We set out to make a film, ended up making two, and started an activism campaign to help promote the non-violence movement. How in the world did this happen?
Creative thinking and the opportunities that come from limitation, plus it's in my blood, literally, is how these projects all came into existence. The feature came out many chicago filmmakers who were working on major productions, but in minor roles, and we wanted to make a film on our terms but at the same level of professionalism and polish. Of the 99 involved in making this film 33 were first time FEATURE filmmakers, myself included. We'd worked on shorts, commercials, and industrials in lead roles, but now it was time to up our game and make a feature.
If you've been following this film, you know we were fiscally sponsored and raised close to $40K to get us through the major expenses and into production. That is not a lot of money. But as a fiscally sponsored project we opened ourselves to grants. Grants typically don't want you to just make a film, there needs to be more to it. From one such grant, we came up with the idea of Eclipse and the DNV (Declare Non-Violence) Social Action Campaign. While we were not awarded the grant, we had gone through the process of conceiving the idea, how were were going to execute it, and how we would further develop it, and in the end, not only did we really like the idea, we realized we couldn't not follow through.
This is where I mean it's in my blood. My father is a civil rights attorney in Montgomery, AL, not a dull task. When asked, he'd tell you his parents (my grandparents) were a big inspiration to setting him on his path, and their commitment to civil rights and campaigns for non-violence definitely are embedded in my mind, body and soul too.
My grandfather, the Reverend Julian McPhillips, left a profitable agriculture canning company, King Pharr Canning Company, to serve the Lord. With five children, I can only imagine how strong that call must have been. My grandmother, Eleanor McPhillips, took up the cross as well and all seven of them moved into a 2 bedroom seminary house in Sewanee, TN, to begin the journey. I could go on and on about the amazing journey they then traversed for the rest of their lives, and probably should submit a wikipedia page on their legacy, but here are two glimpses into their past that motivates me to continue developing the DNV Social Campaign and stirs me towards gratitude and giving.
It began with their service to the newly formed Peace Corps from 1967-1968. They along with my uncle, their youngest son Frank McPhillips, moved from the southeast of the United States to the east of India, where my Grandfather became the Peace Corps Director of India. This experience was profound for them and when they came back to the United States, we as a country were embroiled in the Vietnam War. By the fall of 1969, million man marches were beginning and my father and 2 uncles participated.
My grandparents were now in Washington D.C. continuing to serve the Peace Corps, now as the Executive Officer, when in the spring of 1970, Cambodia was invaded. The next pictures you see are in May of that year across from the White House in Lafayette Park. Even though my grandfather was imprisoned for demonstration, and many were not as courageous to peacefully demonstrate, I am grateful to the photographer who captured these moments in history. Barefoot and defiant in her own southern way I can only imagine what that police officer was thinking as he bent down to speak with my grandmother. His posture and reach forward speaks of an earnest desire to resolve the conflict, though I'm sure that both knew it was much bigger than either of them.
Today our wars are "technically" far removed. I didn't grow up with a draft, and don't know that interconnected feeling the country had with that war.
I've met people in Chicago who call the south and west side conflicts Ch-IRAQ. Last year, 2,328 people were victims of gun violence and 415 of those did not survive. I live on the north side of Chicago and not once have I felt threatened or worried for my safety. But my husband worked for a time doing low-income weatherization and while checking his phone on the west side was confronted by a cop, who told him to move along, he was not to be in that area of town.
Apparently, we live in a war zone. I never came to know this more than when speaking with kids from UCAN and Build Chicago, who said they specifically participated in the after school and summer programs because they didn't want to DIE. They are afraid to walk home from school, play in the parks, and after the slayings week, after week, who can blame them? These kids probably know how to hit the floor faster than most people reading this blog post. Both Build and UCAN are trying to make a difference in these kids lives, but the ones who come to participate are already asking for help. How can we push further to help those too afraid to ask for help?
Also, typically in Chicago the gun violence is on the way to and leaving from the classroom, but what about in the classroom? Columbine, University of Texas, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech. You know what each of those mean. You know there are many more that have happened and many more that could come. We are in a pattern of violence, a habit of anger, and celebration of horror. What happened to a pattern of kindness, a habit of manners, and a celebration of love? How can we glorify a proclamation for non-violence rather than Brian Williams leading a broadcast with yet another shooting? Sure the Nightly News has a "Making a Difference" series, but how can we make a difference away from the major TV cameras?
Ah Ha! Cameras. WE ALL HAVE CAMERAS. We are excellent "selfie" Directors of Photography, and if we hold the camera still and speak loud enough for those tiny microphones, we can make our own broadcast. We can lead with a declaration of nonviolence. We can glorify it to the world, and we can sit in our own virtual Lafayette Parks, across from the White House, and state that we commit to making our own worlds non-violent. Maybe President Obama will even join in! Imagine if classroom after youth group, after cheerleading squad, after chess club, after BFFs sitting on a park bench, even at 75 years old were committed to this. They would flood their facebooks, tumblers, tweets, and vines. It could be a Woodstock minus the mud, and a Haight-Asbury without the fragrance.
So this is what we decided to do. From our feature film, The Other One, which follows the victim of a school shooting, we also created an education short film called Eclipse, made for license and partnership along with the "Declare Non-Violence" Social Action Campaign. Our first "DNVs" were from our own youth actors, and on International Peace Day, Gandhi's Birthday, we recruited cast, crew, and fans to create 24 DNV posts, releasing one every hour. Check them out here ===========>>>>>>>>
We challenged everyone to "Declare their world Non-Violent" and talk about ways they actively participate in curbing violence, anger, and aggression in their life. They could also share what they felt violence was and how they can avoid it, thus declaring their world non-violent. It was fun and SUPER EASY! Anyone can do it! If you want to create one and have it added to our channel, simply sign up below and we'll hook you up! Who can do this? ANYONE. EVERYONE. YOU. You'll feel better once you have and like little drips of water melting away a huge snowbank, we can protest violence in our own modern way and honor those before us, who showed us PEACE is possible and Non-Violence is the best way to achieve it.
And... if you didn't already know, we are honored to be included as a special screening in the Peace on Earth Film Festival, Friday, March 7th at 7pm at the Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington. And it's FREE! How peaceful to the budget is that? Please join us at the theater and online.