knew we’d want to do a public screening with all the women in Washington DC, and the Atlas Center graciously agreed to be our hosts!

At this first OSIP Atlas Screening, which was part of the Atlas’ Intersections Festival, Nicole Ellis from the Washington Post moderated the Q&A. It was an intimate event, and a welcome opportunity to meet Doug and Heidi from the Atlas in person before our larger events planned at the Atlas on March 11.

At our second screening at the Atlas Center, Sohini Chakraborty from the film came all the way from India to do a dance/movement therapy workshop on the main stage. Chakraborty has developed her own form of dance therapy to heal sex-trafficking survivors in India, and it was really a special treat for US audiences to be able to experience her work first-hand!

After Sohini’s workshop, we showed the film to about 110 people, and then were treated to a special live performance from Sister Fa, who works to end female genital mutilation in Senegal through hip hop music.

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After Sister Fa’s performance all of the women from the film joined her onstage for a Q&A, followed by a pop-up shop with fashion designer Anna Taylor, whose work to empower women economically in Kenya is also featured in the film. I’m so very grateful to OSIP and the Atlas team for partnering on this special event, and providing such a beautiful space for the centerpiece of our DC residency!

After the OSIP Atlas screening, Oliver, Misti and I made our way to the Queen Theater in Wilmington, DE for a memorable screening and luncheon Q&A. I particularly loved the community members selected for the Wilmington panel discussion, and was grateful so many American Dance Therapy Association members came to this event! After Wilmington, we headed back to Philadelphia for an intimate screening at the Annenberg Center.

My last stop of the tour was perhaps the most memorable – two full days of back to back activities in Lancaster, PA! I arrived in Lancaster early on a Wednesday morning and was whisked off to class at Millersville University with my host, Barry Kornhauser.  Barry is an accomplished playwright and such a wonderful cultural ambassador for his community. I knew right away I was in good hands.

After my first class visit, Barry had set-up an interview with the local TV station. The screening of LITTLE STONES that night at the Ware Center had already been sold out for a week, so this was just an opportunity to give the project more exposure – which is always appreciated!

That evening, the screening at the Ware Center did not disappoint. I loved how Barry organized the expert panel to speak before the film. Often I find when experts join me on the panel after the film, the audience is so excited to ask me questions about the film and filmmaking process, they forget to take advantage of the wonderful experts I’m sharing the stage with! So, I thought the format of having experts view the film in advance, and then each give a 5-minute preview of what they thought audiences should pay attention to during the screening worked really nicely.

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After the film, the audience in Lancaster had many wonderful questions, and I was treated to a long, engaging Q&A. The next day, Barry had organized two more class visits with students at the local colleges before I packed my bags, and headed onto the next LITTLE STONES event after OSIP!

Thank you to everyone from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and all nine arts non-profits who selected LITTLE STONES, and helped make this tour possible. February 2018 was a month to remember!

– Sophia Kruz

Director/Producer, LITTLE STONES

Co-Founder, Driftseed

Learn more: www.littlestones.org

 

On Tour: Waynesboro, VA

4 Jan

November 2, 2017 | Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw| Waynesboro, VA

After a 2-day stay in beautiful Shenandoah National Park, hiking among the fall colors on the Appalachian Trail, I exited the park to the south on my way to the newly-renovated Wayne Theatre in downtown Waynesboro, VA.  A lightly-attended screening of Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw nonethelss generated a terrific hour-long Q&A with me and my panel-mates: Chris Graham, moderator and  Augusta Free Press editor and ESPN commentator (who had posted a podcast interview with me a week earlier); Dr. Kenneth Hubert Brasfield, a psychiatric pharmacist;  Crystal Graham, Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; Becky Snead, LPC, PACT Supervisor at Valley Community Services Board; and John Spears, director of Youth Sports at Waynesboro Family YMCA.  Each one of us presented different perspectives on a variety of mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, and the critical need to bring the mental illness discussion “out of the closet.”  Thanks to hosts Tracy Straight and her Wayne Theatre staff for an energizing kick-off start to my tour.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Rick Goldsmith.

On Tour: Waynesboro, VA

3 Dec

October 26, 2017 | Oil & Water | Waynesboro, VA

It started with a fire in Atlanta. Tracy Straight’s apartment burned to the ground while she was visiting family back in her hometown of Waynesboro, Virginia. There was nothing to go back to, so she stayed.

Since that time, she got married and had a few kids and built a new life in her old community but with an unexpected new purpose. The year she moved back home she heard that the old, long defunct, Wayne Theater in the center of Main St. was to be torn down. A parking lot would replace it. This news kicked off the second fire in Tracy’s life. A burning passion to save this theater.

After 17 years and over 11 million dollars raised, the 1926 building was ready to shine again. It’s not just the theater that revitalized, the whole of Main Street benefited too. Busy restaurants and cute new shops line the street, no doubt boosted by something happening at the Wayne seven days a week.

Tracy is now the Executive Director of the Wayne and her passion hasn’t (I can’t help it…) waned. She is just as enthusiastic about the On Screen/In Person tour as she is the marionette show this week, My Fair Lady next week and the art gallery upstairs from the theater currently featuring art from Montana.

Laurel and ED of Wayne Tracy Straight

It’s this kind of community potluck of entertainment that can give a small downtown life. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people move back home to Waynesboro or any small town that gets a cultural shot in the arm like Tracy has given to her hometown.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Laurel Spellman Smith

On Tour: Waynesboro, VA

13 Sep

September 7, 2017 | DEEJ | Waynesboro, VA

Not all school systems and not all school administrators, go the second (and third, and fourth) miles to make sure that every child has access to language and to communication. But if energy and enthusiasm is an indication of potential progress, there’s certainly hope!

Thursday, September 7 was the inaugural event in my whirlwind, nine-destination MAAF tour with our film Deej, a film profiling DJ Savarese, a nonspeaking autistic and advocate for himself and others; and it was a terrific way to begin.  Waynesboro, Virginia, is a venerable old town with roots reaching back into the early days of America.  Downtown is undergoing a renaissance, and the Wayne Theater, a real gem dating back to 1926, is the centerpiece of Main Street.

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The local community and the theater’s staff was warm and welcoming, beginning with Tracy Straight, director – and including a wonderful pre-screening dinner at the Green Leaf Grill, just down the street.

What made this screening of Deej especially gratifying was the robust attendance, helped no doubt by the co-sponsorship TASH Virginia, the state affiliate of the national disability awareness organization by the same name.  TASH VA, and local teachers Taylor Flavin and Kristen Brooks, helped the Wayne Theater in assembling a panel of engaging people, who answered questions from a very invested audience.  To start, there was Charlie Taylor, a very young man, nonspeaking, who participated in the discussion with the help of his mother, Patricia.  His first comment, via letter board: “DJ is my hero”.

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And that was just the beginning.  Dr. Leslie Daniel, Associate Professor of Education and Human Development at Radford University and Vikram Jaswal, Associate Professor in the University of Virginia Department of Psychology, joined in as well.  And, Professor Jaswal brought with him two students from UVA, Jaclyn Lund and Hazel Lindahl, who were participants in an eye-opening university seminar in which they engaged on an ongoing basis with 10 college-aged nonspeaking autistic people from northern Virginia who call themselves “The Tribe”.  So many questions, so many insightful answers, so little time!

It was clear that there were both audience members and panelists who looked upon DJ’s experiences of inclusion, especially in middle school and high school, with envy.  Not all school systems and not all school administrators, go the second (and third, and fourth) miles to make sure that every child has access to language and to communication. But if energy and enthusiasm is an indication of potential progress, there’s certainly hope!

Post by On Screen/In Person filmmaker, Robert Rooy

On Tour: Lancaster, PA

2 May

March 30, 2017 | REAL BOY| Lancaster, PA

We couldn’t ask for a more wonderful end to our tour than the events at Millersvillle University and the Ware Center in Lancaster, PA.

The day starts early and our host Barry Kornhauser comes to pick us up in downtown Lancaster and takes us out to the university, which is four miles out of town. The campus is beautiful. There are ducks, swans, and turtles in a large pond at the center and the entire campus is beautifully landscaped. As we walk through campus to the classroom where we’ll be presenting, Barry tells us about the history of the college, including the bit of trivia that an early president of Millersville University from the late 19th Century is best known for writing the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Our first stop is a lunchtime gathering of students from the social work department. We show the trailer and then gather in a circle to talk about gender identity and the other issues in the film. Joe shares his own personal experiences of coming out as trans and how his family responded at the time.

Dr. Tiffany Wright, chair of the Millersville University President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity, has joined us and she also shares with students the work being done on campus to create greater inclusion. The school already has a preferred name policy and the commission is working on putting other policies in place to support their trans students and teachers.

I am struck by how important these small, informal conversations are. Students asked for advice for their own lives and took the opportunity to learn more about how to ask respectful questions about gender. They also learned more about how they can become involved as active allies at their university and with their future clients.

We then head across campus to a joint class of undergrads, including those from a Philosophy class entitled “Gender, Utopia and Society.” The room is full and the students ask fantastic questions about both Joe’s experience as a trans man and a musician and my experience as a filmmaker and storyteller seeking to honor and represent people with love and integrity. We talk about gender and media and music and addiction and families.

One student in the back row thanks Joe and I for bringing these stories into popular conversation and shares that she is also trans. Her voice is shaking and she confesses that it’s scary and vulnerable to tell people, especially in such a public way, but that it feels good to be open about it. Everyone in the room claps for her.

We head back into town and start the tech check for the evening’s event. The lobby is already starting to fill with people. When the doors open, the audience starts pouring in. The beautiful Ware Center fills with people. By the time the program starts there are more than 200 people in the theater.

The event begins with a panel discussion featuring Dr. Meg Day, a professor at Franklin & Marshall College; Dr. Tiffany Wright from the Millersville University President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity; Alexis Lake, a local therapist specializing in LGBT practice, and Tara Stark, a member of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. They each share their thoughts on the film and the ways it resonates for them personally. They invite the audience to track what is—and isn’t—present in Ben’s story and to look for the nuances. As a director, it is an honor to know that these people have taken the time to watch the film, think deeply about it, and prepare these comments to share with the audience.

The film begins and I can feel the engagement of the audience. They laugh and respond audibly to moments in the film. In the final scene, I can hear the sniffles in the room. I am deeply honored and so happy to be here.

Following the screening, Joe plays a set of music. He’s on fire and people are LOVING it. This night really feels like a special event, the culmination of an amazing month on the road. I’ll soon be on a plane home, but for now, I am so grateful to be in this theater in Lancaster, PA. We have truly done what we set out to do — engage, connect, discuss, and share a story we care so much about.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

On Tour: Wilmington, DE

2 May

March 29, 2017 | REAL BOY| Wilmington, DE

The sun is low and warm as we arrive in Wilmington’s arts district, with its old brick buildings, some newly renovated and others in disrepair. We’re staying at a BnB just blocks from the venue, so we are able to walk through the neighborhood to get a sense of the place. Joe walks in front of me, carrying his guitar case, and I’m filled with a moment of deep gratitude that we are able to be part of this tour across the mid-Atlantic — to see so many places, meet so many people, and share our film with them.

Before the screening begins, and as we wait for the sun to drop behind the nearby buildings, Joe performs a few songs. He performs his usual set and then, because the sun has not quite set and the room is still speckled with sunlight, he shares some of his new music, including “Following the Sound”, a song that will be part of the upcoming musical he is writing the music for. The musical is about Albert Cashier, an historical figure who was assigned female at birth and then enrolled in the Civil War as a soldier and lived as male the rest of his life.

After the REAL BOY screening, the event organizers invite the audience to have some pizza and gather at the tables set up in another part of the room. We are joined by the other panelists: Karla Fleshman of the LGBTQ Youth Mentoring Initiative at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware and Cristina Valcarcel Mikijanic, Health and Physical Education teacher at Cab Calloway School of the Arts. The space feels very intimate and informal, which allows us all to have more of a conversation than simply to answer questions from the audience. People share their own experiences as parents, as members of the LGBTQ community, and as allies. Many people have come to this event to find out how they can better serve the trans youth in their lives. They are teachers, health care professionals, friends. I am heartened by their stories and their genuine desire to make a difference. We talk about our own lives, about our own communities, about Albert Cashier, and about the ways we are working to show up to make their communities more gender-inclusive.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

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