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Entries in Documentaries (19)


The Woman who Made ‘Player Hating: A Love Story’ – A Prelude #indiefilm

In an upcoming interview that’s long overdue, I will be introducing you to Maggie Hadleigh-West, a film director who took several leaps of faith to capture the kind of stories that are not seen on your local morning (or evening) TV news shows.


Embarking on the documentary “Player Hating: A Love Story,” about a young hip-hop artist who has a record deal and plans to use his debut album as his ticket out of the projects, she risked her safety – and that of her interview subjects – to highlight the grim realities that some of us are privileged to not having ever experienced in our lifetimes.

On Maggie’s first day of production at the Brownsville Housing Projects, some neighborhood teenagers robbed her film crew – stealing their equipment and almost blowing her cameraman’s brains out with a 9mm pistol. When the rapper she was working with dropped out for safety reasons, her search for a new main character of the film led to the Albany Projects in the Crown Heights neighborhood, where lyricist Half-a-Mill (who was managed by a former NYPD detective) became the subject of this movie. Half’s protection by Brooklyn Bloods also extended to Maggie but she eventually obtained her own security while filming the rest of “Player Hating: A Love Story.”

Blood Sport, one of the founding members of the Crown Heights Chapter of the Brooklyn Bloods, was among Half’s many associates that Maggie came to know while making her movie. He lost his mother to homicide after she was raped and then thrown off of a building.

While many of us do not know what it’s like to lose a friend or loved one to such violent deaths, we all share the common grief and possibly even anger that accompanies the loss of anyone closest to us. We also know what it’s like to feel abandoned or less important to the entities that are supposed to serve and protect our communities. Yet, there is very little concern for the fires, gas leaks, missing persons and homicides that go unnoticed in the media headlines nationwide – probably due to a mentality of people not having to “deal” with the troubles that are present in what has become a melting pot for fear and hopelessness.

I have no idea how one would go about exploring, and even attempt to address, all of the issues that plague the poverty stricken areas of our nation but I’ve wondered -- how does a filmmaker -- any filmmaker -- literally put herself or himself in harm’s way for a labor of love that focuses on day-to-day realities that a lot of people prefer to avoid and/or even refuse to acknowledge? Maggie’s experiences in making “Player Hating: A Love Story” is just one example of the lengths that many filmmakers are willing to go to bring their work to fruition.  

As I try to scream and throw my hands up to rid the stress of finishing my own movie, I hope – for the sake of every filmmakers’ sanity and health, no matter where they are in the world -- it’s all worth the hassles in the end. Maggie is one of the filmmakers whose work is a reminder that some of the challenges that we face are not as bad as they seem to us at the moment. I mean, if you aren’t in a workplace or situation where it’s likely you will be shot at any given time (as Maggie and her associates were while making this movie), then chances are you’re doing just fine.

Stay tuned for an interview with one of the most daring women directors of our time!

*Also, tomorrow’s Monday Movie Meme will be posted in the evening.


‘I’m Fine, Thanks’ in a Nutshell -- Extended Edition #indiefilm 

Grant Peelle's directorial debut “I’m Fine, Thanks” is a fast paced documentary produced by Adam Baker, with a catchy soundtrack.

"I'm Fine, Thanks" DVD and Poster BundleIts bright, crisp and welcoming scenes are uplifting amidst tales of self-doubt, panic attacks, deteriorated health and most importantly -- longing. The subjects are longing for the day when it feels good to get out of bed in the morning; to live a fulfilled life, whatever that looks like.

Through home video footage, interviews with people who each have a different definition of the American Dream, clips of his crew and narrated tours of a cross-country road trip to end complacency, Peelle makes it clear that “the day” to finally go after a dream never comes to those who just sit back in their rut and wait for it to arrive. The day to live a dream is today. The time is now. “I’m Fine, Thanks” blends humor, adventure and sometimes tragic reality checks that illustrate one thing - being fine is a miserable way to live.

No one has to bathe his or her brain in caffeine just to tolerate a job that he or she hates. No one has to work so many hours that he or she develops a hole in the intestine after sleepwalking for days on end while ones’ immune system plummets. It is heartbreaking -- alarming even, to climb a ladder, reach the top and then realize that you have it leaned up against the wrong wall. Realizing that you don’t even know what the right wall is, however, is even scarier. Continuing on paths that disappoint you is one way to guarantee that it will never be found.

Actresses Virginia Wilcox, Claire Kennedy-Vega and I at the East Coast Premiere of "I'm Fine, Thanks." Photo by Dave LaTulippe; Courtesy of Grant Peelle.

When people follow their dreams and live a life that is in alignment with who they are, they don’t answer the question “How are you?” with “I’m Fine, Thanks.” They respond with “I’m fucking great! Never been better. How about you?” 



I don't know about anyone else, but that's the kind of response that I'd like to make more often than not. It beats the alternative!


What started as my attempt at writing a short review turned into this extended assessment. So, it looks like there will be two review series from now on at this blog: short reviews such as the one on “Blitz” and not-so-short ones such as the one on “Player Hating: A Love Story.”


Post-Screening Audience Response at Doc ‘I’m Fine, Thanks’ Premiere #indiefilm

The Midwest premiere of Grant Peelle and Adam Baker’s documentary “I’m Fine, Thanks” opens tonight in Wilminton, Ohio at the Murphy Theater. It is one of a few select screenings that brings the most backed documentary in crowd funding platform Kickstarter’s history in front of audiences who are treated to an early view of what battling complacency looks like. I had the pleasure of attending the New York premiere of “I’m Fine, Thanks,” in July and spoke with several audience members who shared their thoughts on this movie with me, following the screening that day.

Producer Adam Baker and I at the NY Premiere of "I'm Fine, Thanks"

“I really liked it -- not knowing what to expect, I was really blown away. I'm ultimately very proud to have any part of it and more than ever, I feel like OMG, this is so much bigger than I ever knew, sitting at home trying to coordinate it. It's huge, so I just hope people see it.

Chris actually watches documentaries and I never watch them unless he makes me, so for me to not only watch one but also help make one is totally crazy on its own but I think it's pretty awesome that it was a documentary that I actually liked watching. I have more appreciation for the genre.” – Joan Otto, member of the Crank Tank Studios team and editor at Man vs. Debt, from Pennsylvania

“I thought it was tremendous. I was really impressed -- to put that quality of production together in only a few months. He made a real film! -- A real documentary in months! Those guys, with tremendous help from their *coordinating producers* -- He has every right to be proud of what he accomplished; not only the fact that he got out there and tried to do it but also made a hell of a film.”  – Chris Otto, journalist from Pennsylvania who blogs at Papergreat and favors the 1978 documentary “Gates of Heaven” by Errol Morris

“Honestly, I would have liked to have seen more about the people who were in the movie and less about the people who made the movie. I think it was a good first effort -- I know it was their first time making a film and they did it really quickly, so you're going to have some things there that might be different if you've taken a little more time to do it but for the sake of time-crunch, they did a pretty decent job.

Next time they decide to make a film, I would like to see more story development -- more of a story arc and less of the people who are making it.”  – Amber J. Adams from New York via Tennessee who writes about finding happiness on your own terms at The Fab Life Project

“I loved the movie because I associated with the story line of not only the documentarians but also a lot of the people in the film whom I've also got to know and befriended through the world of blogging.

I myself was in a dead-end job at age 23, depressed, confused and aimless; I took that leap that they talk about in the film to quit my job and started going in a direction where I didn't really know what I was doing but found fulfillment and passion in that lifestyle than the one that was expected of me.” - Dave Ursillo a New York based author and speaker who writes about alternative leadership, leading in your everyday life and applying personal leadership to your business, goals and dreams. 

"I thought it was absolutely wonderful! I heard about it because I read a lot of the blogs of people who are in and or associated with the movie. I myself am still working in a corporate job but kinda dealing with a lot of the things that the people that they (Grant Peelle and Adam Baker) spoke to are dealing with -- just feeling like it's not really a good fit permanently and just trying to figure out what I want for myself, so the movie absolutely spoke to that." - Shannon Beahan

"I think it was very moving. It basically speaks for the rest of us; that is the reason why we are here. We're so afraid inside, to be the first -- we need to feel that somebody else did something that we want to do before we go ahead and try something crazy like that because deep inside, we all really want to -- we're all just too scared." - Jane Lee-Thai


“I’m Fine, Thanks” directed by Grant Peelle and produced by Adam Baker is playing tonight at 7p.m. so if you have family and friends who live in Ohio, be sure to pass this information along to them! For more information on the who, what, when and where this screening is taking place, visit the “I’m Fine, Thanks” team on Facebook or Eventbrite.

For those of you who are waiting for my review, it will be posted soon. In the meantime, can you describe what, if anything, bugs you about complacency? Or, do you think it’s just fine to be that way?