Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Premiere Screening: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For "Superman"

It's been quite a ride. In the midst of all the chaos of the school year (Klein, Black, closing schools, co-locos, full time teaching, PEP meetings, etc.) a film was made. A real film that is over an hour long. With amazing editing and original music. And credits. And a gala premiere coming May 19 (ALL 500 SEATS ARE ALREADY RESERVED) with Diane Ravitch as our keynote speaker (Diane also gave us an exclusive interview for the film). Holy Cow!

Look. I've been shooting all this stuff for years with the idea of making a film. But I could never come up with a good enough concept that seemed workable. Organizing is not my strong suit - I needed to work with people who could drive a project like this. Enter Julie Cavanagh, who had been promising since I met her in July 2009 she would look at my footage and develop some ideas.

Last August I invited Julie to my brand new man cave (which always seems filled with women and female cats) and we developed a short 8-minute film which we called Educational Dysfunction at the New York City DOE (which you can view here) about how the DOE discriminates against children with special needs. As a special ed teacher for a decade, Julie had a lot to say. We completed most of the film that afternoon. Looking at it today, I can see how many of the ideas and concepts were used later on. It was Julie's first experience working on a film and she was hooked.

The idea for The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman was hatched that day. During that afternoon we happened to look at the trailer for Waiting for Superman and were disgusted. The first instinct was to do a spoof but the hype over the next few weeks made it clear that a more serious response was needed. I gave her a video camera and she started doing interviews. A bunch of GEMers signed on to do lots of the most important stuff (I will write a lot more about them later) and we were off. In fact at that point I was able to take a lesser role in the nuts and bolts of the project and play more of a "tell me what you want me to do" role. Julie played the role of majordomo. (I learned from working on another film with someone similar to Julie that you must have someone play that role.)

One of the major decisions we made was to have on screen narrators involved in education guide people through the movie. Julie was clearly going to be one of them. It didn't take long to think of Harlem teacher Brian Jones, roughly the same age as Julie with a decade of experience, as co-host. (Brian, who stood toe-to-toe on Education Nation with Geoffry Canada, has professional acting experience.) Brian has a young baby and is a very busy guy but he has been there for every aspect of the film, including all the publicity work that is being done.

Brian and Julie gave structure to the film. I went up to Harlem to interview Brian and we did a wonderful day of shooting at various locations in Williamsburg with both Julie and Brian. The two of them look great on camera and really anchor the film.

We thought the project would take 6 weeks. It turned into 9 months. We started evaluation previews in mid-Februrary (not quite Spiderman but close) and kept revising and shooting more footage as the film grew from 52 minutes to over an hour. We had so much great material we could have done a 3 hour film. At this time I won't get into more details.

The reaction as been amazing. The best advertising we had was the negative reaction to WFS after all the hype. We have had requests from all over the nation asking for copies.
We expect many local screenings if you didn't get into the premiere. That the film was made from the efforts of working NYC educators (except for me) and parents is remarkable. I mean it is a real film, not those you-tuby things we've been doing. I watched "Inside Job" in the plane going over to Paris and I saw a lot of that in our film.
The actual film didn't cost us anything other than time (certainly valuable) and our camera equipment - which I bought to take to the AFT convention in Seattle last July anyway. The basic costs right now are reproducing the DVDs and paying for Riverside Church so we need to raise money to cover that. I put up a DONATE button on the sidebar if you want to help. Also on the GEM blog. Or make out a check to Ed Notes Inc. and mail it to 518 Beach 134 St. Rockaway Park, NY 11694.

Below is the press release for the premiere of the film 
Press Release
Date:  May 10, 2011     

Lisa Donlan, Parent and President CEC1:  917-848-5873
Julie Cavanagh, Teacher PS 15, GEM/CAPE: 917-836-6465
Brian Jones, Teacher PS 30, GEM: 646-554-8592

The Grassroots Education Movement Releases Film in Response to Waiting for "Superman"

Premiere Screening: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For "Superman"

This month, The Grassroots Education Movement will present a new documentary, written and directed by New York City public school teachers and parents, created in response to Davis Guggenheim’s highly misleading film. Waiting for "Superman" would have audiences believe that free-market competition, standardized tests, destroying teacher unions, and the proliferation of charter schools are just what this country needs to create great public schools.

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For "Superman" highlights the real-life experiences of public school parents, students and educators to show how these so-called reforms are actually hurting public education. The film discusses the kinds of real reform – inside schools and in our society as a whole  –  that we urgently need to genuinely transform education in this country.

Harlem Premiere Features Special Guest, Diane Ravitch

The official premiere of GEM's film will take place at the Assembly Hall of The Riverside Church (enter at 91 Claremont Ave ) in Harlem on May 19th from 6 to 10 pm. This event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Mission and Social Justice Commission of The Riverside Church. Education historian Diane Ravitch will be our honored guest. The evening will include a panel featuring NYC parent Khem Irby, NYC public school teacher Brian Jones, and a NYC public school student, as well as Dr. Ravitch.

Seating at the premiere is limited. Reserve your seat online here:

For more information about the film, visit: 

Watch a "sneak peak" of the film online here:

For a review/press copy of the DVD, contact Brian Jones: 646-554-8592

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