Saving Southern Italy begins in the late stages of covid, when I return to the land of my Italian ancestry looking to find a home to buy and renovate, and along the way I’ll shepherd other ex-pats through the incredibly challenging yet rewarding process of honoring their roots in a tangible way. There are many well publicized schemes for the sale of abandoned properties, so I will engage property managers and lawyers who will help guide us through the options, from the  “case un euro” phenomenon to homes on the private market.

In essence, we are collectively “building gratitude” in a bricks and mortar fashion, which besides the possibility of buying a “heritage” home, we will meet other Italian-Americans who might be establishing a business such as a wedding venue, turning a village into an “Albergo Diffuso,” a diffused hotel, or perhaps populating an artist-in-residence borgo. 

The tone of the documentary will feel authentic and grounded, not “reality tv” but cinematic realism. 

After all, we’re filming Italy here!  So, I want viewers to smell every batch of bread baking, absorb the glow of every sunset, hear the music of feet shuffling on weathered cobblestones and feel the tug of their heartstrings when visiting villages that are literal time warps, many with an eerily melancholy aura of abandonment. 

The storyline will mainly be driven by the narrative of the interviews conducted with the subjects being featured, rather than a voice-over narration. 

We believe that high-quality, thoughtful stories can impact the world.

Unfortunately, too often in our world, those with power are the ones with the loudest voices. Using money and influence, they can control the public discourse while millions of unheard voices are drowned out. Our team has fought against that notion through our documentary work, but there is only so much a single film can do, which is why we needed to create a new way to shine a light on wide-reaching societal issues and amplify those voices who needed it most.

We call it VIDA Voices.

Through crowdfunding efforts, VIDA Voices will craft & amplify stories about often overlooked societal issues by connecting unheard voices with filmmakers & storytellers looking for meaningful, paid work. With expertise from our team and our network of various filmmakers and storytellers, we plan to produce 12 mini-documentaries, ranging in length from 7 to 20 minutes, covering a myriad of often overlooked societal issues like tobacco harm reduction, dyslexia, and much more.

Each production will also include a “focus group” portion where those with a deep understanding of a specific topic will be asked to review a draft of the piece. We will then ask those individuals to provide overall feedback on authenticity and potential impact before releasing the final report to the public.

We believe in a future crafted through storytelling and are thrilled to craft it together.

Special Acknowledgment to donors over $10,000:
Mark Hamdan ($49,990)

 
FLY BROTHER with Ernest White II is a television travel docu-series about friendship and connection, featuring master storyteller Ernest White II currently airing in the United States on Public Television Stations and Create TV nationwide, and via streaming at PBS.org and Revry globally. In each half-hour episode, Ernest’s real-life friends bring him into their communities, show him what they love about the place, and show the audience that the whole world is our tribe. Season One featured 11 fascinating destinations around the world and won the 52nd Annual Public Media Award for Independent Production, as well as the 42nd Annual Silver People’s Telly Award. Season Two features 10 all-American destinations, including the Adirondacks, Alaska, Detroit, Hawaii, Kansas, Nashville, Natchez, Newark, Puerto Rico, and San Francisco, bringing together cultures and stories from sea to shining sea. Season Two is scheduled to premiere on Public Television Stations across the country in January 2022.
 

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, members of a faith community in New Hampshire feel compelled to take action. With their pastor’s encouragement, they decide to create artistic quilts depicting the last words of Mr. Floyd.

Through interviews, B-roll, and verité footage, we see what motivated our characters to participate, and feel some of the tensions that emerged in the process of creating the quilts. They speak about the creative energy they harnessed to counteract the horror of the event, and the special power they felt in particular words and phrases. Because some of our characters have lighter skin and an outlook that fits the social construct of “White,” and some of our characters have darker skin and an outlook that fits the social construct of “Black,” one pointed tension that the film reveals is the different ways these people experienced George Floyd’s killing.

Finally we get a sense of what the quilts might do out in the world, as they are “blessed” by the nine congregations that took part.

We are all getting swept up in a tidal wave of change called ‘progress.’ But somewhere among all this upgrading, updating, and modernizing, it might be a good idea to take a deep breath and check in on what’s being lost.

Life is moving forward so fast, both technologically and culturally, how do we stay attached to the roots that made us? That’s what Reconnecting Roots is all about— taking a moment to reflect on the heritage that’s still all around us. And use it to spark conversation across generations.

So we are committed to sharing the stories that can illuminate the past and guide us forward. 

Reconnecting Roots is a half hour docu-series about American history and progress. We liken it to a Ken Burns meets Bill Nye the Science Guy take on history, but Reconnecting Roots has a flavor all it’s own. In each episode we explore history, culture, & music and encourage the viewer to ask questions and desire to learn more. 

 
 
 

A Massachusetts teen finds himself stuck on an island off Cape Cod in a program for wayward youths with a handful of idealistic do-gooders. Designed as a Huck Finn world to help “castaway boys build better lives”, the Penikese Island School serves as a last resort purgatory between freedom and jail for teen delinquents, like him, who must decide to struggle for peace or repeat the habits they know. 

It’s been 75 years since the end of World War II, and the veterans of that horrific war have many stories to share, but little time to do so. In our film, “The Greatest Generation: Let Us Not Forget” you will hear stories of the brave men and women who valiantly served our country during the most pivotal time in U.S. history. Unlike other WWII documentaries, this film will detail the journey of our heroes, beginning with their entry into the service, followed by their efforts in the war, and equally important, the impact on which the war had in their lives. Here are a few samples.

Tom Houdek was 17 in 1941 and had to wait a year to enlist and serve his country.  Within months of finally entering the army, Tom was captured by the Germans and shares his stories about survival, both physically and mentally as a POW. When captured, Tom weighed 155 pounds. When freed, he weighed only 98 pounds.

Don Folsom describes his activity on the battlefield in the Pacific. “The Battle of Tarawa was brutal”, says Don as he anguishes from the memory of witnessing hundreds of men dying around him. In addition, Don shares what it felt like to kill the enemy along with stories from the front line. Upon returning home, Don struggled for months with nightmares and had to learn to cope with bottling up his feelings from the war for decades.

Gene Overholt was a communication specialist in the army. While he wasn’t involved in combat, Gene was responsible for the transmission of vital information in the war effort. He married just before leaving America and provides intimate stories of the letters which he and his bride wrote to each other. On the lighter side, Gene discusses his recruitment to play football on the base league. You will also hear about Gene’s emotional return home as well as his time as International President of the Kiwanis Club.

These are just a few of the stories we will hear from approximately 20 veterans from this war time. Beyond these men will be stories from Tuskegee Airmen and Rosie the Riveters as well. The emotional, lifelong journey is coming to a close for these soldiers, and we are proud to bring their stories to the silver screen. Let’s show our dedication and thanks to these veterans through the support of our film. Thank you.

At this stage, we have the distribution support of PBS and are working to secure a pair of notable actors to narrate the film. Thus, our final effort is to secure funding for the project. At this time, we are seeking sponsorships from companies and individuals which will allow us to produce this historic film. Thank you in advance for supporting this historic film, as we preserve the stories of the greatest generation this country has ever known. May God bless you.

If you would like to send a check, please make the check payable to Filmmakers Collaborative and send to Filmmakers Collaborative, 6 Eastman Place, Suite 202, Melrose, MA 02176. Please indicate that you are donating in support of The Greatest Generation: Let Us Not Forget.

If you would prefer to charge your tax deductible gift please click on the DONATE TO THIS FILM button above.

Think of the most fascinating conversation happening at the table next to you.–that goes somewhere. We’re taking on an issue every year that no one wants to talk about, and this year, it’s The Value Gap. Because it’s not about the glass ceiling–it’s about the foundation.” —Michele Mitchell

The Cocktail Conversations is a chat-genre podcast that will take on a new topic every year about something nobody wants to discuss. After all, the world is filled with tough issues that don’t simply disappear because we’re ignoring them. And for our inaugural season, we’re taking on something no one really wants to talk about: the value gap.

Women are not valued as much as men in the United States, across the board, by any measure. It’s time to take this on—but not just the symptoms—the sources…and the solutions. This last one is what sets us apart from the 850,000 podcasts out there. A conversation—even the most authentic, insightful and entertaining—needs to go somewhere in order to be satisfying. By the end of the season, we will have academic, cultural and policy goals and plans to execute a strategy to reframe the parity issue: it’s not about equality—it’s about equity.

A considered audience of up to 12 participants around the U.S. will come together to speak with an expert featured speaker, moderated by award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist Michele Mitchell in up to 20 episodes. Held virtually (the 9 to 12-episode “Aperitifs,” which tackles the symptoms) and, COVID-requirements possible, in person (the 4-episode “Big Pour,” delving deep into sources, and the 4-episode “Last Call” which finds solutions) in key locations, recorded, edited and highly produced.

Confirmed participants include Patricia Sellers (International Criminal Court), Nancy Hogshead-Maker (US Olympic gold medalist/Champion Women), David G. Smith (Naval War College), Dr. Caroline Heldman (Representation Project), Trish Costello (Portfolia), Yasmeen Hassan (Equality Now), Lauren C. Anderson (FBI, ret.), Jason Amerine (US Special Forces, ret) and more. Episodes include “What the F*** is the Value Gap?”, “What’s at Stake,” “The Good Guys: There’s a Value Gap?”, “Crazy/Difficult,” Title IX and the billion-dollar intentional gap, access to growth capital, women’s health (wait until you hear the title of that one!), the Placebo Effect and more. And, we’re back many of the crew that brought us awards in television and film in order to create 20-minute and 40-minute episodes, plus “extra” content, exciting beverage pours, and, most importantly, something else.

Our brand is hope: We are not part of the anger industrial complex that has divided us for decades. We’re here to bring honest conversation–not screaming talking heads–into our lives. Real information, transparent intent and a hell of a good time along the way– it’s time for something new and constructive.

“The Value Gap” is an evergreen topic—so why now? We are in an unprecedented crisis, a half-century removed from the social revolution of the women’s movement. As the economy tightens and the pandemic pushes on, there is an urgency to find a better way forward together. And as old systems flail, this is an unprecedented moment in time to actually change the operating procedure. And true, informative conversation just might do it.

This collaborative video project is a local response to the unprecedented and overwhelming societal effects of the Coronavirus on nearly every aspect of our lives. We will create a documentary that is filmed virtually within our new reality of social distancing guidelines. The video will be an edited compilation of interviews conducted remotely with phones and computers, focusing on the impacts of the Coronavirus here in Western Massachusetts. The goal is to hear firsthand from young people, adults, and families about how this pandemic is shaping and impacting people’s lives. This project is currently in the planning stages, and is a collaboration between filmmaker and filmmaking teacher Ali Pinschmidt, and two youth filmmakers Mayrangelique Rojas-De Leon, and JanCarlos Rivera-Torres. Due to the personal networks of the filmmakers, this film will focus primarily on the lives of people living in Holyoke and Springfield, though interviewees may come from other Western MA cities and towns.

Project Rationale

All disasters and calamities take the largest toll on those who have the least resources and fewest safety nets. With 29% of the population off both Holyoke and Springfield living below the poverty level, it is clear that these communities will have immense financial setbacks, which are typically also tied to setbacks in physical and mental health outcomes. This project will provide a platform for youth, adults, and families – many from lower income neighborhoods – to talk about how their lives are impacted, what their requests are to their neighbors and community leaders, and what their advice is for others. We anticipate that this could be cathartic and empowering for those interviewed, and supportive and informative for those who watch the video. With permission of those interviewed, we may share shorter clips of video through social media during the interviewing and editing stages of the film, so that people can begin to hear these stories sooner rather than later.

Interview topics for youth include the impacts of being sequestered at home with family; being away from school, friends, and activities; worries around Coronavirus; and how their school or community should be responding. Interviews with adults will cover how COVID-19 has impacted work and finances; coping physical and mentally; the impact of the media; and thoughts they want to share with community leaders. Interviews with families will include what it’s been like being home together, and what suggestions they have for other families.

We anticipate our final video will reach thousands of local viewers through online distribution. The video will also be aired on Holyoke Media, Focus Springfield, Northampton Open Media, and Amherst Media – reaching thousands more.

Bios

Alexandra Pinschmidt is a filmmaker and educator, and works to amplify the perspectives of others through video training and outreach. In addition to her work at 1° Shift Productions, Ali founded and directs Don’t Take That Receipt!, a youth-adult collaboration in Holyoke that educates local businesses and institutions about toxic chemicals on thermal paper products and provides tools for reducing exposure. DTTR uses their award-winning educational film to spread awareness. Previously, Ali served as the Western MA Program Director for Transformative Culture Project, launching a Holyoke branch to the Boston-based youth media organization. TCP in Holyoke provided media education to over 200 youth and part-time employment for over 40 youth producers in training from low-income neighborhoods.

​Mayrangelique Rojas-De Leon is a 20-year-old filmmaker and aspiring journalist. She came to Holyoke from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria left her high school closed. She now studies media production at Springfield Technical Community College and has produced or co-produced several short student films. She participated in a summer Youth Producer program at WGBY in Springfield, and studied filmmaking with Transformative Culture Project during her senior year in high school. She is also the proud mother of her 9-month old daughter.

JanCarlos Rivera-Torres is also a 20-year-old filmmaker who graduated from Holyoke High School. He was a youth participant in the Sustainable Holyoke Youth Leadership program for two years, as well as a participant and Youth Mentor with the Transformative Culture Project video program. JanCarlos has made several short films, was on the filmmaking team with Don’t Take That Receipt!, and has a passion for editing. He is also an avid BMX biker.

 

 

America’s current interest in Socialism is not a new phenomenon. Socialism’s original rise in popularity came from boiling over worker’s grievances during the Industrial Revolution. Haverhill, Massachusetts is one of the first American cities to embrace Socialist reforms in resistance of pursing greater corporate profits. 

“The Socialists of Shoe City: America’s First Socialist Municipal Government Haverhill, MA 1898-1912” recounts Socialist efforts in turn-of-the-century America . Viewers will have a new perspective on the current political environment after watching this film. It may be hard to believe, but Socialism is as American as apple pie!