Sunday, May 31, 2009

Intentions and Next Screening

During the tour of screenings in Ohio, I had many conversations about our intentions with the film; why we made it, where we see it going and how it can get there. It mainly comes back to our desire to give these children a voice, to bear witness and to help them communicate their story.

There have been moments when we've wondered: what if it could end on a happy note, what if it all leads up to some amazing finale of redemption and everyone being healed and happy? We probably would have a film that would be more marketable both in the regular film market as well as to churches. But we had to realize that that's just not how it seems to happen when it comes to child abuse survivors. They're not all happy and healed in the end. It is a long process that may never be totally complete.

In this sense, we hope that the film says to the survivors: you're not alone in how you feel. And to the families, friends, congregations, church leaders, colleagues, neighbors, and teachers we hope the film says: be patient, be supportive and try to understand that the childhood trauma has effected this person for life and that they can't "just get over it" but they are on a journey you could maybe help them on.

It would be great to know that people are using this film as a conversation starter to let those close to them know what they may have experienced something similar and thus help them on their journey of healing and in their relationship building - especially within families.

So then what do we do with a film like this? We keep showing it to people and open the conversation. Next we are going to St. Louis, where Judy Jones of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests) organized a screening at Schlafly Bottleworks on June 2nd, which will be attended by Scott, myself, Rev. Dr. Richard Darr, David Darr and David Clohessy (SNAP National Director).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - 7pm
Schlafly Bottleworks - The Crown Room

7260 Southwest Avenue

Maplewood, MO 63143 (St. Louis)

Phone: Judy Jones, 636-433-2511

And we invite YOU to host, organize or get someone else to have a screening - at your church, school, community center, self-help group, etc. Just contact me at .

You can watch clips from the documentary on the film's website and order the DVD on amazon or filmbaby, where you can also download the entire documentary.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dreams come true in Ohio

Ohio street between Minerva and Akron

A few days ago I returned from a wonderful trip to Ohio where I attended three screenings of our documentary All God's Children.

It really was a dream come true: I got to travel, visit friends, re-connect with the people in our film, meet new people, show our work, see
first-hand that people appreciate our film and hear that they find it meaningful and helpful and want to share it with others. Is there anything more important than realizing your work actually matters to others? It's been the greatest reward in the whole process of making this documentary.

The screening room in Akron is starting to fill. My friends Anne and David are walking down the aisle. Judy Darr sits in the foreground.

Of course, in case of this particular film our motivation from the get-go was to give a voice and a permanent record to the children who were forced into silence at the time - only to be denied acknowledgment for years once they were adults. It was amazing to stand in front of the crowd at Minerva High School, an educational institution, and be able to thank the audience for having heard the story of the Mamou missionary kids - just like they learn about so many historic events.

So one more time: thank you to everyone who attended one of the screenings!

Goss Memorial Church, Akron

The first screening, on May 23rd, took place at the Goss Memorial Church in Akron, the church that supported the Darr parents (Anne and Dick Darr) on their mission field in Africa. Today Dianne Darr Couts' husband Bud Couts is the pastor. He did an amazing job hosting the screening.

We had almost a hundred people in attendance and quite a lively discussion between the audience and film participants Dianne Darr Couts and David Darr. Special guests at the screening were David and Dianne's mother Anne Darr and David's former wife Judy Tschetter Darr, who had attended Mamou for all the grades they offered.

Siblings David Darr and Dianne Couts Darr during the Q&A at the Akron screening
(photo by Jennie Couts McDonald)

The room hadn't cleared and we already sold out of all DVDs for the entire trip. A big thanks to Jennie Couts McDonald for handling the merch table and her two adorable little girls at the same time.

I also would like to thank Bob Carpenter for setting up the screening room and Peg Bandy (Anne Darr's sister) for organizing all of the refreshments and Sally Hill and Marge Couts for helping with the delicious provisions.

Peg Bandy collects the remnants of the cookie feast

Last but not least, I have to thank everyone for their very generous donations! Your giving will make it possible for us to attend more screenings and keep telling the story of the Mamou MKs.

As with all the screenings it was wonderful to meet people before and after the screening - to hear what they thought of the film and their ideas how to spread the story further and help both wounded adults as well as prevent children from getting harmed in the future. Many times I even got to hear stories of their own childhood experiences.

On this trip it was very special to spend more time with Dianne's daughter Jennie, who I had met at the film festival in Alabama, and meet her adorable daughters Lydia and Leah. The long awaited highlight was to finally meet Judy Darr, who we wish we could have included in the documentary. But to simplify some of the story, we decided to leave out the spouses of the MKs, even if they had attended Mamou as well. But now I finally got listen to some of her stories during our drive to Columbus.

A good amount of the Ohio trip I spent on the computer, of course. While I've been blogging about our tours after the fact, I've been staying current on the All God's Children facebook page with notes and pictures and blabbing along on twitter. And there are the future screenings to plan for... While in Akron, Dianne and I had many wonderful conversation while both looking over the screens of our respective Mac Book Pros at her dining room table.

Jennie and Leah have taken over Dianne's computer. Judy Darr is ready for the drive to Columbus, while I still have to do some updating on our facebook page.

Our second screening, on May 24th, took place at the King Avenue United Methodist Church in Columbus. It wasn't quite as crowded, which reminded us that not everyone wants to sit in a dark room watching a film about children abused by clergy members on a sunny Memorial Day Sunday afternoon. So we appreciated even more the people who actually chose to come watch the film with us. And we did have a wonderful group who showed their focused interest and compassion during the discussion after the screening.

A great quote from pastor John Keeny: To what extent to we protect the Church and bury the truth?

you to John Wooden and everyone at Kings Avenue United Methodist for organizing and helping with the screening.

Dianne and David in front of King Avenue United Methodist Church

Judy, Luci, David, Dianne in Columbus
(photo by Barry McDonald)

After the screening we went on a little mini vacation: 48 hours until the next screening. First we visited David's place (Spanish stucco right here in the mid-west?), then Jennie and Barry had us over for a lovely BBQ just outside of Columbus.

Luscious tree in front of David's apartment

Memorial Day was the official day off and I got to spend it relaxing with my friends Anne Hanson and David Whitfield at their dream house in Canton, Ohio. David has done an amazing job not just renovating but stylishly re-inventing one room after the other.

Anne and David's beautiful home

Anne and David are dear friends whom I met about 10 years ago in New York. At the time we all worked in the graphics industry while at the same time pursuing our true passions. It was especially wonderful to visit them now when their own business is flourishing and I'm touring with our film.

Anne Hanson in one of her recent creations, a semi-fitted cardigan
(photo by David Whitfield)

Anne is an amazing knitter, knitting pattern designer, teacher, business person and a very popular blogger. Her blog knitspot, which focuses mainly on all things knitting but also other aspects of their lives (right now there are a beautiful pictures of flowers in their yard), is written in such a personal and engaging style that I am not at all surprised at its popularity. As a matter of fact she has become quite an inspiration to me and I learned a lot a lot from her even in the short visit. Well, we kind of talked non-stop - that probably helped.

One of my favorite views in Anne and David's house - it is refreshing and inspiring with the tree, the suggestion of warm summer air, the painting and the spaciousness of the center hall. David has not given this area "his treatment" - I can't wait to see it once he has.

On Tuesday, May 26th, I was invited to speak to a mass communications class at Minerva High School a few hours before the public screening at the school's brand new auditoria (mostly auditorium, but also used as the cafeteria).

The students had watched All God's Children previously with their teacher Emily Coldwell and had prepared a lot of excellent questions. It was very interesting to hear different questions than at the screenings and even talk about the filmmaking a little bit more instead of just the content. I really appreciated the opportunity to share some of my experiences and feel that maybe they didn't all think I was a total dork. There is something quite powerful to engage with teenagers that are interested and quizzical. It makes you excited for the adventures and accomplishments that lie ahead of them.

The Minerva High School teams are called the Lions. These paw prints start on a small public street and lead all the way up to the field. Such a charming small town.

After the screening a few of the students showed me two of the funny videos they have produced. So exciting to see kids share the same passion that has kept you going for so long.

On our way to the production room, however, I was part of a completely different experience: While walking down the hall there came the announcement: lock down drill! Everyone stopped briefly, looked around and then quickly and calmly headed for the nearest classroom. Inside: the blinds already down, a teacher closed the door, told us to huddle in a corner and turned off the lights. Then we waited - just not in the instructed complete silence. Some of the kids were joking about who might get shot first if another kid came running in with a gun and open fire. Yes, that's what the lock-down drill is all about: preparing for the event of a shooter running amok at the school.

It's often pointed out that a lot of things have changed in schools since the days of Mamou. But in this moment I realized first-hand how much had changed in schools in the last 10 years. When Columbine happened I had just graduated from film school, but these kids in Minerva were no older than 7. They grew up with the idea that someone could just come running into their school and try to kill them. That thought was chilling and astonishing.

After visiting Dianne's French class we talked about my observation and she quoted something from the film: "They laugh about it because it's so painful that they can't talk about it."

Even though it wasn't planned, the experience of the lock-down drill in an American high school was a meaningful one and I'm glad to have had a chance to witness it.

Minerva High School

The public screening that afternoon had such a diverse crowd. There even were ministers from different Churches in attendance. The most significant one, of course, was the Christian and Missionary Alliance minister, who seemed to like the film and wanted to share it with his congregation. He said, we must help the abuse survivors. It was such a wonderful moment to hear him say that and we are very grateful for his openness and compassion.

The film is about to start at the Minerva screening.

This was our first public screening in a school and it made me aware of how important it is to screen in that kind of a location. Mamou Alliance Academy was a Church-run institution, but it was a school after all. Not to mention the fact that one of our goals is to bring awareness about the lengthy healing process to people who may be in contact with abuse survivors. Schools are not only a places of learning but also places of interaction between people, who may need to be helped or at least feel understood.

A big thank you to principal Mike Riley for inviting Dianne to screen the film at Minerva High School and share the story with colleagues, students and the local community and to the vice principal Alex Albert for setting everything up.

Dianne and David in Columbus

At the end of this incredibly long post (must be the longest one I've written so far) I would like to once more thank Dianne Darr Couts and David Darr for telling their story to us in the first place and then going above and beyond in helping us get it out to the public. THANK YOU!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Twittering Again

In spring 2008 I signed up for Twitter, wrote exactly 2 tweets while wondering what the whole point of this was and why anyone would care and isn't this all just a waste of time... So I just abandoned it altogether again. A year later, requests kept coming in from friends that they wanted to follow me on twitter and in the spur of the moment I decided to re-visit the twitter idea.

Since then I've realized several things:
  • A few of my old friends from Germany are twittering pretty much daily. Apparently it's more popular with the mid-30s crowd in Germany than the young crowd. Is that the same in the US? Anyway, it's been a fantastic way to reconnect - and I even coaxed a few into joining facebook - while one of them lured me into, which keeps wanting me to pay for their service. What - social networks that cost money?
  • None of the people who asked to follow me actually twitter themselves. Hah! Apparently most people that sign up for twitter only use it once or twice before abandoning it again. I wonder what the statistics are of people rejoining a year later... Also the search for your friends via your address book just automatically sends out invitations to your friends already on twitter. So it's not likely anyone actively searches out a specific person on twitter to actively follow them. It just kinda happens - and then you read the tweets of whoever writes.
  • I actually think it's fun! Just silly, mainly meaningless, in-the-moment fun!
While revamping parts of my blog (and probably just procrastinating from writing the big slightly overdue post about my wonderful trip to Ohio), I decided to find a widget to add my twitter feed to my blog. It's now at the very bottom of the right column. So it's not in your face. But if you're curious to read what I think about the prices of bottled water at the airport - you might just find the answer there.

And if you have a twitter account yourself, let me know so I can follow you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Translate This Page

Just added a "translate this page" widget to the blog. It's over there in the right hand column -->

When you click on one of the flags, the entire page will be translated into the respective language - um, make that: a rather funny version of the respective language.

But I hope it will help some readers, who don't know English that well, get the gist of my blog post by reading them in a funny rudimentary German, for example. Also this can be just silly fun for those who do speak another language.

This is how Google Translate would translate this post:

Nur einen "Diese Seite übersetzen" Widget für das Blog. Es ist dort in der rechten Spalte ->
Wenn Sie auf eine der Fahnen, die gesamte Seite wird in der jeweiligen Sprache - um, machen, dass eine recht lustige Version der jeweiligen Sprache. Aber ich hoffe, es wird helfen, einige Leser, die nicht wissen, dass Englisch gut, das Wesentliche meiner Blog-Eintrag, indem Sie sie in eine lustige rudimentär Deutsch, zum Beispiel. Auch dies kann nur albern Spaß für diejenigen, die eine andere Sprache sprechen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Video by Radiopilot - dreamy

Radiopilot just released the video for "Immer Wenn Wir Träumen" on YouTube.

The question is how long it will remain on - since the major record labels recently pulled all their videos in a dispute over royalties. In either case, it should remain on the American no matter what - just that the Germans can't watch that one (or is there a trick).

The video is really beautiful and appropriately dream-like. Enjoy:

By the way, if you go to Radiopilot's official site right now, the video starts playing immediately on full screen (you have the option to click through to the website). Nice touch. Someone clearly knows his web-building ;-)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dianne and AGC made the front page again!

Dianne Darr Couts, and her brothers (from left) Rich, David and John, pose for a family portrait in Africa. (photo Dick Darr)

Today The News Leader of Minerva, Ohio, features an article about the events depicted in All God's Children on its front page. Dianne Couts added some new details in her interview:
"I survived by being good and being smart and toeing the line and trying to avoid trouble," said Couts, "but what ended up happening is we older kids kind of sheltered, and protected, and mopped up damage for the littler ones."
The article also focuses on how helpful the courage and advocacy of the now adult MKs has been in preventing other children from suffering like they had to:
More recently, Couts' brothers were hunting in Africa and stayed with a C&MA missionary whose mother had attended the Mamou school. The missionary thanked the Darrs, saying that because of their efforts, his children did not have to attend a boarding school and could live at home and attend the nearby American school.
Read the entire article HERE - and please leave a comment on the article's page if you'd like.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

We made the front page!

Dianne Couts photographed by Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal
Today's front page of the Akron Beacon Journal features an excellent article written by Collette Jenkins about the events depicted in All God's Children. She did very thorough research and extensive interviews with Dianne Couts and David Darr, who gave some great quotes.

The article gives you a detailed overview of the story of the Mamou MKs - it's almost like watching the film, just shorter. What goes beyond it is that the article also expresses some of the intention of the film. Dianne is quoted:
''Our intention is not to place blame or be angry or bash the church. Our hope is that by telling our story, it will help other people."

Several of us will attend the screenings in Ohio starting a week from today:

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009 - 7pm
Goss Memorial Church
2247 11th Street S.W.
Akron, OH 44314

Sunday, May 24th - 3pm
King Avenue United Methodist Church
299 King Avenue
Columbus, OH 43201

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 - 3pm
Minerva High School
501 Almeda Avenue
Minerva, OH, 44657

Florida Screenings

Howard Beardslee, Ann Beardslee, Ellie Snapp, Carolyn Capp at the St. Augustine screening

The screenings in St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida went very well. We appreciated everyone coming out to see the film and discuss the subject with us and Ann and Howard Beardslee afterwards. Talking directly to the audience and hearing their reaction is an amazing experience. We are so grateful we get to see that the courage of the Mamou MKs is such an inspiration to others.

We encourage anyone who attended a screening or just watched the film to visit the film's facebook page and leave a comment or start a discussion. You can also look at more photos from the screenings there.

Thank you again to ALL that helped set up and promote the screenings!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"... It was good, no it was bad!"

Paula Suhey, a cousin of Scott's mother, wrote in her column for The Jacksonville Times Union's website about All God's Children this week.

Paula's very moving article titled
"I've been thinking... It was good, no it was bad!"
comes from a unique personal perspective; former missionaries Ann and Howard Beardslee are her aunt and uncle, MKs Keith and Howie Beardslee are her cousins. She begins with:

All families have struggles, pain, issues that they deal with. All of us look for ways to overcome the pain, to find some hope or promise in spite of it and many of us want to discover a way that we can use what happened to us, to help others.
Continue reading the full article and even leave a comment HERE.

Tonight is our first screening of the film in a church. Ann and Howard Beardslee, Scott and I will attend to answer questions after the screening.

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 – 7pm
McDowell Baptist Church
16 Bay View Drive

St. Augustine, FL 32084

Phone: 904-829-8388

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tempra is driving a car and Rachel is going to Africa...

... Margaret has a new daughter named Ocean, Rachel has a chicken named Butter, Tessa has moved to Albuquerque to finish up her college requirements, Rachel graduated last week with a BA in Anthropology/Archeology and is gearing up for grad school and, for good measure, Tina is back in school to get another degree. It's amazing what your friends accomplish while you're not looking.

Tempra - maybe wanting a Camaro and not a camera after all

Scott and I spent this past weekend in Gainesville visiting with some of our friends and screening my documentary-in-progress All's Well and Fair for some of the people featured in it.

Butter (photo by Scott)

The realization of how much changes in the lives of your long-distance friends and how fast their kids grow up when you only get to see them about once a year is intense enough. It's even more extreme if you're working on a film about people's changes over the course of 10 years and the most up-to-date footage in the film is from three years ago.

While I'm in post-production on their documentary, to me Rachel, Margaret, Tina and their families are stuck in the year 2006 (only compared with their footage from 1996). So when I suddenly see Tempra, who on my screener DVD is still 14 and wearing a Sesame Street T-Shirt, suddenly towers over me with dyed hair and a hipster headband, I for once don't feel totally ridiculous for saying "wow, you got tall" - I just feel sad that while all these people have grown and accomplished so much, I still don't have the film finished and ready for people to see.

But I try to accept this as the nature of documentary filmmaking. Post-production is a process that often takes years - especially if you're working on several feature-length films in different stages and have limited funding. And while you're "stuck in the past" trying to shape the story just right, the people in that captured story keep on living and changing and continuing their own story.

Needless to say, I am impatient to put the finishing touches on the film - just as much as I am eager to see what Rachel, Margaret, Tina and their families are up to next. I am very thankful that they allowed me to capture their lives on tape and forever grateful that I can be a part of their lives.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Event Notice in St. Augustine Record

Today a short article appeared in the religion section in the St. Augustine Record. It's the first article about the first public screening of All God's Children (not counting festivals) - so I thought it's worth mentioning. The print edition features a rather large picture of the DVD cover.

Ellie Snapp, Scott's mother, who also did most of the transcribing for the film, did an extraordinary job promoting the film and pursuing the press. It's great to know that the press release, press kit, website and all the outreach are paying off.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"... Not Too Old"

Filming Iva (left) and her sister Thelma
as sisters Carolyn and Ann watch

Iva, at 86 the oldest of the five women featured in my work-in-progress documentary "Five Sisters", recently wrote a column, which was featured on the Jacksonville Times Union blog called "I've Been Thinking..." - a very charming and personal column usually written by her daughter Paula Suhey.

Iva titled the post published on April 27th "... Not Too Old". I think a lot of people will be able to relate to her sentiment of enjoying life and what it has to offer despite some of the limitations that age may bring.

Iva is quite an inspiration as she explores new ways to communicate, socialize and explore the world - in her own words:

I now feel that God has given me a new ministry of encouragement since I joined Facebook and USNEWS/HEALTH via the World Wide Web (yes, I am a great grandmother and I spend much time on this computer).
Needless to say I've very much enjoyed having her as a facebook friend.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

GHWP Spring Newsletter

We just sent out our irregular Good Hard Working People newsletter. If you would like to get it, let me know by sending an email to admin [at]

If you would like to get future updates directly into your email box, please do so on our company's website.